In the last article I wrote we focused on fear as a reason for Peter’s failure in Matthew 14, when he walked albeit briefly on the water, and we considered how fear so often plays a role in our own failures. We drew some suggestions that might help us be better prepared to avoid fear in spiritual things…beginning each day with His Word, being honest about our anxieties and giving them to Jesus, and lastly, remembering Whom we serve.
But what if the issue isn’t fear exactly. At the end of this event, all the disciples recognize that Jesus is the Son of God (Matt. 14:33). Just a couple of chapters later, it is Peter who makes what we call the Great Confession. It’s one of those great Peter moments…where he doesn’t just get it, he REALLY gets it…all of it. Peter says, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Peter and the disciples had been with Jesus for some time at this point; they’d seen Him perform miracles and heard Him teach with authority. On a side note, can you even imagine how different Jesus’ teaching must have been, the depth and understanding and wisdom He must have brought to scripture!
But back to the point at hand…why did Peter fail? I’d suggest he got distracted…which led to his getting scared. Vs. 24 tells us that the little boat was tossed by the waves because the wind was contrary. If you’ve never been on a boat in a big storm, you can’t appreciate how that feels. You suddenly appreciate what a precarious position you’re in. Each wave brings the front or rear of the boat into what feels like the tipping point. Sometimes two waves build upon each other and you’re sure you’re sunk. Those waves keep coming and coming and coming, relentless, not caring for you at all. And it was dark! Vs. 25 tells us that it was the fourth watch of the night, sometime between 3:00 AM and 6:00 AM. Dark, late, windy, and tossed about by the waves…isn’t it weird that darkness always makes a bad situation worse? No wonder these men were frightened.
But those conditions didn’t stop when Peter stepped out of the boat. We learn in vs. 32 that the wind and waves don’t stop until Jesus enters the boat. I’d suggest while Peter watched Jesus come to them, his focus was on the wonder that he beheld. Not just Jesus walking on the water, but Jesus…his Master, his Teacher, the One who fed thousands, the One who taught with authority, the One who Peter is becoming more and more convinced of His divinity every day. But once he exits the boat, I suspect he begins hearing the howling of the wind, the sound of the waves slapping against the side of the boat; perhaps there was thunder and lightening too. I imagine he saw the waves and the darkness surrounding him. Add to all of that the fact that Peter had never done this before…this was brand new…and well, he got scared. So do we, right?
How often do we fail because we lose our focus? We are surrounded by waves and wind and darkness of our own at times. Sickness, death, money worries, relationship problems, temptations of the flesh and of stuff all seek to draw our eyes and our hearts and our attention away. Jesus asks us to do things we’ve never done before too. We lose focus and get frightened. It’s the story of our lives, right?
But we, like Peter, can always cry out, “Lord, save me!” and His hand is always there to save. It will come with our own admonition and correction. We, like Peter, will have to be obedient to do those things Jesus asks of us. Jesus, through scripture, may well turn to us and ask why we had so little faith. But we, like Peter, can grow stronger, can cling tighter, can use our talents for His service, so why don’t we use those talents the way we could?
After all, it was Peter who we have a record of delivering the first gospel sermon (Acts 2). It was Peter who first shared the gospel with the Gentiles (Acts 10). It’s telling that the last private thing Jesus says to Peter while on earth is recorded in John 21:19. After warning Peter of the life he was to live in service, He says, “Follow me.” And Peter did…so can we.