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. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn 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.” Matthew 14:22-33
In case you've missed the last several posts, I've been writing about Jesus (and subsequently Peter for a short period of time) walking on the water, found in Matthew 14. I tend to be a bit garrulous, so I've split my thoughts into three sections. (Thank you Baptist Christian School for that vocabulary word! I use it often!)
As I said earlier, I'm no theologian. These observations are simply what God has shown me after studying this passage, and so when I say "Discovery" - I am definitely using the term quite loosely, not scientifically. To recap, Discovery #1 (October 22, 2012) was "Jesus sometimes pushes us right into the eye of the storm." Discovery #2 (October 23, 2012) was "When you're looking for Jesus, you'll know Him."
And now I'll try to compact my random thoughts into Discovery #3 - "Peter really has a bad rap."
I started to look at this whole episode of Peter walking on water. Remember, this is Peter, the “speak before you think” disciple. What does he say in verse 28? He says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to You on the water.” I don’t think Peter really thought about what he was saying. He was impulsive. He was perhaps a little ADHD. OK, if you know anyone with ADHD, Peter was more than a little, in my humble opinion. I imagine Peter was the disciple who was always moving, sitting there, shaking his leg, tapping his fingers, spinning his fountain pen or whatever they wrote with in those days. I think Peter was always on the move. So when Jesus said, “Come”, Peter didn’t hesitate. He heard his Lord’s voice and went without thinking.
How I would love that quality. To know God’s voice so much that I deny all reason...to obey. Let that one sink deep.
Growing up in Sunday School, the one thing my teachers always pointed out in this familiar story was that Peter started to sink because he got afraid and took his eyes off Jesus. In truth, anyone who is familiar with this story would likely agree they've been taught or heard the same thing. But look at verse 30. He may have noticed the wind and gotten afraid, but what else happened? He said, “Lord, save me!”
Peter not only was the only disciple to recognize Jesus, take a step of faith to come to Him, but even though Peter got scared, he knew his Lord was one armstretch away from delivering him from the depths. While the other disciples were cowering inside the boat, Peter was walking toward Jesus on the water! Sure, he got a little scared, but he had enough sense of mind to know Jesus was right there to save Him, to catch Him. That, my friends is faith, and Peter...well, Peter really has a bad rap.
As I researched this story in the gospels, I realized something else. Matthew 14, Mark 6, and John 6 all tell the story of Jesus walking on the water. Now, some might argue that each of these events that are told are not the exact same event...that Jesus walked on the water numerous times. And that may be so, because we all know by now that I'm no theologian. I'm just a simple girl trying to go to the max with God.
But let's just assume for a moment that the events in these three books were the same event. Did you know that Matthew 14 is the only passage in the Gospels that talks about Peter stepping out of the boat? Truth. Go read it for yourself. Don't take my word for it! Compare the stories!
Why? Why? Why? Why does only one book mention Peter stepping out in faith, then nearly sinking? ...And that is the question of the day...now the question of the week for me.
Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John are called the synoptic Gospels. They often tell the same stories, but each has a different slant, a different purpose, a different audience. The book of Matthew was written primarily to the Jews, and the purpose was to prove that Jesus is the Messiah, the eternal King. I don't really have an answer as to why the other Gospels don't tell the story of Peter. I do know that the Bible does not contradict itself. Period - end of subject. And I take it in faith that it's fitly pieced together, beyond my understanding.
(Sidenote... Are you familiar with what is referred to as "Peter's Confession", where Jesus asks Peter "Who do you say that I am?" And Peter replies, "You are the Christ."? Well, interestingly, the book of Matthew is also the only Gospel that mentions Jesus response to Peter, “You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” Hmmm... It gets you thinking.
Maybe Matthew was really was impressed with Peter and felt like he needed to help improve his bad rap, just like I feel today. OK, probably that's not the answer, especially since the Bible says "all Scripture is given by inspiration of God." Or, there simply must be a reason why Matthew mentions Peter and the other Gospels do not. I have some ideas, but they're probably wrong, so I'm not going to even try to explain them. You see, I don't have to know the answer "why" - I just have to know it all fits neatly together for a purpose. And I trust God at face value on that one. End sidenote!)
Finally, I love how the story ends. Take a look at it. Of course Jesus chastised the disciples for their lack of faith, but then what happened? Jesus climbed into the boat with the disciples. He met them at their point of need. What a beautiful visual Christ gives us. The disciples were in the middle of a storm in their life, scared out of their mind, Jesus walked to them, then He climbed in the boat with them!
We are not in our storms of life by ourselves, friends. If we have a relationship with Jesus - if there's been a time in your life when you've asked Him to come into your life, forgive you of your sins, and take control, if you've made that personal decision for yourself, then He is in the boat with you. And if you have not made that decision for yourself, He is outside on the water, hand outstretched waiting to save you, waiting to pick you up from drowning. I find that both exciting and encouraging!
So spread the word, Peter's not such a bad guy. He knew Jesus' voice. He asked to come to Jesus. And when Jesus called his bluff, He obeyed immediately. Sure, he got a little scared, but can you honestly say you would have even take the first step out of the boat? I dare say most of us would have stayed with the rest of the disciples! And finally, Peter knew who would rescue him. All in all, I think Peter had a much better understanding of Jesus than we give him credit. He just needed a little adderol, that's all. I'm sure if he had some meds back then, he wouldn't have the "open mouth, insert foot" disciple rap. And that's a wrap on this passage!