Three Gospel writers confirm an event that has become legendary, perhaps almost mythical to present-day readers. Although it defied natural laws, the miracle of Jesus walking on water showed God’s imagination and sense of humor in a unique way.
In the narrative in Matthew 14:22-32, following the feeding of the 5,000, Jesus sent off His disciples in a boat to the other side of Galilee. John 6:15 reveals that when Jesus perceived that some people in the multitude were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He had sent the multitudes away (a miracle in itself), then went up on the mountain to pray. He stayed and prayed into the night. All the accounts concur that it was dark, the disciples were three or four miles out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, the wind was blowing and the boat was being tossed by the waves. Sometime after 3 a.m., in the fourth watch of the night, Jesus walked on the water all the way out to where they were.
When the disciples saw Him, they were fearful and troubled, and cried out, thinking Jesus was a phantom (phantasma in the Greek). Immediately Jesus talked to them and said, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.” Only Matthew writes of Peter’s adventure. Peter said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” Jesus said, “Come.”
And on that day, Peter climbed down out of the boat and walked on the water to go to Jesus. As long as he kept his eyes on the Lord, he also was doing the miraculous, but he got distracted by the wind and fear seized him. Beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
As soon as both Peter and Jesus got into the boat, the wind stopped. John 6:21 states that “immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.” Mark 6:51 says, “And they were greatly amazed in themselves beyond measure, and marveled.” Matthew 14:33 adds, “Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, ‘Truly You are the Son of God.’”
Jesus Christ knew the Word of God, and believed with perfect believing. Although he was tempted in all points, like every human, He never yielded to sin at any time. He never struggled with the kinds of overwhelming doubts and fears that stifle most people. He thought perfect thoughts, made perfect decisions, and walked a perfect walk. What He did that day was initially frightening to the disciples. They had been rowing against hard winds for hours, only to make it halfway across the water. They were exhausted, and frustrated, and when they saw Jesus, they were terrified. But Peter’s mind leaped to the seemingly impossible, and he actually believed he could do what he saw the Lord doing. Peter, a regular guy, sometimes impulsive, even moody, was an ordinary man, but he was suddenly emboldened by the thought of doing something supernatural, and he literally walked on water.
Truly, Jesus was the Son of God, and is, and He paved the way for others to become sons of God, also. When Peter looked at the Lord, he could do the supernatural. When he allowed the winds and waves to distract him, he sank. Power, dominion and authority have been given back to Christians through the finished work of Jesus Christ. It takes fearless faith and eyes fixed on Jesus to do the miraculous.