Peter Walks On Water (5 powerful lessons from Matthew 14:22-33)

The Gospels are full of unforgettable stories that not only capture our attention, but also teach us valuable lessons. That’s exactly what we see in Matthew 14:22-33 when Peter walks on water. It’s an incredible story that can transform our faith still today. 

While most of us know the premise of this story and likely have tried to walk on water ourselves a few times, there’s so much more to the story than just the headlines. In fact, I think if you dig a little deeper you will find there are some powerful and practical lessons for your life today.

So, let’s dive into the story of Peter walking on water and see what we can learn. 

What Led To Peter Walking On Water 

Matthew, Mark, and John all record the story of Jesus walking on water. But what’s unique about Matthew’s account is that it’s the only Gospel to record Peter walking on water. For this post, we will focus on Matthew 14:22-33 because it gives us the most details. 

Now, before any water walking happens we see one of Jesus’ most famous miracles where he feeds 5,000 people with a few loaves and fish (Matthew 14:13-21). Following this the disciples’ faith has to be at an all-time high. 

Matthew 14:22-23 says after this Jesus immediately made the disciples get in the boat to go ahead of him to the other side of the sea of Galilee. After this Jesus dismisses the crowd and goes up a mountainside to pray by himself. 

So far, all pretty normal… But it’s about to get good. 

Later that night a storm picks up. Matthew records that there were violent waves and a strong wind. These were experienced fishermen and storms in this area were common, so this wasn’t your average storm. The sea had claimed many lives, and it wasn’t something to be messed with. (Matthew 14:24) 

And it’s in the middle of this storm that Jesus decides to show off. 

Jesus Walks On Water

As dawn approaches and the faintest light starts appearing, Jesus decides to go to the disciples. How? He walks, on the still stormy water. Jesus walks on water toward the disciples in the boat who are still a long way off. (Matthew 14:25)

The disciples can’t quite tell what or who is walking toward them. They assume it must be a ghost. A common superstition among seafarers of the day was those who drowned would haunt the waters. They didn’t know what they saw, but they certainly didn’t think it could be Jesus. (Matthew 14:26)

And honestly, who could blame them? Up to this point no one had walked on water. 

Knowing their fear Jesus calls out to them. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27) 

Jesus’ response to their fear centers on “It is I.” These words were a term that Jesus often used to claim deity. In other words, Jesus is saying the disciples can take courage and fear not because Jesus was there with them. 

Dr Tom Constable says, “Fear is unwarranted where Jesus is present.”

If you were to stop this story after Jesus walks on water there would be plenty to glean from this passage. But it’s not over yet. It’s about to get even more interesting.

Peter Walks On Water 

Peter is known for being a little headstrong. He’s quick to speak before he thinks things through. And while that got him in trouble from time to time, it also lead him to experience things no one else did. 

Simon Peter responds to Jesus’ claim with a bold claim: “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” (Matthew 14:28) 

Jesus responds with a single word: “Come.” 

With remarkable trust and courage, Peter climbs over the side of the boat. I know we like to criticize Peter for what happens next. But think about this, in the middle of the storm Peter trusts Jesus enough to step out of the boat. That’s an incredible display of faith in Jesus. None of the other disciples dared step foot out of the boat. Only Peter walks on water. 

Matthew 14:29 simply states that Peter walks on water toward Jesus. Simple words for an incredible moment. 

But… Matthew 14:30 interrupts this incredible moment with a conjunction. As Peter walks on water he starts to notice how powerful the wind and waves are, and he takes his eyes off Jesus. He gets distracted by his harrowing circumstances and he sinks. Peter’s doubt was about to take him out. 

Matthew records that he was afraid as he began to sink. You think? He must have been terrified. I imagine as he gasped for one last breath before he went under he cried out, “LORD SAVE ME!”

Jesus doesn’t wait. Matthew 14:31 says that immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. After Peter was safe Jesus rebuked him for his little faith.

