Jesus had just performed a miracle where he had fed thousands of people with a few pieces of bread and a couple of small fish. Now, he dismisses the people to their homes and sends his disciples ahead of him, in the boat, to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Nothing is mentioned as to how or where Jesus intends to meet up with them, but they depart obediently as Jesus stays behind to be alone in prayer.
The Sea of Galilee is about 8 miles wide and 13 miles long. The disciples weren’t making good time because the wind was against them. Still, they were far from the land when the storm blew up. They had been battling the stormy sea for many hours, from the evening until Jesus showed up during the fourth watch, between 3 and 6 AM.
In Biblical times, it was understood that only a deity had the ability to walk on water. (See Psalm 77:19 and Isaiah 43:16.) When they see Jesus, they assume that an evil spirit has come to assail them. Jesus attempts to assuage their fears by calling out to them. The English translation is, “It is I,” but the original language reads, “I am,” just like God’s self identification to Moses in Exodus 3:14.
Peter’s is a curious response, asking Jesus to command him to walk out across the water. Here, Peter is not testing Jesus, but responding in faith. Peter fixes his eyes on Jesus and actually takes several steps on the water. But then, his faith is interrupted by the reality of his situation and he immediately sinks into the water. Our faith can often be compromised when we pay attention to obstacles rather than focusing intently on Jesus. A mountain biker who must navigate between two trees will set his sights on an object beyond the trees and will make it through. If he focuses on the trees, he’ll likely hit one of them.
Once Peter goes into the water, he has two choices: turn and try to swim back to the boat or reach out to Jesus. There is a great lesson to learn in Peter’s reaching for Christ.
When Peter set his sights on Jesus, he walked on water. When he looked away from Jesus, he sank. This week, consider the things that take your focus away from Jesus. Pray about them. Ask God to remove these obstacles and help you with these situations.