Peter is steppin’ out


By Stan Counsell | PREVIEW Columnist

If there is one particular individual that many clamor to know, it’s Peter, an apostle in the early church. Various films, videos, pictures and written material present a tall, gruff, barrel-chested man possessing a take-charge personality, thunderous voice and robust beard. He would certainly be feared in any dark alley. His body likening to the character of Hoss Cartwright of the “Bonanza” television series back in the ‘60s.

Yet, others prefer the likeness of an average, opinionated, foul-mouthed Jewish fisherman, possessing a rather thin build with strong/lean muscles from a life of hard-fisted fishing on rough seas. His personality would be clearly seen as “Alpha.” But, really, who was this particular man? 

We simply don’t know and it really doesn’t matter. If God wanted us to know more, it would have been clearly detailed in New Testament scripture. But, Peter never posed for a photo or had his portrait painted by Michelangelo. All we have is what the Bible records: his life, work, deeds and speech. 

Any like-mannered person would never qualify for a pastoral/leadership position in any church. There would be simply too much “wrong” with such a candidate. But, Jesus saw deeply into Peter’s heart, his dedication to hard/unending work with little sleep and motivation to do what was beneficial for a rightful cause. Of course, He also saw Peter’s profound shortcomings, but don’t we all have them? 

In Matthew 14:22-33, Peter and the other disciples witnessed another profound miracle rendered by Jesus: the feeding of some 5,000 men, unnumbered women and children. Jesus used but five thin loaves of bread and two small fish. And, there were 12 heaping baskets of leftovers when the people finished eating. Soon after, Jesus told the disciples to get into the boat and go to the other side of the lake while He stayed to dismiss the crowd. He then went to pray on the mountainside. 

Everyone knows that if the Lord sends us on a specific mission, He’ll be there, but so will the powers of darkness in order to thwart your endeavors. The disciples left the shore with good weather. We can imagine them saying to one another, “Ah, all is well. The Lord is with us.” 

But, things got very ugly soon thereafter. The winds picked up considerably and continually slammed the boat. When some 3 to 4 miles out, mighty waves seemed to come out from nowhere, beating the boat into near-fatal submission. No matter how hard they rowed, they knew they were in frightful peril.

It’s interesting. The boat was being beaten by the waves because the winds were against them. The word “wind” also means “violent, agitated.” The word “against” can mean “antagonistic, hostile.” It was indeed a dire situation. And, “beaten” also is seen as “tormented.” No matter what action they took, it was continual torment. 

The word “waves” is also interesting. It can mean “violent, agitated, utter destruction.” As a metaphor, it is “impulsive, restless men tossed by rage.” Imagine doing a work that the Lord commissioned us to do. All appears well, but then it seems like hell itself has come against us. Does our Lord not realize this? He certainly does.

After spending much time praying on the mountainside, Jesus knows the disciples are fearing for their lives, feeling utterly without hope. They became forgetful of His calling them to sail to the other side of the lake. They forgot, but Jesus didn’t.

He didn’t dial 911, look for a lifeguard, obtain a raft/power boat to get to them. After all, He’s God in the flesh. He simply started to walk on the water in spite of the storm. Behold, the mighty presence of God. “Walking” on the water has many interpretive angles to it. Some are “to stroll with ease, tread around, make use of an opportunity.” 

Imagine seeing Jesus just gliding on the water. No, that can’t be, it’s a ghost. The Lord called out, with certainty, that it was He. Lost in many translations was the Greek usage “ego eimi,” which is correctly understood as, “the I AM is here!” 

Peter, hears it but still fears and doubts. But, ever given to extremes, calls out, “Lord, if it is you, bid me to come to you.” “Bid” means “to coax, instruct, encourage.” 

Even with decades of experience, extensive service and theology degrees, I never would have said that. No way. The water was just too deep, the waves raging and the ripping wind making it hard to stand or see. I would reason that Jesus should come to me because I’m not a fish for that kind of water.

It’s amazing, Peter steps out of the boat into horrific seas. He didn’t even put on swimming waders. What was he, stupid? Was he possessing a death wish, or was he full of faith in his personal Lord? It was faith in Christ that made him do the unthinkable.

But, like all of us, Peter was human and began to see the storm waves and high winds enveloping him. He didn’t notice his amazing progress; fear blinded his sight of Jesus encouraging him forward. Peter began to sink.

But, praise God, he called on Jesus to rescue him and Jesus did just that. Sadly, many perceive that Peter was sternly rebuked, but he wasn’t. Jesus, with all the tenderness of a mother picking up her fallen child, didn’t say, “You idiot, where is your faith? Did you leave it in the boat? What am I to do with you?”

No, the Greek rendering included, “to affirm, (joyfully) exhort, teach.” Nothing was harsh. And, so it is with us. We step out in faith believing God will see us through, only to fall on our face. We aren’t slapped or spanked. Jesus affirms us as His own. He exhorts us with gentle joy so as to calm us in our failure. And, He teaches us to always keep our eyes on Him. What a Savior.

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