Sunday

13 August 2017

Matthew 14:22-33

“Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’” (vv. 28-29a)

Psalm: Psalm 85


Background

The story of Jesus walking on water is a very familiar one - and not only for Christians. As Jesus' mind-bendingly crazy miracles go, it tends to be near the top of people's lists. In the Bible it can be found in the Gospels of Matthew, John (John 6:15-21) and Mark (Mark 6:45-51), but only Matthew tells us about Peter's response to this spectacle.

In their boat the disciples were being battered back and forth by the waves and wind. As far as they knew, Jesus was still on the shore. Although some of them were seasoned fishermen, they were only on the boat because Jesus had urged them to go on ahead (verse 22) - and he was nowhere to be seen. It appeared that he had abandoned them to the elements. I imagine they must have been anxious, confused and frightened.

And then they see a man walking on the waves. More anxious? More confused? More frightened?

But, more than the miracle itself, it's Peter's reaction that I find most intriguing. When we experience doubt and fear, it's often our natural reaction to want God to prove God's-self - to give us a sign that God is who God claims to be. This is exactly what Satan challenged Jesus to do during Jesus' trials in the desert (Matthew 4:1-11). Often it seems to go something like this:

God identifies God's own self.
We doubt.
We do nothing.

Or:

God identifies God's own self.
We doubt.
We call on God to act.

But Peter takes a different approach. Instead of asking Jesus to prove himself by coming to the boat, he asks to meet him on the water. Peter is so invested in Jesus and his mission that he's willing to step out of the boat - to risk his own skin to prove who Jesus is. Peter tested God by testing himself.

So maybe instead it could go like this:

God identifies God's own self.
We doubt.
We step out.


To Ponder

  • Have there been times when God has scared you? What happened?
  • How do you feel about testing God?
  • What if that also means testing yourself? 

Bible notes author

Anna Drew

Anna Drew is Director of Communications for the Diocese of Canterbury. She is a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4's Daily Service and Prayer for the Day and a freelance writer on faith issues.