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Who Treads the Waves?

In this sermon, David covers the story of Jesus walking on the water and its significance in the context of how water imagery is used all throughout scripture.

Written by David Steltz on .



We continue in Matthew chapter fourteen today, in a section of narrative that describes Jesus performing several more miracles.

Last week, Mike covered what’s often referred to as “The feeding of the five thousand” though that number only refers to the men, so it easily could have been ten thousand or more.

That story ends in verse twenty one, so we’ll be picking up in verse twenty two which goes right into introducing the next story.

Jesus just got done miraculously providing sustenance, providing food, to thousands of people. This was a demonstration of his divine authority, and it allowed him to continue caring for them, providing physical healing and spiritual teaching.

After everyone ate their fill, they cleaned up and had twelve baskets of food leftover, and then we read this in verse twenty two:


Matthew 14:22–33 CSB
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 After dismissing the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Well into the night, he was there alone. 24 Meanwhile, the boat was already some distance from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them. 25 Jesus came toward them walking on the sea very early in the morning. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost!” they said, and they cried out in fear. 
27 Immediately Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 
28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter answered him, “command me to come to you on the water.” 
29 He said, “Come.” 

And climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the strength of the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 
32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those in the boat worshiped him and said, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

Now, you may notice some striking similarities in this story to the one we read back in chapter eight, where he falls asleep in the boat during a storm, his disciples think they’re all going to die, and Jesus calms the storm simply by speaking to it.

Again, we have a stormy sea, and Jesus demonstrating authority over the storm and the water.

Before we jump right into that fun part though, of Jesus walking on the water, I want to back up and look at some of the details leading up to it.

Cross References

To do this, I wanted to cross reference the other gospel accounts of this story. Unlike the previous story, this one does not show up in all four, but we can find it in both Mark and John. So, all of them except for Luke include this story.

The account in Mark is almost identical, with just a couple differences. See if you can spot them:


Mark 6:45–52 CSB
45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 After he said good-bye to them, he went away to the mountain to pray. 47 Well into the night, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 He saw them straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Very early in the morning he came toward them walking on the sea and wanted to pass by them. 49 When they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out, 50 because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke with them and said, “Have courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 51 Then he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. They were completely astounded, 52 because they had not understood about the loaves. Instead, their hearts were hardened.

Alright, so, again, this is nearly identical to Matthew, except that Mark gives us the detail of their destination being Bethsaida at the beginning, and then at the end, in verse 52, we get a very interesting comment about the hearts of the disciples.

Basically, Mark is saying the disciples were astounded, they were shocked and amazed, when they really shouldn’t have been! They’ve seen enough already to know that Jesus is the son of God, even just the day before! He says they had not understood about the loaves…he’s calling back the previous story and identifying a problem the disciples still had. Their hearts were hard and they could not see Jesus for who he really was.

This even being the second time that Jesus shows authority over the stormy waters, perhaps was a turning point for some of them, because as we know from Matthew, this caused them to worship Jesus as the Son of God.

There’s one other difference here, isn’t there? What is it?

Mark doesn’t include the bit where Peter tests Jesus and asks him to prove he is who he says he is by letting Peter get out of the boat and walk on water too! Matthew’s account is actually quite a bit longer because he includes that.


Alright, let’s look at John, where this story is even shorter because John actually focuses on circling back to the significance of the loaves and fish, and covers Jesus’s extended teaching on this matter when people follow him back to the other side of the sea.

John 6:15–21 CSB
15 Therefore, when Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself. 
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. Darkness had already set in, but Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 A high wind arose, and the sea began to churn. 19 After they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they were afraid. 20 But he said to them, “It is I. Don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him on board, and at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading.

From there, John explains how the people noticed that Jesus was gone, even though the disciples had left with the only boat, so they go looking for him and he continues to teach them about how he’s the bread of life, and John really focuses on that teaching extensively.

Meanwhile though, did you notice anything in John’s very concise account of this story that stands out as unique from Matthew or Mark?

I find it really interesting that John says the reason Jesus went away to be by himself was that the people, after being fed by Jesus, wanted to take him by force...

…not to kill him mind you, but to make him their king. That, obviously, came from a misunderstanding of what Jesus was there to do, and Jesus’s response was to get away and pray.

Finally Alone!

