In Matthew 14:29, we witness a stirring scene. Seeing Jesus amid the storm, Peter walks on water towards him. However, he is quickly scared of the howling winds and rough waves. Peter starts to sink – that is, until Jesus reaches out a loving hand to save him.
This is a miraculous event! But beyond that, I believe Peter walking on water serves as a beautiful metaphor for our own faith journey. It teaches us timeless lessons about trust, obedience, and maintaining focus on God, even in tumultuous times.
Let’s dive deep to explore these lessons, and how they impact our spiritual walk with Christ. I hope you’ll find this blog post useful!
Peter walks on water: A brief summary of Matthew 14:22-36
I think it’s useful to first paint the wider biblical scene to give context to Peter walking on water. This will help to frame the discussion more richly.
Earlier in Matthew 14, Jesus miraculously feeds five thousand people by multiplying five loaves and two fish.
Right after, Jesus asks the disciples to go on ahead of him. He tells them to get in their boat and head to the other side of the shore.
Jesus then goes up a mountain to pray alone. By night, the disciples’ boat is already far from land. The wind and waves are getting huge and intimidating (Matthew 14:22-24).
A little before dawn, Jesus gets up and calmly walks on water towards their boat. I can imagine that would be quite a sight to behold!
At first, the disciples can’t recognise Jesus. The hectic weather seems to obscure their sight, and they mistake Christ for a frightful ghost instead (Matthew 14:25-26).
But Jesus calls out to them right away: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid” (Matthew 14:27).
Then, Peter walks on water!
Excited, Peter quickly responds:
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”Matthew 14:28
Jesus affirms, asking Peter to simply “Come” (Matthew 14:29).
Peter immediately gets off the boat, boldly leaving the other disciples behind. And to our astonishment, Peter walks on water towards Jesus!
However, Peter gets distracted, turning his gaze to the howling wind around him. He is gripped by fear and begins to sink into the water.
Frantic, Peter cries out “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30). Without hesitation, Jesus reaches out his hand and catches the disciple, saying:
“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”Matthew 14:31
I’ve always been captivated by the powerful exchange between Peter and Jesus! If you’re interested, here’s a video offering a cinematic depiction. Note: the directors have infused some creative elements, but I believe the heart and meaning of the biblical scene remains.
5 big lessons we can learn from Peter walking on water
So, you might ask: how does all of this relate to our own walks with God today? What can we learn from Peter walking on water?
Plenty! Here are 5 key lessons centered on the meaning of Matthew 14:22-36.
Lesson #1: Like Peter, we should first ask God what His will is before we act
You’ll notice that Peter didn’t recklessly jump out of the boat onto the water, without warning nor thought.
Instead, Peter first asks Jesus to affirm that it is truly him (“Lord, if it’s you…”) as he sought the Son of God’s approval to act (“Tell me to come to you on the water”).
In other words, Peter wanted to know if it was truly Jesus’ will to let him walk on water. Moreover, he only acted after Jesus responded firmly with “Come”.
Helpful takeaway: As Christians, I think we are often tempted to “do first, ask God later”. In other words, we are frequently too impulsive to first seek God’s will before acting in the flesh. But the reality is: not every open door or opportunity is the right one that’s aligned to His will for our lives.
Thus, I think the story where Peter walks on water is a huge reminder for us. We need to prioritize seeking God’s will first before making decisions, especially big ones (Matthew 6:33). Don’t just jump into the water on your own accord!
We have so many ways of doing this – patiently praying, sincerely seeking God’s confirmations, resting in His peace, reading the Bible, and so on. Understanding the many ways God talks to us (including via dreams and visions) will help us better discern His voice and act in alignment with His will.
Lesson #2: Obey God when He calls, even when things seem impossible
I believe that when Peter walks on water, it is a symbolism of each person’s special journey with God.
Often, God calls us to carry out tasks that, on the surface, may seem nearly impossible to do at first.
For example, God might tell you to start a new ministry to help people, even if you don’t know where you’ll get the money or what the exact next steps are. Or, He might repeatedly nudge you to leave your job, even when you don’t know what lies beyond the horizon.
