And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out for fear. But immediately He spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” And Peter answered Him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to You on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out His hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
We are all familiar with the story of Peter walking on the water. We’ve just discussed how Jesus went to the mountains to pray, knowing that the disciples in the boat on the lake were going to be caught in a storm. In fact, He allowed the storm to happen. Understandably, the disciples were afraid. A massive storm befalling a small boat is a scary proposition. There were no motors on boats back then, no fancy navigation equipment. With clouds and rain, there was probably no moon, no stars, and no light by which to see or navigate. A truly scary time.
In the midst of this, Jesus came walking on the water. And now in addition to the terrifying waves and wind, the disciples had to contend with an unexplainable, ghost-like figure walking on the water. Jesus reassured them that it was Him and that they should have no fear.
Peter had his moments of doubt, to be sure, but he also had his moments of faith. He didn’t say, “I don’t believe it’s you, Lord.” He said, “Lord, if it you, bid me come to You on the water.” Jesus encouraged Peter to do the impossible, to come out of the boat and walk on water. He didn’t encourage Peter to do something he would fail at, but something at which Jesus knew he could succeed. Jesus knew that with enough faith, Peter could walk on water.
Peter walked on water. He did something amazing. And he was doing just fine, until he took His eyes off of Jesus and started looking at the situation around him. He lost focus. He lost trust. He starting having concerns for material things like his health, and momentarily forgot about the faith that was allowing him to do what seemed impossible. It was in this moment that he began to sink.
He still, however, found faith in Jesus. He didn’t curse Him saying, “why are you letting me sink” or “You set me up to fail.” He said, “Lord, help me.” “You are still my Lord and in this situation, You can still help me.” Jesus immediately reached out to grab Peter.
The Bible doesn’t say what tone of voice Jesus used when He said to Peter, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” It doesn’t say if He raised His voice, or was disappointed or upset. One of the reasons I read the Bible is for some encouragement. If you imagine Jesus speaking in a calm and reassuring voice, you can almost hear His comment as words of encouragement: “You’ve got this. I’ve got your back. There is no need to doubt.”
There are storms in every life. Sometimes Jesus asks us to walk through them. Sometimes it seems like He is asking us to do the impossible, to walk on water, or in many cases, to have faith and not doubt, to stay strong and focus on Him. Like Peter, the goal in the storm is to stay focused on Him. And like Peter, we need to listen to His voice of encouragement—“Don’t doubt. You’ve got this. I’ve got your back.”
Lord, be with me in the storms of my life. Help me to trust in You even when the waves are big and I feel scared. Help me to step out of my comfort zone, my boat, and walk to You. Help me to know and to trust that You’ve got my back. Help me to trust and to keep focus on You and not on the waves. Bring me safely to You. Amen.
Pray. Focus. Trust.
Fr. Stavros N. Akrotirianakis is the Proistamenos of St. John Greek Orthodox Church in Tampa, FL. Fr. contributes the Prayer Team Ministry, a daily reflection, which began in February 2015. The Prayer Team now has its own dedicated website!
Fr. Stavros has produced two books, “Let All Creation Rejoice: Reflections on Advent, the Nativity and Epiphany”: “https://amzn.to/2t1rXwh and “The Road Back to Christ: Reflections on Lent, Holy Week and the Resurrection.” https://amzn.to/2WAcfG0
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