After Peter was called by Jesus the scriptures remain general in its treatment of the disciples, usually referring to them as a group rather than singling any one out. In fact, Matthew only mentions Peter by name (other than in a list) as a means of referencing a miracle of Jesus that occurred in Peter’s mother-in-law’s house (Matthew 8:14). Mark and Luke show him observing Jesus in the crowd on the way to Jairus’ home (Luke 8:45; Mark 5:37). John does not present Peter again until after the feeding of the five thousand (John 6:68).
Since the calling of the disciples Jesus spent much time teaching, healing, and answering questions. Jesus was becoming known throughout the land. In fact, so many people gathered to hear Him teach at one point that He performed the now famous “feeding of the five thousand” (Matthew 14:13-21). Keep in mind that Peter heard the teaching, heard the answered questions, and saw the miracles.
After the feeding of the five thousand Jesus sent the disciples to Bethsaida via boat (Mark 6:46) while he dismissed the crowds and went off to pray (Matthew 14:23). When He finished praying the boat was being driven out to sea by one of the frequent wind storms on the Sea of Galilee. By normal human observable abilities Jesus did something remarkable – He walked on the water over to the boat. The disciples were terrified. Being the fourth watch (Matthew 14:25) it was dark (3am to sunrise probably) thereby making it difficult to see features in the early morning. To the disciples, He seemed as if He were a ghost (Matthew 14:26).
Jesus spoke comfort to them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27). Here Jesus gives a glimpse of the second person of the Trinity. He has the appearance of a ghost and offers comfort (John 14-16). In fact, Luke refers to the “Spirit of Jesus” in recording the dream of Paul’s which led to Paul’s trip to Macedonia (Acts 16:7).
Peter will not be deterred. We hear Peter’s request as he tests this apparition (1John 4:1), “Lord if it is you, command me to come to you on the water” (Matthew 14:28). Peter recognizes his separation from his Lord. At the stirring of the heart by the voice of the spirit (indeed, the Holy Spirit) Peter is singular in his intent – “Command me” he cries. And so, Jesus said simply, “Come” (Matthew 14:29). (Reader, if you were looking for Biblical illustrations of general calling, this is it)
Obedience now becomes the watch word for Peter. After responding to the general call he obeys by climbing out of the boat in the stormy weather. It must be well noted that the water was not smooth. What Peter did next is indeed one of the overlooked miracles – he “walked on the water and came to Jesus” (Matthew 14:29b). Walking by its very nature involves taking more than one step. It is moving from one point to another by putting two or more steps together. Peter got out of the boat, taking at least two steps (I assume more) to get to Jesus. There he was, next to Jesus.
We must now carefully observe Peter here as it is particularly illustrative of those calling themselves Christians. The effort exerted in walking is what many believe all it takes to get to Jesus. There is more than just getting to Jesus. All will get there to Him, at which point Jesus will judge the living and the dead, and separate the sheep from the goats (Matthew 25:31-46; 2 Corinthians 5:10; Revelation 20:11-15). Answering and obeying the general call is not enough for Peter.
Peter in obedience to the general call, stepped out in his own effort to get to Jesus. When the elements of his circumstances overwhelmed him Peter began to sink. Being a fisherman, Peter might have had some swimming ability but instead of relying on himself (as many people would in difficult situations in their own lives) Peter called out, “Lord, save me” (Matthew 14:30). Peter in effect has been moved through obedience and circumstance to repent and call out for salvation to the only One who could save him (John 14:6; Romans 10:11, 13).
Jesus’ response is remarkable. As a Shepherd, He called to His sheep and His sheep heard His voice (John 10:3). He came to the boat and brought safety in the storm (Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10). Jesus’ response was one that He fully intended to carry out before Peter cried out (Ephesians 1:4-6; 2:1-10). Jesus “took hold of him” (Matthew 14:30). It was not “Peter clawed and grappled to cling to Jesus.” Please note well that Jesus “TOOK HOLD OF HIM [Peter].” Jesus saved Peter. Peter had moved from the general call to the effectual call.
It is here that Peter begins his discipleship journey. We often see people get to this point and want to stop in their new saved lives thinking that is all they need. We wonder why we still have all the hard times even though Jesus has saved us. Jesus gave pointed instruction to Peter in the form of a question that should strike deep for all of us. “O you of little faith, why did you doubt” (Matthew 14:31)? Up to the moment Peter cried out for salvation he had been relying on himself. Jesus wanted Peter to realize he need to have total reliance in Him alone (Galatians 2:16). The King James Version renders this better saying “a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ.” With the faith of Christ (nowhere do we see Jesus falter or doubt) we are saved by His plan, His work, and His sacrifice.
And yet, the storm still raged. The wind still blew. The waves still moved. Together, Jesus and His now speechless rescued lamb climbed into the boat. Then the wind ceased (Matthew 14:32). When all is done Jesus will bring us into a place of peace (John 14:3; Revelation 21:1-4).
“And those in the boat [Peter too!] worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’”(Matthew 14:33). (Revelation 4:11; 5:9)
Coming next: Peter comes to terms with his nickname.