22 And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away.
23 And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone.
24 But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary.
25 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea.
26 And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.
27 But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid.
28 And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. (Matthew 14:22-28)
This part of the story has made me wonder more and more as I’ve grown older. It seems so odd on so many levels. Why try to test the identity of the Savior in such a dangerous way? It’s like saying, “If it is really you, Jesus, tell me to do something miraculous that is likely to drown me if it isn’t really you.”

Maybe Peter really knew it was Christ. But this presents us with another problem. If Peter really knew it was Christ, wouldn’t that make his request into a badly concealed plea to experience what it was like to walk on the water himself? It would seem so. And you can’t just ask for miracles just to consume it upon the lust of your curiosity. That’s not what miracles are for. And it is not likely that Christ would gratify that kind of thing.

So it seems we must assume that Peter really was in doubt about whether it was Christ walking on the water. It seems we really must grapple with why Peter chose to test the Savior’s identity in such a dangerous way. Common sense would dictate that he think of a test that placed him in no jeopardy no matter what the result was. Why, Peter, why did you do what you did?

What if Peter had used his priesthood and tried to command the being to depart? An evil spirit would have departed when adjured in the name of Christ. But Christ might have departed too, in obedience to His own name. That wouldn’t tell the apostles anything about the identity of the being that they saw.

Perhaps Peter thought of the evil spirits that had entered into the pigs and caused the pigs to run into the sea and drown themselves. Maybe he thought one of them had risen out of the water and was trying to continue its evil work. The madness of the pigs certainly was a very strong lesson about the destructive tendencies of evil spirits. A man deceived by an evil spirit would be led to destruction.

And the being that was coming across the water to them could only be one of two entities. Either it really was Christ as claimed, or it was an evil spirit, because no good spirit would ever attempt to impersonate Christ. If it were an evil spirit, detecting that was imperative, to prevent it from deceiving the apostles and leading them on to destruction.

Then it occurred to me that perhaps Peter was not thinking of saving himself when he made that unusual request. His intent was to save the other apostles by making himself a sort of guinea pig. He must have thought, If I do something it tells me to do and then am destroyed, then it will be obvious to everyone else that the thing is evil, and they can resist it.

So Peter told the thing to prove it was Christ by bidding him to come on the water, knowing full well that he would be bid “Come” no matter what. (If it were Christ, Peter would be able to walk on the water. If it were an evil spirit, it would still tell Peter to come in order to kill him. Not only would the evil spirit not have power to save Peter, it would maliciously try to destroy him.) No matter who it was out there, Peter was leaving the boat.

What courage and love that must have taken!
29 And [Jesus] said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.
30 But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
31 And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? (Matthew 14:29-31)
It seems incredible that just as he was doing something so miraculous, Peter would doubt. But then maybe we are assuming that walking on the water was as easy as walking across a room. And maybe Peter assumed it would be that easy too and found out that it wasn’t. He had to push against a “boisterous wind”. It must have been so strong that he began to feel like he was going to be blown away or blown off his feet into the sea. And as he began to fear, his faith left and he began to sink.

But at least he knew he could cry out to Jesus to be saved. And Jesus did save him.

One lesson I draw from this incident is from Peter’s walk on the water. In the middle of what was an obvious miracle, he discovered unexpected opposition, and it caused him to doubt the miracle even as it was occurring. I think sometimes that happens to me when I’m in the middle of participating in what is obviously a miracle, doing something I thought was impossible. So often when I encounter opposition in the middle of it, I begin to doubt what is happening. I begin to doubt if I can see it through to the end. And then the miracle begins to fail. This story shows me that I need to keep my eyes on Christ, keep my mind filled with faith, and not doubt the miracles as they are happening.

Something else this story shows me is that it tells us something about true authority. To detect true authority you have to follow it. You have to expect and receive miracles for following it. And sometimes, like it did for Peter, obedience to that divine command to “Come” requires that we do what seems impossible.
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