21 October 2016

Matthew 14:28-33

“Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (v. 31)

Psalm: Psalm 34:1-10


We pick up the story today right where we left off yesterday (link) with the disciples in the boat in the midst of a storm with Jesus coming over to them offering words of comfort. As was nearly always the case, Peter was the first to respond.

Peter was a person of impulse. At the beginning of his ministry Jesus asked a tired Peter to put his fishing boat out into the lake to make a catch. Peter's response was almost mockery -  they had already been out all night and caught nothing; but this swung to full devotion as he knelt at Jesus' feet in worship on landing the biggest catch of his life (Luke 5:1-11). There was also the end of Jesus' ministry when Peter promises him full support even to death. Only to fulfil Jesus' prediction that he would be the one to deny ever knowing Jesus (Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75).

Matthew is the only Gospel writer to include this part of the story. Both the Gospels of Mark and John record Jesus walking on the water (Mark 6:45-52; John 6:16-21), but neither mention Peter. Maybe Matthew felt the need to cement Peter's place as the leader of the Church after Christ's ascension, despite his flaws and lack of faith.

It is not made clear quite how far Peter went after climbing out of the boat, or how far away Jesus was at this point. But what is evident is that the storm was still raging and Peter only began to sink when he noticed the waves about him. If this was included to encourage the early Church facing storms of their own it could have been a challenge to them not to view the storm as greater than the power of Christ.

The chapter opened with Herod wondering if Jesus was John the Baptist returned from the dead (Matthew 14:2). Now as the chapter draws to a close we hear the statement of faith that surely Jesus is the Son of God (v. 33).

To Ponder

  • In what circumstances do you think it is okay to test Jesus as Peter did, asking for evidence to know that it is him?
  • In what ways has Jesus helped you when you felt you were sinking? As you remember, give thanks to God for that.

Bible notes author

The Revd Will Fletcher

Will is a presbyter stationed in the Sheffield Circuit. He has oversight of one multisite church (The Beacon Methodist Church) which is spread over three locations in western Sheffield.