30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:30-31)
Through the Bible: Matthew 14, Mark 6, Luke 9
Peter gets a bad rap sometimes. The story in today’s reading of Peter trying and failing to walk on water has been preached, taught, and sung about countless times; often making the point that, if Peter had just kept his eyes on Jesus, he wouldn’t have sunk. We join our voices to Jesus, and say, along with him, “Yeah, Peter… you of little faith. Why did you doubt? When oceans rise for Lauren Daigle, she keeps her eyes above the waves. Why couldn’t you?”
But is that really the point of the story? Is Peter to be our example of what happens when we take our eyes off Jesus? Allow me to make a counter argument. Here are three reasons this is a story of Peter’s faithfulness and not his faithlessness.
Peter doesn’t do anything Jesus doesn’t invite him to do.
Peter and the other disciples are in this boat in the first place because Jesus “made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side” (Matthew 14:22). This pokes holes in the idea that when we face storms and trouble in life it’s because we are out of God’s will. You can be in the eye of the storm and the center of God’s will at the same time.
But when Peter sees his boat going down and Jesus staying up, he decides he wants to be with Jesus: “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (v. 28). And it is only after Jesus bids Peter come to him that Peter got out of the boat.
Peter got out of the boat.
And yes, Peter gets out of the boat! There were eleven other disciples that didn’t ask Jesus to command them to come to Him. Eleven other disciples who watched from the rail. Eleven others who were still convinced that their own hard work would get them to a better place. So before we chide Peter for only taking two steps before he sank, let’s remember that Peter took two more steps on the water than any human being in history besides Jesus. And that includes Lauren Daigle.
Peter asked Jesus for help.
When Peter did falter, he had two choices. He could have called back to the men in the boat, “Guys! Save me.” But when he started to sink, he called out “Lord, save me” (verse 30). Which would you do? I would have been tempted to choose to have wooden planks under my feet, even when water was seeping in between them.
So if this is really a story about Peter’s faithfulness, then why did Jesus say to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt” (verse 31)? I’ll give you my best, open-handed, not-screaming-where-Scripture-whispers theory:
Jesus asked Peter, “why did you doubt?” NOT, “Why did you doubt Me?” Why did you doubt that you could do what I invited you to do? Why did you doubt that you had what it takes to follow Me. When Jesus gently reprimanded Peter by saying “O you of little faith,” I don’t believe Peter lost faith in Jesus. I think he lost faith in his ability to follow Jesus.
Beloved, Jesus will not lead you where His grace can’t keep you. When He calls you to let go of the rail, you can trust that He knew what He was doing when He called you. When oceans rise and feet may fail, trust Him, absolutely. At the same time, trust that He trusted you to follow, or He never would have invited you out onto the waves.