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Peter walks on water: 5 lessons we can learn (the meaning of Matthew 14:22-36)

In Matthew 14:29, Peter walks on water towards Jesus. However, afraid of the rough wind and waves, he starts to sink before the Son of God reaches out to save him. In this post, we will explore 5 lessons we can learn from Peter walking on water, and how they relate to our own walk with God.

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Peter walks on water: A quick summary of Matthew 14:22-36

Let’s first paint the biblical scene to give context to Peter’s walking on water.

Jesus had just miraculously fed the five thousand by multiplying five loaves and two fish.

Peter walks on water 1

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 huge (Matthew 14:22-24).

A little before dawn, Jesus gets up and walks on water towards the boat. At first, the disciples can’t recognise him amid the hectic weather, mistaking Jesus for a frightful ghost instead (Matthew 14:25-26).

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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!

Seeing and hearing Lord Jesus, Peter quickly responds:

“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

Matthew 14:28

Jesus affirms Peter’s request, asking him simply to “Come” (Matthew 14:29).

Peter immediately gets off the boat, leaving the other disciples behind. Miraculously, he proceeds to walk on water towards Jesus.

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However, Peter starts to look at the howling wind around him. Filled with fear, he begins to sink into the water.

Frantic, Peter cries out “Lord, save me!” (Matthew 14:30).

Jesus saves apostle 1

Without hesitation, Jesus reaches out his hand and catches Peter, saying:

“You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

Matthew 14:31

5 Lessons we can learn from Peter walking on water: The meaning of Matthew 14:22-36

How does Peter walking on water relate to our own walks with God? Here are 5 key lessons!

Lesson #1: Like Peter, we should first ask God what His will is before we act

Seek God's will first

Notice that Peter didn’t recklessly jump out of the boat without thinking.

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 for sure that Jesus would allow him to walk on water. It is only when Jesus responded with “Come” that he did just that.

As Christians, we are often tempted to “do first, ask God later”, reacting to our flesh-bound impulses.

We might also be prone to think that every opportunity, task, open door, etc. is something that God wants us to do. But this isn’t always true.

Seek first before acting

However, this story about Peter teaches us an important lesson. We must be open to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” (Matthew 6:33) before acting on decisions, especially big ones.

There are many ways to do this. For example, we can pray to God to guide us, give us confirmations when truly needed, seek His peace, lead us to relevant Bible verses, and so on.

Learning the numerous ways that God speaks to us will help us better discern His voice and respond accordingly.

Lesson #2: Obey God when He calls, even when things seem impossible

You will do many things.

When Peter walks on water, it is symbolism for our own unique journeys 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 may ask you to start a new ministry – even if you don’t yet know how you’ll raise funds or what the exact step-by-step plan is. Or perhaps He may prompt you to reach out to a particular non-believer to share the Gospel, when you yourself aren’t sure he or she will actually listen.

Get out of your boat

Whatever the case, just like Peter trusted Jesus to help him do the impossible, we can trust God to help us too. As we learn to discern His will, we can rely on Him to help us carry out His plans (Matthew 19:26). At times, this can mean learning to step out of our comfort ‘boats’.

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 moment he took his gaze off the Son of God, he began to sink (Matthew 14:30).

Woman gazes at cross

Similarly, sometimes we get so busy ‘doing’ things for God that we ironically start to forget the most important thing: to keep our eyes on Jesus, always.

When our focus drifts, we slowly start to ‘drown’, losing direction and purpose. We stop bearing the fruits that God wants us to.

Jesus the true vine
Christ the True Vine Icon

In this regard, Jesus gives us a 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

In short, Peter’s story of walking on water teaches us to fix our focus on Jesus in all that we do. We need Jesus 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

Storm in our heads

Peter only started to sink when he turned away from Jesus to look at the roaring wind (Matthew 14:30).

For us, these winds can symbolize anything that is happening around us that might make us feel afraid, worried, or distracted.

Troubles are bound to happen in our daily lives, like God said they would (John 16:33). For example, we may lose our jobs and stress over how to pay for things. Or something else unfortunate may unfold that catches us off guard.

Jesus take the wheel

However, whatever the situation, Jesus promises us that we will always find peace in him (Matthew 11:28-30). We don’t need to be troubled nor afraid (John 14:27). Instead, God wants us to stay calm and focus on Him, no matter what.

In short, like with Peter, fear makes us sink. But when we trust in God’s unfailing love for us, He will help us stay afloat (1 John 4:18).

Lesson #5: God will rescue you when you stumble

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Desperate, Peter called out to Jesus to save him from drowning (Matthew 14:30). Jesus responded immediately – even though it was Peter’s own doubt that caused him to sink (Matthew 14:31).

To be clear, God wants us to trust and have faith 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, like Peter, our faith might drift sometimes – and we start to drown. We really don’t want this to happen, but it does.

Thankful to God

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 short, we must seek to walk in God’s ways, in faith and obedience. Yet, even when we do falter as Peter did, we must hold fast onto Him (Psalm 91:14). We can trust that He will rescue us in our time of need if we humble our hearts to call out to Him.

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