This past April we took our youth group to a camp in northern Israel, just next to the Sea of Galilee, to teach them about the life and teachings of Jesus as He ministered in this very region.
One of the most famous events in the New Testament took place when Jesus walked on water and Peter tried to walk across the sea to Him—unsuccessfully (Matthew 14:22–33). I felt blessed to teach our youth about this event. Why? Because I had the chance to gain some new insight concerning this miraculous moment, which I now want to share with you.
As we read how Jesus walked on the water and rescued Peter, we see the main purpose of the passage is to show Jesus’ divinity. He is God. How do we know that? Just look at the disciple’s response to His miracle: “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’” They saw Jesus’ control over the wind and the sea, not just by silencing them, but also by breaking the laws of nature (and no, He was not walking on shore; He was in the middle of the sea!). Their reaction was appropriate, and it was an expression of worship.
But something important happened just before that. The disciples were in a boat, in the middle of a storm (if Peter the fisherman was distracted by the waves, it was probably a pretty big storm), in the middle of the sea. The sea of Galilee may not be very big, only about 21 kilometers (13 miles) long and 13 kilometers (8 miles) wide; but as someone who has swum there more than once, I know how easy it is to drown there. It was dark, just before morning; and the disciples were exhausted, frustrated, and afraid. Then Jesus came walking on the water; and after realizing it was Jesus, the first thing Peter did was ask Jesus to command him to come to Him walking on the water.
I think that most of us usually have the tendency to remember Peter’s lack of faith when he was distracted by the waves and began to drown, but how many of us would dare to go out of a rocking boat, trying to walk on water when it’s dark and stormy? Maybe we would dare to put one foot out, and then think about it all over again and conclude that it would be wiser to stay on the boat.
Now when I read these verses, I always think to myself, What in the world was Peter thinking? Why did he want to leave the only relatively safe place around him?
There isn’t an obvious answer in these verses, but the only logical explanation I can see is that Peter thought that being with Jesus on water was safer and better than being on a rocking boat without Him. The boat was an illusion of safety, but Jesus’ presence was actual safety, and this is where Peter wanted to be.
Peter thought that being with Jesus on water was safer and better than being on a rocking boat without Him.
This boat can resemble many things in life that we think will keep us safe or will help us through the storm: people, family, money, savings, institutions, property, and probably many more things you can think of in which you might place your trust besides Jesus. Standing with Jesus, on the other hand, is knowing the Word of God, believing it, and living it out (Matthew 7:24–27).
Sometimes the boat withstands the storm, but sometimes the wind and the waves can easily break the boat. One thing the elements can’t do is overcome Jesus. He has power and authority over the wind and sea, just as He has authority over our lives and everything we face. Most of us probably know that, but do we really believe that? How is this belief expressed in our lives? Do we really put our trust in Him? What does that look like?
When we face death in the family, do we trust in God’s sovereignty, or do we put our trust in people and material things to comfort us?
When we experience a crisis, do we trust our own wisdom? Do we trust psychologists? Do we put our trust in people, or do we trust God and His Word to guide us and bring peace and change?
May we all see the truth—Jesus is where life is. We should strive to put our trust in Him and not in what we have in this world.