Which, by the way, is what he had been trying to do when he went over there in the first place! Remember, he was looking for a remote place to be alone after hearing that his cousin John the Baptist had been murdered.

Matthew, in verse twenty three, says that Jesus was up on a mountain by himself Well into the night. So, while it still wasn’t more than just that one night, it’s still kind of satisfying to see Jesus finally get some of that solitude he was looking for, probably longing for, even.

Matthew 14:23 CSB
23 After dismissing the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Well into the night, he was there alone.

Far Away & Very Early

The next verse says:​

Matthew 14:24 CSB
24 Meanwhile, the boat was already some distance from land, battered by the waves, because the wind was against them.

Far Away

So, the CSB translates the Greek here as “some distance from land.” Some translations actually use a transliterated Greek word, because the phrase is literally “many stadia.” Some manuscripts have a different phrase completely, and simply say “in the middle of the sea.” 


A stadia is about 600 feet, so they were probably literally somewhere right out in the middle of the sea of Galilee, essentially as far away from any shore as they could be.

In John, it’s translated as “three or four miles.” Remember this “sea” is only about 8 miles wide and 13 miles long, roughly close to the size of Oneida lake. 

So, it’s not like they’re in the ocean, but still, being 4 miles from shore in a small boat, in the middle of high winds, would be far from relaxing!

Very Early

Another phrase that the CSB uses is “Very early in the morning.” Does anyone have a translation that says something else?

The phrase used here is literally “during the fourth watch.” Because that means nothing to most of us, many translations just say “very early” or even “three or four in the morning.” The fourth watch refers to a Roman designation for the 12 hour period from 6pm to 6am…that was the evening period which they divided into 4 watches, 4 shifts, of 3 hours each, so during the fourth watch would have been during the last one, sometime between  3am and 6am. Very early! Probably still dark out.

Waters of Death & Life

Alright, now that we’ve looked at some of those little details, I want to zoom out and look at the significance of this story in the larger context of scripture.

Again, this is the second time Jesus has calmed stormy waters in front of his disciples. The first time they just said “wow! What kind of man is this?” This time, for the first time, they worship him as the Son of God!


What about this encounter helped it finally click for his disciples?

To answer that, to understand what his disciples were thinking, it helps to understand a major theme of Hebrew scripture that would have been deeply embedded in their minds.

The importance of water imagery begins with The very first narrative in Genesis. 


Genesis 1:1–10 CSB
1 In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. 
2 Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness covered the surface of the watery depths, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. 3 Then God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light. 4 God saw that the light was good, and God separated the light from the darkness. 5 God called the light “day,” and the darkness he called “night.” There was an evening, and there was a morning: one day. 6 Then God said, “Let there be an expanse between the waters, separating water from water.” 7 So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above the expanse. And it was so. 8 God called the expanse “sky.” Evening came and then morning: the second day. 9 Then God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered into one place, and let the dry land appear.” And it was so. 10 God called the dry land “earth,” and the gathering of the water he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.

Creation here is being described as God bringing order to chaos. Specifically, by separating light from darkness, and waters from waters. The orderly existence of light and land provide a foundation, literally, for a space that is hospitable to humans. A space where they can survive.

Humans can’t survive in the dark depths of the ocean, can they? They are the waters of death.

On the other hand, humans do need water to survive…calm, clean and fresh water. And in Genesis 2, we see God provide this water, the water of life.

Genesis 2:10 CSB
10 A river went out from Eden to water the garden. From there it divided and became the source of four rivers.

Throughout the whole rest of the story of the Bible, we can see danger, death, and darkness associated with stormy, chaotic waters, whereas and love, light, peace and security are described as a river of life. 


Fast forward just a few chapters, and in the wake of sin entering the world, we see humans on a self-inflicted spiral of death and destruction. God hands them over to this path of self-destruction and chaos by allowing the order he had put in place at creation to collapse in on itself. Essentially, “uncreating” the earth. 