In any situation, trust God to do the impossible, like when Peter walks on water (Matthew 19:26). It’s not about what we can do, but about what God is capable of accomplishing. So, if He is clearly telling you to step into the unknown, just like Peter, leave your ‘boat’ and walk. He’s God – and He knows exactly how to keep you afloat.
Helpful takeaway: Peter sought Jesus’ will and walked on water, against all human possibility. In the same way, we might not know God’s exact plans or how He will do things. But, we can trust Him to help us move according to His plans. When He calls, we should respond and act. But, again, do so only as you seek His will, not your own.
Lesson #3: With every step you take, don’t lose sight of Jesus
Peter was only able to walk on water when he kept his eyes fixed on Jesus (Matthew 14:29). However, the very moment he took his gaze off the Son of God, he began to sink (Matthew 14:30).
Similarly, we can become so absorbed in ‘doing’ things for God that, ironically, we can start to lose sight of what’s truly important: continuously focusing on Jesus. (This issue seems particularly prevalent among those deeply involved in full-time church ministry.)
Subsequently, when we lose focus, we start to ‘drown’ gradually, losing our way and purpose. We stop producing the fruits that God intends for us.
However, I’d like to share Jesus’ humbling reminder:
“I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.”John 15:5
I’ll put it plainly. Peter was only able to walk on water when he kept his eyes on Jesus. Likewise, the only truly valuable things we can do for God’s Kingdom come from keeping our eyes on Jesus at all times, and nothing else. Don’t lose sight of that fact.
Helpful takeaway: Let us always fix our focus on Jesus in all that we do. We need Christ to help us live out God’s good plans; without him, we simply can’t.
Lesson #4: Don’t let fear distract you from God
More specifically, Peter only started to sink when he turned away from Jesus to look at the roaring wind (Matthew 14:30). Fear and panic gripped him.
For us, these winds symbolically represent anything around us that makes us feel scared, worried, or distracted.
Problems will inevitably happen in our everyday lives, as God forewarned us (John 16:33). For instance, we might lose our jobs and worry about how to pay for things. Or, something else unexpected and unfortunate may happen.
So, how do we respond? Do we run around like headless chicken or start lashing out in panic?
No. In this regard, I believe God is very clear. He loves us – and “there is no fear in love” (1 John 4:18). Jesus promises us true peace in him (Matthew 11:28-30).
Thus, as believers, we don’t need to feel too troubled nor afraid to keep walking with God (John 14:27). He wants us to stay calm and focus on Him, not the storms around us.
Helpful takeaway: I know the above is easier said than done – I’ve had my fair share of moments of panic too. But, like Peter, fear really makes us sink and distracts us from Christ. So, in response, we need to trust in God’s unfailing love, for that is the only true way to stay afloat in what He has called us to do.
Lesson #5: God will rescue you when you stumble
As he started sinking, Peter called out to Jesus to save him (Matthew 14:30). Jesus answered right away – even though it was Peter’s own doubt that made him sink (Matthew 14:31).
To clarify, I think it’s clear that God wants us to have faith and trust in Him (Ephesians 6:16; Hebrews 11:6; Matthew 21:22; Proverbs 3:5-6). He doesn’t want us to doubt (Matthew 21:18-22).
But sometimes, like Peter, our faith might waver – and we begin to drown. We don’t want this to happen, but it does.
However, God is kind and shows mercy to those who sincerely ask Him for help (Psalm 50:15). When we are weak, His strength is revealed (2 Corinthians 12:9-11). In our moments of despair and doubt, He lifts us, providing comfort and clarity. His grace grants us peace and resilience in times of struggle.
That’s who God is, even when we haven’t done anything to deserve such a gift. When we really believe that and learn to truly trust Him, we can be confident that, even when we stumble, He will always be there to strengthen our faith to keep going.
Helpful takeaway: In essence, we must walk in God’s ways with faith and obedience. However, even if we begin to sink like Peter, we can trust that by humbling our hearts and calling out, He will rescue us without fail.
Other useful resources on Matthew 14:22-36
I’ve compiled a few other resources that can help us deepen our biblical understanding of Peter and Jesus walking on water. Hope these prove useful to your learning!