After feeding the five thousand Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go to the other side, while He sent the crowd away. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone (Matthew 14:22-23).
Matthew does not give us a reason for Jesus sending the disciples to the other side of the lake and hastily breaking up of the crowds. However, In John 6:15 we are told that the crowds were about to take Jesus by force and make Him a king, to avoid this Jesus immediately scattered the people and sent away the disciples, lest they should join with them. Jesus went to a solitary place to pray.
Although the disciples were doing what Jesus had commanded them to do they were battling a storm. Like the disciples who were battling this storm there are times in our lives when we are obeying the command of the Lord we encounter storms, obstacles. We may not understand the reason for the obstacles; however, Jesus has a purpose in permitting the obstacles. In this incident, Jesus will manifest Himself in a way that will be greater than the stilling of the storm. In the miracle of the stilling of the storm, Jesus was in the boat with the disciples, but now He is not with them.
The example set before us in the introduction of the miracle, though the wind was contrary and the boat battered by the waves the disciples did not turn around and come back to the shore but was attempting to go to the other side of the lake, as Jesus commanded them. Here is an important lesson, though we may encounter troubles and difficulties in fulfilling the mission in life Jesus has given us they must not drive us from it; but through the midst of them we must press forwards.
Here is the good news, Jesus going to the aid of the disciples walking on the water reveals His sovereign dominion over all the creatures; they are all under his feet, and at His command.
It is not necessary to ask how this was done, whether by hardening of the surface of the water or by suspending the gravitation of His body. Jesus walking on the water proves his divine power, for it is God's prerogative to trend on the waves of the sea (Job 9:8). It is the same power that made iron to swim (2 Kings 6:6). Jesus can do whatever He pleases to save His people.
In verse 26, we are told of the reaction to the appearance of Jesus; the disciples were terrified and said, It is a ghost. At the time of this account of Jesus walking on water, all except the Sadducees, whose doctrine Christ had warned His disciples against, generally believed in the existence and appearance of spirits. The deliverance from troublesome and dangerous situations is sometimes the occasions of trouble and perplexity to God's people. The perplexing, disquieting fears of Gods people arise from their mistakes and misapprehensions concerning Christ, His person, and offices. The source of the disciples fear could be they believed some evil spirit raised the storm.
In verse 27, we are told Jesus silenced their fears by making Himself known. He does not name Himself, as He did to Paul, I am Jesus. All that was necessary for the disciples to recognize who was approaching them was the sound of His voice.
Note the words of Jesus to the disciples, first He tells them Take courage. If Christ's disciples cannot be cheerful in a storm, it is their own fault. Second. Jesus told them who it is who is coming to them in their present situation. Third, do not be afraid. In other word, Be not afraid of me, now that you know it is I; surely you will not fear, for you know I mean you no hurt. Here is the good news; Christ will not be a terror to those to whom He manifests Himself. What is Jesus telling the disciples in the boat and us in our present situations? Do not be afraid of the situations you find yourself in, though threatening; do not fear them, while I am so near you. I am He that concerns Himself for you, and will not stand by and see you perish. Note nothing needs be a terror to those that have Christ near them, and know He is theirs; not even death itself.
When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water, they were terrified. Jesus assured them they had nothing to fear. In verse 28 Peter asked for a sign, he wanted to be sure that it was Jesus. Note, what Peter said, Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water. In this request, we see two things, first, a request for a sign. Peter wanted proof it was Jesus. Peter was not accepting the word of Jesus. We also see true faith in Peters request. There was no doubt in Peters mind if the one the disciples saw walking on the water was Jesus and He commanded Peter to come to Him Peter would be able to get out of the boat and walk, not swim to Jesus.
In Peters request, we also see an expression of observance of the will of Jesus. Peter did not attempt to go to Jesus until Jesus said, Come (Matthew 14:29).
The lesson taught in Peters request is, we must rashly and presumptuously enter into any situation. Our will to serve and even suffer, must not be based solely on willingness but on the will of the Lord. Peter's willingness to leave the safety of the boat reveals a very strong dependence upon the power and word of Christ. What difficulty or danger could stand before such a faith and such zeal?
Jesus could have condemned the request as foolish and rash. However, Jesus knew that it came from a sincere and zealous affection to Him, and graciously acknowledged the request. Note, The Lord is well pleased with the expressions of His people's love, though mixed with infirmities, and makes the best of them.
When the Pharisees asked for a sign, Jesus rebuked them. When Peter asked for a sign, Jesus gave him a sign, Peter walked on the water.
In verse 30, there is a great lesson; Jesus told Peter to come to Him that He might not only prove His great power over nature, but that Peter know his own weakness; for as he would encourage his faith, so he would check his confidence, and make him ashamed of it.
The second lesson in this verse is one we should never forget. The strongest faith and the greatest courage have a mixture of fear and nothing but perfect love can cast out fear. While Peter expressed great faith in the safety of the boat, after leaving the boat his faith weakened. We should never forget trials do not weaken our faith; it is the length of trials.
While Peter kept his eye fixed upon Jesus, upon His word and power, he walked on the water. When Peter took notice of the danger he was in, his faith weakened. Abraham was strong in faith, because he did not let the discouraging improbabilities that the promise lay under, but kept his eye on God's power; and so, in the hope he believed (Romans 4:18). Peter when he saw the wind, should have remembered what he had seen when the winds and the sea obeyed Jesus (Matthew 8:27).
In verse 30, we see the effect of fear. When Peters faith was strong he walked upon the water, when his faith weakened he began to sink. The sinking of our spirits is due to the weakness of our faith.
Being a fisherman, Peter was probably a good swimmer. Although there is no Biblical support, it may have been in the mind of Peter, if he could not walk on the water, he could swim to Jesus. Peter may have done what we are often guilty of doing, trusting in what we can do. Jesus, let Peter begin to sink, to show him that the right hand of Jesus, and not Peters abilities was his security. It was Jesus great mercy to Peter, that, upon the failing of his faith, He did not leave him sink to sink to the bottom like a stone, but gave him time to cry, Lord, save me. Such is the care of our Lord concerning true believers.
The remedy of Peters situation was the old, tried, approved remedy, and that was prayer: he cried, Lord, save me. Note, the manner of his praying; it is fervent and urgent. When faith is weak, prayer should be strong. The realization we are in a dangerous situation will and the realization of dependence on God should make us cry to Him. Jesus is the great Savior, He came to save; those that would be saved, must not only come to Him, but cry out to Him for salvation; but we are never brought to this, till we find ourselves sinking; sense of need will drive us to Him.
Though there was a mixture of presumption with Peter's faith while in the boat, and unbelief with his faith when he left the boat, Jesus did not cast him off; first, He saved him (Matthew 14:31). Jesus immediately stretched out His hand and took hold of Him. Jesus hand is still stretched out to all believers, to keep them from sinking. Though it may seem at times, He has let go of us He has not. Our deliverance from our fears and shortcomings is due to the hand of his power and grace.
In verse 31, we are told Jesus rebuked Peter for his little faith and doubting. The lesson in this verse is, our faith may be true, and yet weak; at first, like a grain of mustard-seed. Peter had faith enough to get out of the boat, but not enough to carry him to Jesus. Our discouraging doubts and fears are all due to the weakness of our faith. The purpose of faith is to break down the barrier of doubt. What do you suppose would happen if we believed more and doubted less?
When Jesus came into the boat, the storm ceased and those in the boat worshipped Him.
The disciples knew before the incident that Jesus was the Son of God, however, faith after a conflict with unbelief, is sometimes the more active, and gets to greater degrees of strength by being exercised. It is good for us to know more and more of certainty of those things of heaven.