Genesis 7:11–24 CSB
11 In the six hundredth year of Noah’s life, in the second month, on the seventeenth day of the month, on that day all the sources of the vast watery depths burst open, the floodgates of the sky were opened, 12 and the rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights. 13 On that same day Noah along with his sons Shem, Ham, and Japheth, entered the ark, along with Noah’s wife and his three sons’ wives. 14 They entered it with all the wildlife according to their kinds, all livestock according to their kinds, all the creatures that crawl on the earth according to their kinds, every flying creature—all the birds and every winged creature—according to their kinds. 15 Two of every creature that has the breath of life in it came to Noah and entered the ark. 16 Those that entered, male and female of every creature, entered just as God had commanded him. Then the Lord shut him in. 17 The flood continued for forty days on the earth; the water increased and lifted up the ark so that it rose above the earth. 18 The water surged and increased greatly on the earth, and the ark floated on the surface of the water. 19 Then the water surged even higher on the earth, and all the high mountains under the whole sky were covered. 20 The mountains were covered as the water surged above them more than twenty feet. 21 Every creature perished—those that crawl on the earth, birds, livestock, wildlife, and those that swarm on the earth, as well as all mankind. 22 Everything with the breath of the spirit of life in its nostrils—everything on dry land died. 23 He wiped out every living thing that was on the face of the earth, from mankind to livestock, to creatures that crawl, to the birds of the sky, and they were wiped off the earth. Only Noah was left, and those that were with him in the ark. 24 And the water surged on the earth 150 days.

As God had separated the waters at creation, they crashed back in on each other during the flood, wiping the slate clean. And just as God brought land out of the water at creation, a new mountain sanctuary emerged from the flood, to which God brought, through the water, a remnant family of humans and animals to restart life on earth.

Red Sea

Fast forward now to Exodus chapter fourteen. To Israel, fleeing the death and destruction of Egypt, pursued by the vast ocean of Pharaoh's army, and met face on by the insurmountable waves of the Red Sea. They were stuck, caught right in between two dangers that were seemingly impossible to escape. 

So what does God do? He tells Moses to stretch out his staff over the water, which he does in verse 21:

Exodus 14:21–31 CSB
21 Then Moses stretched out his hand over the sea. The Lord drove the sea back with a powerful east wind all that night and turned the sea into dry land. So the waters were divided, 22 and the Israelites went through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on their right and their left. 23 The Egyptians set out in pursuit—all Pharaoh’s horses, his chariots, and his horsemen—and went into the sea after them. 24 During the morning watch, the Lord looked down at the Egyptian forces from the pillar of fire and cloud, and threw the Egyptian forces into confusion. 25 He caused their chariot wheels to swerve and made them drive with difficulty. “Let’s get away from Israel,” the Egyptians said, “because the Lord is fighting for them against Egypt!” 26 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Stretch out your hand over the sea so that the water may come back on the Egyptians, on their chariots and horsemen.” 27 So Moses stretched out his hand over the sea, and at daybreak the sea returned to its normal depth. While the Egyptians were trying to escape from it, the Lord threw them into the sea. 28 The water came back and covered the chariots and horsemen, plus the entire army of Pharaoh that had gone after them into the sea. Not even one of them survived. 29 But the Israelites had walked through the sea on dry ground, with the waters like a wall to them on their right and their left. 30 That day the Lord saved Israel from the power of the Egyptians, and Israel saw the Egyptians dead on the seashore. 31 When Israel saw the great power that the Lord used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord and believed in him and in his servant Moses.

It was this miraculous display of power, of Yahweh’s ability to separate the waters and provide sanctuary for his people that caused the people to fear Yahweh and believe in him, and follow Moses as God’s servant. His prophet.

In fact, if you keep reading, in the next chapter, Exodus 15, we see essentially a retelling of this story, in song. It’s an act of worship and of remembrance, praising God for what he did, and passing it on to their children. 

Let’s read that together, and I want you to notice how often water imagery is used:

Exodus 15:1–21 LEB
1 Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to Yahweh, and they said, “Let me sing to Yahweh because he is highly exalted; the horse and its rider he hurled into the sea. 2 Yah is my strength and song, and he has become my salvation; this is my God, and I will praise him—the God of my father—and I will exalt him. 3 Yahweh is a man of war; Yahweh is his name. 4 The chariots of Pharaoh and his army he cast into the sea, and his choice adjutants were sunk in the Red Sea. 5 The deep waters covered them; they went down into the depths like a stone. 6 Yahweh, your right hand is glorious in power; Yahweh, your right hand destroyed the enemy. 7 And in the greatness of your majesty you overthrew those standing up to you; you released your fierce anger, and it consumed them like stubble. 8 And by the breath of your nostrils waters were piled up; waves stood like a heap; deep waters in the middle of the sea congealed. 9 The enemy said, ‘I will pursue, I will overtake, I will divide plunder, my desire will be full of them, I will draw my sword, my hand will destroy them.’ 10 You blew with your breath; the sea covered them; they dropped like lead in the mighty waters. 11 Who is like you among the gods, Yahweh? Who is like you—glorious in holiness, awesome in praiseworthy actions, doing wonders? 12 You stretched out your right hand; the earth swallowed them. 13 In your loyal love you led the people whom you redeemed; in your strength you guided them to the abode of your holiness. 14 Peoples heard; they trembled; anguish seized the inhabitants of Philistia. 15 Then the chiefs of Edom were horrified; great distress seized the leaders of Moab; all of the inhabitants of Canaan melted away. 16 Terror and dread fell on them; at the greatness of your arm they became silent like the stone, until your people passed by, Yahweh, until the people whom you bought passed by. 17 You brought them and planted them on the mountain of your inheritance, a place you made for yourself to inhabit, Yahweh, a sanctuary, Lord, that your hands established. 18 Yahweh will reign as king forever and ever.” 19 When the horses of Pharaoh came into the sea with his chariots and with his charioteers, Yahweh brought back upon them the waters of the sea, and the Israelites traveled on dry ground through the middle of the sea. 20 And Miriam the prophetess, the sister of Aaron, took her tambourine in her hand, and all of the women went out after her with tambourines and with dances. 21 And Miriam answered, “Sing to Yahweh because he is highly exalted; the horse and its rider he hurled into the sea.”

The people of Israel were astounded and overjoyed, and essentially saw Yahweh as fighting for them, keeping them safe from both the water and the Egyptians, while weaponizing the water against their enemies. Only a true and powerful god could do such a thing.


Then, if we keep reading, the very next narrative beginning in verse 22 shows the flip side of water imagery, with God providing them the water of life:

Exodus 15:22–27 LEB
22 And Moses caused Israel to set out from the Red Sea, and they went out into the desert of Shur, and they traveled three days in the desert, and they did not find water. 23 And they came to Marah, and they were not able to drink water from Marah because it was bitter. Therefore it was named Marah. 24 And the people grumbled against Moses, saying, “What shall we drink?” 25 And he cried out to Yahweh, and Yahweh showed him a piece of wood, and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There he made a rule and regulation for them, and there he tested them. 26 And he said, “If you carefully listen to the voice of Yahweh your God and you do what is right in his eyes and give heed to his commands and you keep all his rules, then I will not bring about on you any of the diseases that I brought about on Egypt, because I am Yahweh your healer. 27 And they came to Elim, and twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees were there, and they encamped there at the water.

Jordan River

Alright, fast forward now to Joshua chapter 3. To after Moses had died and Joshua has taken on the mantle of leadership. He’s now leading the second generation of Israelites who have been wandering the desert for 40 years. The time has finally come for them to enter into the region that God promised to them, that they have been longing for! In some ways they’re looking for a re-entry into Eden, or a new Eden of sorts…the fabled Promised Land.

Yet, once again, they are faced with a watery obstacle: The Jordan River. And once again, God demonstrates for them, this new generation, his incredible power and authority over his creation. He tells the priests to carry the ark of the covenant, the symbol of his covenant with them, into the river. Here’s what happens:


Joshua 3:14–17 CSB
14 When the people broke camp to cross the Jordan, the priests carried the ark of the covenant ahead of the people. 15 Now the Jordan overflows its banks throughout the harvest season. But as soon as the priests carrying the ark reached the Jordan, their feet touched the water at its edge 16 and the water flowing downstream stood still, rising up in a mass that extended as far as Adam, a city next to Zarethan. The water flowing downstream into the Sea of the Arabah—the Dead Sea—was completely cut off, and the people crossed opposite Jericho. 17 The priests carrying the ark of the Lord’s covenant stood firmly on dry ground in the middle of the Jordan, while all Israel crossed on dry ground until the entire nation had finished crossing the Jordan.

How cool is that? It’s almost like a repeat of the Red Sea, and this time each and every person who crossed over had to pass by those priests carrying the symbol of their covenant with Yahweh.


Alright, one more quick story from the old testament that connects back to this, can you think of what it is?

