Sermons and Lessons

Flash in the Pan

Poor Brother Peter

Matt 14:22-33

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.  After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.  When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I.  Don't be afraid."

"Lord, if it's you," Peter replied, "tell me to come to you on the water."

"Come," he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus.  But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, "Lord, save me!"

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. "You of little faith," he said, "why did you doubt?"

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.  Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." NIV

Jesus was grieving the death of his beloved cousin John (the Baptist).  He had tried to find some peace and quiet, only to be inundated by the crowds once again.  He had been healing people all day, probably with his human broken heart until it was late in the day.  This is when Jesus had fed the multitude, 15,000 to 30,000 people with 5 loaves and two fishes.  It was THAT crowd that Jesus dismissed.  The Gospel of St. John gives a particular reason for the hasty breaking up of the crowd, because the people were so affected with the miracle of the loaves, that they were about to take him by force, and make him a king (John 6:15)

Jesus knew this wasn’t God’s plan, so He spoke to the hearts of those who would take him by force and changed their minds; just as He can do for us, if we’ll allow him to.  Then “he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray.”

What a wonderful, if often overlooked example of Christ’s reliance on his communion with the Father.

The disciples had been waiters and busboys all afternoon.  Now it is “In the fourth watch” which was between 3 a.m. and 6a.m.  And, all night long they had been battling rough wind and waves since cleaning up after feeding the multitude.

When you’re working hard, you don’t have time to “chit-chat,” but I would imagine each of the disciples were contemplating their own thoughts about recent events.  They had each chosen to follow Jesus because they knew he was special.  Not everybody walked around healing people, raising the dead, casting out demons and making a feast out of a snack.  Surely this Jesus was a gift to mankind from God, but they couldn’t fit him into any mold they could think of.  They’d never seen anyone do what Jesus had done so far, and each miracle seemed to be better than the last.

I would imagine that one or more of the disciples noticed something off in the distance as they rowed, bailed and searched for dry land and alerted the others when they saw something.  It was dark, windy and the waves were high, but it LOOKED like some sort of PERSON!

NOTE:  It was a culturally accepted belief that spirits, or ghosts lived among people.  Everyone knew someone who knew someone that had a great aunt who had seen a ghost.  And it was never a good thing to see a ghost.  Since their minds had no reasonable explanation for what they were seeing, the “ghost theory” seems applicable!

I don’t know about you, but I might start looking for explanations right about the time I saw somebody walking on the water myself!  “It’s a ghost!” is as natural a way to express fear as any I can think of.  Some of the disciples, being true to their form I would imagine grumbled something to the effect of “Where’s Jesus when we need Him?”  “We’re Doomed!”  “We’re gonna die!”  And began to show concern for their own lives.  Remember, they were already exhausted from the days work, and had been struggling just to stay afloat, now something WAY supernatural was going on and it was just more than they could take.

Finally, Jesus says, “Take courage! It is I.  Don't be afraid." In the Revised version, Jesus says, “Cheer up!”  In other translations, it says, “Be of good Cheer!”  If it were anybody other than Jesus Himself saying that, I don’t think I would consider it good advice, but when Jesus arrives on the scene, He tells us to take courage! Cheer up!  Be of good Cheer!  My friend, Jesus is on the scene tonight.  So take courage! Cheer up!  Be of good Cheer! 

Some of us or perhaps MOST of us are very much like Peter.  If Peter had spoken his words in today’s vernacular, he likely would have said something to the effect of “Yeah, if that’s you, Jesus, then invite ME out to walk on the water WITH you!”  In any event, Jesus says, “Come.”  Peter did step out of the boat and ONTO the water.  And in a few short steps, Peter’s emotions ran the gamut from trust and faith, to fear and doubt.  This is so very much like us, isn’t it?  “Yeah!  We can do that!  C’mon!  Let’s go… oh, wait a minute.  Do we REALLY want to do this?  Look at all the obstacles.  If it is really God’s will for us to do this, it would be easier!”

But Jesus says, “Come.”  He doesn’t say, “Come, if you think you can handle it by yourself.”  Or, “Come, if you have it all figured out.”  Or, “Come, if somebody else has done all the hard work already.”

He simply says, “Come.” 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.  NIV.”  (Matt 11:28)

 Seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.  (Matt 6:33)

 My grace is sufficient for you.  (2 Cor 12:9)

Peter got out of the boat…  OUT OF THE BOAT!  And if that isn’t enough, he WALKS ON THE WATER as if it were dry ground.  Are we ready to get out of the boat?  To go out into the world and stand on uncertain ground; armed only with our faith in God to keep us afloat, nay, more than afloat, but walking as on solid ground when all reality says we should be all wet?

So Peter steps out of the boat, actually WALKS on the water.  Then he takes a NATURAL eye view of the events and sees the wind and waves.

Poor Peter.  Brother Flash in the Pan.  One minute he’s on fire for Jesus, ready to take on the very elements themselves, the next minute, he realizes that he is in WAY over his head.  As he is distracted from his faith in Christ, the consequences begin to filter in… His toes get wet, and by the time he realizes that, his knees are going under.  Before he can do more than panic, he’s just about down and out.  Suddenly, in a flash of realization, in a desperate last-ditch effort, as a last resort, he cries out to the only One who can save him now. 


I will call upon God; and the Lord will save me.” Psalms 55:16

He says, “I cry out to God Most High, to God, who fulfills [his purpose] for me.”  Psalms 57:2

We know that there are three possible answers to our prayers: YES, NO, and WAIT.  This is an example of “YES.”  “NO” or “WAIT” would have meant certain calamity, as would.

God said “NO” to Paul’s prayer concerning “the thorn in his flesh” leading Paul to come to a greater understanding of God’s power in his life.  David was young when he was prophesied to be king of Israel, yet he waited many years for God’s promise to be fulfilled. 

But they that wait upon the LORD shall renew their strength Isa 40:31KJV

Immediately, the scripture says, Jesus reached out his hand and caught him.  We can know; that even if we do step out in faith, and we find ourselves in a crisis of faith where we’ve taken to looking at the natural events we find ourselves in.  And we’ve taken our eyes off Jesus, left our first love (REV 2:4), as it were, that Jesus will reach out and catch us.  He won’t let us sink.  “He didn’t bring us this far, to leave us.  He didn’t teach us to swim, to let us drown”


Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God."

They worshiped Him after He got in the boat.  It was a confirmation of their faith in Christ, and abundantly convinced them that the fullness of the Godhead dwelt in him; for none but the world's Creator could multiply the loaves, none but its Governor could tread upon the waters of the sea; they therefore yield to the evidence, and make confession of their faith; You truly are the Son of God. They knew before that he was the Son of God, but now they know it better. Faith, after a conflict with unbelief, is sometimes more active, and grows to greater degrees of strength by being exercised. Now they know it of a truth. (From Matthew Henry's Commentary)

What about you?  Do you know it as absolute truth?  Is Jesus Lord?  Is He Lord of YOUR life?  Are you battling the winds and waves of adversity in your life?  Are you having to bail the overflow of life’s struggles out of the boat that is your life?  Let Jesus into the boat.  He’s calling you to stand in faith.  He’s calling you to disregard the natural events that surround you and to trust in Him in the midst of the storm.

The challenge is in front of you.  Jesus simply says, “Come.”  Will you come?  Will you step out of the boat and trust Jesus to keep you afloat in what He’s called you to do?

[i] From Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Whole Bible: New Modern Edition, Electronic Database.  Copyright (c) 1991 by Hendrickson Publishers, Inc.