Mark Moore describes the rebuke this way in his book The Chronological Life Of Christ:  “Jesus rebuked him for his weak faith even though it was stronger than that of the other disciples who remained in the boat. Jesus used this rebuke to help Peter and the other disciples see that consistent confidence in Himself was absolutely necessary. Peter became both a good example and a bad one. Jesus rescued him as God had rescued many others from watery graves.”

Still, that’s not the last miracle. As soon as Jesus and Peter climb back into the boat the wind and waves miraculously calm. This passage contains three miracles: 

  1. Jesus walks on water. 
  2. Peter walks on water. 
  3. Jesus calmed the storm. 

And yet none of those incredible events are the climax of the story. Matthew 14:33 is the climax of this story. It’s not the miracles, it’s the disciples’ worship of Jesus. This is the first time they have addressed Jesus as the Son of God. 

5 Lessons From Matthew 14:22-33

Alight, so Peter walked on water 2,000 years ago. But what does that mean for us today? Let’s end by looking at 5 practical lessons we can pull from Matthew 14:22-33.

1. Peace Is Not Found In The Absence Of The Storm, But In The Presence Of Jesus

When Jesus bid Peter to come to him he didn’t calm the storm. Rather, he invited Peter out into the storm. The rebuke of Peter’s lack of faith was because he took his eyes off Jesus and instead focused on the storm. 

We think peace is found when the waves of life are calm. But Jesus never promised us smooth sailing. Instead, he promised to always be with us. 

Peter’s walk on water teaches us that peace is found in the presence of Jesus, even in the middle of a storm. 

2. Faith Requires Stepping Out Of The Boat 

We like comfort. We like safety. And that’s not all a bad thing. But we often over-inflate our desire for these things. Sometimes Jesus is going to ask you to take a risk and trust him. Sometimes, you have to step out of the boat. 

Just like the apostle Peter, sometimes we will step out of the boat and then be overcome by fear. We will sink. But Jesus is right there to catch you. You might stumble, but you won’t drown. 

My guess, the next time Peter “stepped out of the boat” he did so more confidently. His faith and trust in Jesus was greater. The same will be true for you. The more steps of faith you take the easier it gets. So, step out of the boat. 

3. Without Jesus You Will Sink 

Peter’s walk on the water was short-lived because he took his eyes off Jesus. Peter learned an important lesson that day that we shouldn’t ignore. When we take our eyes off Jesus the storms of life will quickly overcome us. 

As a pastor I see this all the time. When Christians stop looking to Jesus they quickly sink. They get sucked into temptations. They get overwhelmed by life. They forget who’s in control. 

Life is full of storms. Big storms. Storms that will destroy. Unless you keep your eyes on Jesus. With Jesus you cannot only endure, you can walk on water above the storm. Keep your eyes on Jesus. 

4. Worship Should Be Our Response

Maybe the most important lesson from the Peter walking on water story is our response to the power of Jesus.

When we encounter Jesus we should worship him. Matthew intentionally highlights this moment because that’s the point. This story wasn’t about Peter’s faith, or lack thereof. Ultimately it was about the power of Jesus. 

Our response to Jesus Christ should be the same as the disciples. When we encounter him it should bring us to a place of worship.

5. When You Follow Jesus He Will Do Incredible Things Through You

Here’s what I believe about you, I believe that God wants to tell an incredible story through your life. He wants to do things in you and through you that you can’t even imagine. God has walk-on-water moments for you. 

But too often we settle for boring and safe stories. My challenge for you is don’t settle. Let God tell your story. 

I bet Peter was talking about the time he walked on water for the rest of his life. It’s a great story! Why? Because he took a risk. He didn’t play it safe. God wants the same for you. He wants to tell a good story in your life. Will you let him? 

Looking for a great resource to help you grow in your faith and step into the story God has for you? I HIGHLY recommend Mark Moore’s books Core 52 and Quest 52. These simple 15 minute daily readings will help you connect with God and understand the Bible better. They are INCREDIBLE. Plus there’s kids/teen versions as well! 

Jeffery Curtis Poor
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