This is Elijah’s final moments on Earth, right before he’s taken up into heaven and Elisha continues in his stead:

2 Kings 2:6–8 CSB
6 Elijah said to him, “Stay here; the Lord is sending me to the Jordan.” But Elisha said, “As the Lord lives and as you yourself live, I will not leave you.” So the two of them went on. 7 Fifty men from the sons of the prophets came and stood observing them at a distance while the two of them stood by the Jordan. 8 Elijah took his mantle, rolled it up, and struck the water, which parted to the right and left. Then the two of them crossed over on dry ground.

Elijah just casually parts the water of the Jordan and goes across! I mean, the connection back to Moses and Joshua couldn’t be more clear!

Then, as if to prove a point, Elisha does the same thing on the way back:

2 Kings 2:13–14 CSB
13 picked up the mantle that had fallen off Elijah, and went back and stood on the bank of the Jordan. 14 He took the mantle Elijah had dropped, and he struck the water. “Where is the Lord God of Elijah?” he asked. He struck the water himself, and it parted to the right and the left, and Elisha crossed over.

The point here is certainly not that Elijah’s mantle was magic, any more than Moses’s staff was. Elisha specifically calls out to Yahweh and essentially says “Show yourself!” Then moves forward with the confidence that he was indeed chosen to take Elijah’s place.

And of course, it was the Jordan river, of all places, which we’ll come back to in a moment.


I want to spend a little more time in the Old Testament looking at watery imagery, because it’s not just in stories that we see this theme! I told you Elijah and Elisha was the last story, but we see this come up all throughout Hebrew poetry as well. I’m just going to read through a few examples quickly:

Nehemiah 9:11 CSB
11 You divided the sea before them, and they crossed through it on dry ground. You hurled their pursuers into the depths like a stone into raging water.

Psalm 78:13 CSB
13 He split the sea and brought them across; the water stood firm like a wall.

Psalm 106:9 CSB
9 He rebuked the Red Sea, and it dried up; he led them through the depths as through a desert.

Psalm 114:3 CSB
3 The sea looked and fled; the Jordan turned back.

Psalm 136:13–14 CSB
13 He divided the Red Sea His faithful love endures forever. 14 and led Israel through, His faithful love endures forever.

Isaiah 51:10 CSB
10 Wasn’t it you who dried up the sea, the waters of the great deep, who made the sea-bed into a road for the redeemed to pass over?

Psalm 18:13–18 CS
13 The Lord thundered from heaven; the Most High made his voice heard. 14 He shot his arrows and scattered them; he hurled lightning bolts and routed them. 15 The depths of the sea became visible, the foundations of the world were exposed, at your rebuke, Lord, at the blast of the breath of your nostrils. 16 He reached down from on high and took hold of me; he pulled me out of deep water. 17 He rescued me from my powerful enemy and from those who hated me, for they were too strong for me. 18 They confronted me in the day of my calamity, but the Lord was my support.

Isaiah 17:12 CSB
12 Ah! The roar of many peoples—they roar like the roaring of the seas. The raging of the nations—they rage like the rumble of rushing water.

Alright, so you can see that far beyond just the song they sang with Moses, they wrote and talked and sang about that day for hundreds of generations, and God’s command over the vast, chaotic waters is one of the core symbols of his divine power and authority.


The last few verses I’m going to read now are examples of prophesies which looked forward, to the future, to the day of the Lord, the day of living water and streams of people flowing into the house of God.

Joel 3:18 CSB
18 In that day the mountains will drip with sweet wine, and the hills will flow with milk. All the streams of Judah will flow with water, and a spring will issue from the Lord’s house, watering the Valley of Acacias.

Zechariah 14:6–9 CSB
6 On that day there will be no light; the sunlight and moonlight will diminish. 7 It will be a unique day known only to the Lord, without day or night, but there will be light at evening. 8 On that day living water will flow out from Jerusalem, half of it toward the eastern sea and the other half toward the western sea, in summer and winter alike. 9 On that day the Lord will become King over the whole earth—the Lord alone, and his name alone.​

Isaiah 2:1–4 CSB
1 The vision that Isaiah son of Amoz saw concerning Judah and Jerusalem: 2 In the last days the mountain of the Lord’s house will be established at the top of the mountains and will be raised above the hills. All nations will stream to it, 3 and many peoples will come and say, “Come, let’s go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob. He will teach us about his ways so that we may walk in his paths.” For instruction will go out of Zion and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 4 He will settle disputes among the nations and provide arbitration for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plows and their spears into pruning knives. Nation will not take up the sword against nation, and they will never again train for war.


