Photo illustration by Phil Younk
Click on the photo for a printable PDF!
Jesus invites us to walk on water with him
Based on the Gospel of Matthew 14:22-23
Jesus has just miraculously fed 5,000 people with five loaves and two fish. He tells the disciples to get into a boat and go to the other side of the lake while he dismisses the crowds. Jesus then goes up the mountain alone to pray.
As night falls, the winds grow stronger and the disciples’ boat is tossed about by the waves as a raging storm comes up. The disciples are frightened.
Suddenly, they see someone coming toward the boat – walking on the water. Terrified and fearful, they think it is a ghost. Out of the storm and darkness, Jesus speaks, “Courage! It is I; do not be afraid.”
The Gospel tells us Jesus waited until the “fourth watch of the night” to go to the disciples. The fourth watch refers to the time between 3 and 6 a.m. in the morning.
The Romans divided the 12 hours between 6 p.m. and 6 a.m. into four equal parts called “watches.” Since the storm began as night was falling, this means the disciples and their boat were tossed about by the waves for most of the night before Jesus appeared.
Peter shouts to Jesus, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you across the water.” “Come!” says Jesus.
With the furious storm still raging Peter climbs out of the boat and, looking straight at Jesus, begins to walk on the water toward Jesus. As Peter moves further away from the boat, he feels the powerful wind and becomes afraid. He begins to sink and cries out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus stretches out his hand and catches Peter and says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” As they get back to the boat, the stormy wind dies down. The disciples kneel before Jesus and say, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Matthew’s Gospel highlights Peter not only as a person but his role as “the rock” upon which Jesus built his church. Peter, one of the first disciples, usually spoke for the 12 apostles as they followed Jesus. He didn’t always understand Jesus’ teaching and even denied knowing him, but after Pentecost Peter faithfully carried on Jesus’ mission and ended up being martyred for the faith.
Just as Jesus invited Peter to trust and walk toward him on the water, Jesus invites us, too, to walk toward him – not on water – but with trust that his love for us will never fail and he will calm the storms, troubles, and fears that come up in our lives. Jesus assures us, “Don’t be afraid; I am with you.”