Laura A. Diaz ____ Teach Write

TEACHER, AUTHOR, EDUblogger "I want to (read and) write books that unblock the traffic jam in everyone's mind." ~J. Updike

What Did Peter Doubt?

We all know the story. There is a storm. Jesus sent the guys out on the boat saying he’d meet them on the other side. After they’d been struggling awhile they see Jesus and think he’s  ghost. But Jesus is like, “Whoah! Hold on fellas. Take heart, it’s me!” Peter, well, he’s like, “If it’s really you tell me to come out to you then!”  Then Jesus responds with,”Well, come on then!”  Peter gets out, walks on the water a bit, the wind scares him, and he starts sinking. This is when Jesus rebukes him and tells him he has too little faith, right?  Wrong.

First of all, there are many, many instances in the gospels where Jesus “rebukes” Peter. Many times where the word “rebuke” is actually used. But, this wasn’t one of those instances. In this case, the original language lends its interpretation to be phrased more as a gentle endearment, if you will.

To get the full and complete picture let’s go back to the actual scripture where this story is found and try to disregard every paraphrased version you think you know. Because the reality is, those paraphrased versions can get you in a whole heap of trouble and have you trivializing both the meaning behind the recorded event and the way you “read” the event because you think you already know the story.

Matthew 14:27-33 (ESV)

Jesus Walks on the Water

22Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray.


When evening came, he was there alone, 24but the boat by this time was a long wayb from the land,c beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them.


25And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. 27But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”


28And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus.


30But when he saw the wind,d he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of him, saying to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”


32And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”


As you read the account did you notice how many times you see the word immediately?  That really stood out to me.

  • Jesus immediately  made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side
    • He made them set out into  what he knew would be a storm!
    •  They trusted him enough to obey him.
  • Jesus immediately spoke to them, saying, Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
    • He didn’t rebuke their fear
    • He comforted them in the midst of their fear.  
    • He could have calmed the storm right then.  Instead, he calmed his disciples’ hearts.
  • Jesus immediately reached out his hand and took hold of Peter 
    • Peter began sinking
    • Peter called out for Jesus to save him.

Alright then, what else do you see in the scene? Tell me about the storm.  When did it start and when did it stop?  The answer is once it started, it didn’t stop until Jesus got into the boat with Peter.  The day was clear when Jesus sent them out. But then this crazy storm whips up, which on the Lake of Gennesaret ( Sea of Galilee)  quite commonly occurs.



Via Google Maps:Tiberias/Kinneret/Lake of Gennesaret


As fishermen, these guys knew that a squall coming up unexpectantly could actually happen.  They knew this!  Not only this, but they had been beaten by the waves with the wind blowing against them until early in the morning. In other words, they had been struggling against this storm all night!

The storm wasn’t what made them afraid.  It was this unexpected apparition (Jesus), they thought was a ghost, seemingly appearing out of nowhere while they were in the midst of this hard labor and trying to get to the other side of the lake  like Jesus had told them.  They were working so hard to follow his command that they didn’t see him in the storm!

Another thing that has always niggled ( I don’t think that’s a word 🙂 ) at the back of mind was the question: What exactly was it that Peter doubted?  Now, there are a lot of “name it and claim it” preachers out there that will tell you the point of this story is that Peter just didn’t have enough faith.

Oh really? What about that mustard seed that Jesus was talking about then? Peter had to have at least a mustard seed of faith to even get out of that boat in the middle of that squall!


There are others that will tell you that the entire point of the story is that we need to keep our eyes on Jesus during the storms of our life and not focus on the storm but on Jesus instead. This interpretation lends itself to be a more cautionary tale. And, this is most certainly a take away from this passage.

But let’s go deeper than the surface meaning here. Because, hmmm….. Jesus didn’t say, “Oh, you of little faith, why did you stop looking at me/ get distracted by the storm…etc?”  NO.  He said, “…why did you doubt?”  So, what did Peter doubt?

Did Peter doubt the Lord’s power to calm a storm?  No. He’d seen that done already! He had no doubt whatsoever of the mighty power of Jesus over the impossible.

Peter gets a lot of flack here in this story, but you know, he actually did a lot of things right!

  • He had obeyed Jesus’ first order.
  • He knew enough not to trust every apparition and to test it to make sure it was really the Lord.
  • He knew enough not to step out and do something unless the Lord called him to it first.
  • He trusted the Lord enough to get out of that boat in the first place. Because that storm did..not..stop.  The storm was unrelenting even as Jesus called Peter to step out into it.  Peter was not distracted by the storm! Peter knew what he was stepping into from the get-go.

So, I ask again, “What did Peter doubt?”

One translation says, “.. why did you doubt me?”  Okay, again, Peter didn’t doubt Jesus power!  Perhaps, he thought that after all those many hours of hard labor they had to do before Jesus physically appeared to them, that it meant that Jesus wanted Peter to walk on water by his own power and struggle; instead of walking in Jesus’ power and strength. If that is so, then we know that this is not what Jesus wants us to do is it?

Because, with all good intentions, and all surety of calling, when the wind blows against us if we are walking in our own power we will fall.  Perhaps, just perhaps, he doubted that Jesus would sustain him.

Notice, however, that although Peter doubted, Jesus still saved!  Why?  Because, Him saving us relies totally on His power on not on our work of faith (or doubt).

You see, He allows storms to grow our faith just as He allowed storms in Peter’s life. It was to grow the faith and trust that Peter already had in Him. He is continually changing and growing us.  You will never come to a point in your life where you have arrived. If you think you have…. you’re wrong. But, you can be confident of this, He who started the work in you will complete it.



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