Danger and death in the Bible are described as chaotic waters and love, peace and security are described as a river of life. 

The story of Jesus walking on the water is so significant because it represents Christ’s command over the chaotic waters that threaten human life, originally appearing in Genesis 1, and representing death and destruction itself throughout all of scripture. And not only does Jesus conquer the chaotic waters, he promises to be the wellspring of life for all humanity.



Think back now to the Jordan River, where Joshua crossed with the newly born nation of Israel, where Elijah crossed to end his ministry, and Elisha crossed to begin his.

When Jesus begins his ministry by submitting himself to the waters of the Jordan…allowing himself to be fully submersed by the water before being raised again from it...

Then in the middle of his ministry demonstrates multiple times his divine authority over the stormy waters...

It reveals his power as being that of the creator God himself, Yahweh, the author of all living things. In all three gospel accounts of Jesus walking on water, when Jesus responds to his disciples, the phrase he uses when he speaks is literally “I AM.” Echoing the words of Yahweh when he spoke to Moses in Exodus 3, and identifying himself as Yahweh incarnate.

Perhaps this verse from Job may have come to mind, referring to Yahweh God:

Job 9:8 CSB
8 He alone stretches out the heavens and treads on the waves of the sea.

Job literally says that only Yahweh walks on water! Then Here comes Jesus…walking on water!

His baptism in the Jordan foreshadowed what was to come…that despite being Yahweh, despite having all that power, that he would willingly submit himself to death, to the mob, the sea of people who would go from wanting to make him king to clamoring for his brutal destruction. And that he would rise again, to an eternal reign in Heaven.

And of course, before ascending, he appeared first to his disciples and many others, providing both the proof of who he is and the promise and the hope that all the rest of us may follow him into eternal life and light.


All he asks, of course, is that we fix our eyes on him, and his promise, not the promises of this world.

I know I’ve talked a lot about water and haven’t really brought up the whole thing with Peter getting out of the boat! Most sermons I’ve heard on this passage tend to focus heavily on that bit, probably because it’s easy to draw some practical application points from it.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but, again, the other two gospel accounts don’t even include that part of the story, so I don’t think the main theological thrust is necessarily meant to be found in Peter’s experience.

That said, it’s not like we should just ignore it in Matthew, either! It certainly can provide some insight into our relationship with Jesus.

First of all, we have to give Peter some credit for being the one who was bold enough to address this fearsome ghostly apparition, and actually ask that he could get out and walk with him! Peter was nothing if not bold and courageous!

And while he gets the harsh designation of “you of little faith,” how much less faith did all the other guys have who never got out of the boat at all!?

Not “Try Harder!”

And on that note, I think it’s important to recognize that when Jesus does chide Peter, he does not say “man, you just didn’t try hard enough!”

Following Jesus and glorifying God is not about just trying harder. It never is and never will be, because we cannot try hard enough, and we never will.

It’s about believing that Jesus is God, and focusing on him above all else, loving him above all else. Learning the meaning of love from him, and showing that love to the rest of the world around us.

The “trying” the “doing” and “striving” for God is still valuable, but walking must be a result of our faith in our salvation, not an endless climb towards salvation. The stuff we do and say does not and cannot change who we are in God’s eyes. But who we are in Christ, and the power of HIS spirit to transform us certainly ought to influence what we do and say.

And just like Peter, we’re all on a journey! He declared Jesus as the son of God multiple times before later denying him publicly! He made lots of rash decisions and mistakes, but ever since he chose to follow Jesus he embarked on a lifetime of learning and growing, and even while Jesus was still on Earth, matured to the extent that Jesus said he would build the church on the rock of Peter’s foundation, and hand him the keys to the kingdom! And of course, we have some beautiful and profound writings from Peter later on.

So yes, I think we can certainly learn from Peter and his experience and be encouraged by him. Jesus transformed a salty, violent sailor into a pillar of his church, and he can transform each and every one of us too if we submit to him and choose his kingdom over all others.

Who Treads the Waves?