I’ve been reading through Matthew 14 the past few days, and can’t get past the passage (22-33) where Jesus saves Peter from drowning after Peter decides he wants to get out on the water with Him.
Why is it that we focus so much on Peter getting out of the boat? I even looked through sermons listed on Logos’ “Passage Guide” for this section of Scripture, and most of the sermons listed were titled, “Get out of the boat,” or “Living by Faith like Peter.”
Here’s the problem: Peter’s courageous decision to get out on the water lasts all of one verse. Not to downplay his initial act of faith, which was very much real and sincere, but that’s not anywhere close to being the point of the story. If anything, his second “act of faith,” which we’ll discuss shortly, is of much more importance.
What I’d offer is this: If you’re a Christ-follower, you’re already out of the boat. You’re already like Peter in this sense. You’ve stepped out in faith to trust Christ to be the Lord of your life and to satisfy you. You’re trusting in what He’s done for you in salvation and you want to follow Him. We already identify with the Peter in verse 29 because we are Christians. What we don’t talk much about is the Peter in verse 30. You see, we identify with that Peter as well. We are, like Verse 29 Peter, desiring to follow Christ, but, like Verse 30 Peter, we’re also divided, weak, fearful, and in desperate need of a Savior. The Peter in verse 30 points us to the real hero of the story, Jesus.
Let’s start in verse 29. Peter’s act of faith and obedience lasts all of one verse. It’s not even a whole verse, actually…just the last few words of the aforementioned verse.
Here’s the next verse: “But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus then rebukes him (lovingly), and says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
So why is it that when Jesus Himself says Peter has “little faith,” we praise his faith? Why do we hold Peter up as the hero of the story here? Peter really does have sincere faith…otherwise, Jesus would have said, “You of NO faith.” It’s just not the main point of the story. So what (or who) is? To give the Sunday School answer: Jesus.
It’s Jesus that calls Peter in the first place. It’s Jesus who saves Peter when he starts to drown. And it’s Jesus who receives worship in the end.
We already are like Peter. We’re already “out of the boat,” following Christ. We already (hopefully) seek to take fresh, new acts of faith and obedience for Christ and His kingdom. And, like Peter, we find that as we pursue Christ, we often stumble, fall, struggle, doubt, sin, worry…all because, like Peter, we’ve taken our eyes off of Jesus.
Let’s talk about that for a minute: Peter focused on the situation more than the God of the situation. If the God who created the universe by speaking a word is the God of your situation, why are you afraid? Why am I afraid? What have we to fear if God is God, and we belong to Him? Nothing!
But the reality remains, we are like Peter. We identify with the zealous, Christ-loving Peter, the Peter who trusts Jesus and wants to be with Him in verse 29. But, we also identify with the weak, anxious, sinful, drowning Peter in verse 30. But more than anything, we need to trust in the Savior that Peter calls on at the end of that verse.
Peter cries out, “Lord, save me!” And Jesus does what He does best…He saves him.
This is the best thing Peter contributes to the story–even in the midst of all of his doubts and fears and questions, he knows that he needs Jesus or he’s going to die. More than we need to understand everything that’s going on in our various situations, we need God. Because we are like Peter in our doubt, we need to be like Peter in trusting God to save us in our doubt, not by necessarily giving us answers, but by giving us Himself. We need the God of our theology before we need our theology.
Back to the passage…here’s the bad news: Peter’s faith is really weak, and as stated before, not exactly the best example of a “strong” faith. But here’s the good news: Peter’s weak, rushed, anxious, fear-filled prayer for Christ to save him works! Not because Peter’s faith is perfect, but because it is in Christ! Peter’s faith isn’t just seen when he tells Jesus to call him to come to Him on the water–it’s seen when he starts to drown and he cries out for the Lord to save him. It is after Jesus saves Peter that He tells him to trust Him more. You can bet that when Peter got back on that boat with Jesus, he was a different man. Jesus had proved Himself trustworthy. Weak faith isn’t good. Jesus wants to rid us of doubt (Jude 22). But what He wants is for us to understand that even a weak faith in Him saves. And from that, from the sufficiency of His work, we put off weak faith for a confident rest in Him.
As weak as Peter’s faith may have been, it was in Christ. It may have seemed strong on the boat, but it weakened when he got out. But the object of his faith remained the same.
No matter how weak your confidence may be, put it in Christ. If your confidence for the day of judgment is as strong as can be, but is in something other than Christ’s finished work on your behalf, you’re going to hell. I can have all the faith in the world that my seminary degree or mission trips or kind words to the homeless person down the street can make me right with God, but at the end of the day, they can’t. Only Jesus can. Trust His finished work. Boast in that. Let Him be your Savior. He saved Peter. And He’s saved countless others just like him.
If we are to “be like Peter,” let it not just be in our decision to follow Christ, but let it also be in this: that when we are drowning in our pursuit of Him, burdened by our fears, sins, and sufferings, we cry out, “Lord, save me!” And when He does, as He surely will, let us praise Him like Peter did: “Truly, you are the Son of God!”
Lord, may we trust in You and lift You up as the Savior, as the hero of every story in Scripture. May we follow You like Peter did. May we, when we fall like Peter did, call on You to save us.