“And Peter answered him, and said, Lord if it be thou, bid me come unto thee upon the waters. And he said, Come. . . but when he saw the wind, he was afraid and beginning to sink he cried out saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and took hold of him, and saith unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were gone up into the boat, the wind ceased.”
Self-confidence is like a gold filling in a tooth full of decay. It has its glamour, but it is so synthetic, it doesn’t take very long and it is jarred loose and spit out altogether. Self-confidence has the same characteristics.
How evident this was in the life of Peter, especially in the event as narrated in our text.
Peter was a man of faith. The brilliance of it shone when Jesus and His disciplines were in the area of Caesarea Philippi and Christ asked them, “Whom do men say that I the son of man am?” Peter answered in that thrilling declaration of faith, “Thou art the Christ, the, Son of the living God.” To this Jesus responded, “Thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.”
Even though Peter was a man of faith, he had yet to contend with the weakness of his flesh. His self-confidence was part of that weakness. As a gold filling it had an aura of romantic glamour that assumed the form of boldness. It is soul-caressing to be around a bold person. This was true for the disciples as they marveled at Peter’s boldness. Recall for a moment those trying circumstances at Caesarea Philippi. Christ had directed a very pointed question to them, “Whom do men say that I the Son of Man am?” They volunteered, “John the Baptist, Elias, or one of the prophets.” Looking directly at them Christ asked, “But whom do ye say that I am?” Peter came to the rescue with his bold assertion, “Thou art the Christ!” With a sigh, I suppose, the rest nodded in consent. It was the same way at the Mount of Transfiguration. Peter, James and John were so scared they didn’t know what to say, so Peter broke the embarrassing silence and blurted out, “Let us build three tabernacles, one for Moses, one for Elijah, and one for Christ.” At the sober moment when Christ foretold His disciples that all would forsake Him and flee because the Shepherd would be smitten and the sheep would be scattered, Peter rebelled, “If all shall be offended in thee, I will never be offended.” The rest of the disciples readily agreed. When it seemed time for action, for the soldiers with swords and staves surrounded Christ, Peter unsheathed the sword and swung blindly at Malchus, cutting off his ear. Self-confidence creates a certain air of assurance, and boldness produces action!
Yet, such self-confidence is like a gold filling in a decayed tooth. What followed Peter’s bold confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi? Jesus began to tell them that He was going to suffer and die. Peter told Him not to talk that way, to which Jesus retorted, “Get thee behind me, Satan!” That was quite a change. As the three disciples walked down from the Mount of Transfiguration Christ warned them not to tell anyone, a warning that quite deflated exalted Peter. After Peter boasted that all could deny Christ, he wouldn’t, he had to eat his words, for later he went out and wept bitterly, his soul pierced by the crowing rooster.
Self-confidence is vain.
The incident in our text is but another example.
It was about the fourth watch. The disciples were on the sea, travelling from the desert, on the yonder side of Galilee, toward Gennesaret. The past day had been eventful, for at the desert retreat the multitude of over 5000 had come to hear Him preach and request Him to heal their sick. At evening He had fed them all with 5 loaves and 2 small fish. After the feast Jesus had dismissed the multitude, instructed His disciples to enter the ship and sail to the other side, and He went into the mountains to pray. At about dawn, for the fourth watch was the last one before day, Jesus walked out to His disciples. A storm had broken out upon the sea, and the disciples were afraid. Suddenly in the vapor of the seething sea they saw a figure walking toward them upon the water. They thought it to be some sort of an apparition, a spirit, and they became even more afraid. Jesus calmed them by declaring, “Be of good cheer; it is I, be not afraid.” Peter responded, “Lord if it be thou, bid me come unto thee upon the waters.” Jesus said, “Come!” Boldly Peter climbed out of the boat and walked a little way upon the waters, but soon he saw the wind and waves and fear smote him and he began to sink with the wailing cry, “Lord save me!” Jesus reached down and drew him up rebuking him, “O ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” As soon as they reached the boat they climbed in and the wind ceased. With one accord they marveled, “Surely this is the Son of God.”
The bold request, “Lord bid that I come,” was replaced with the faltering plea, “Lord, save me!” That’s what happens to self-confidence.
This event is part of sacred history recorded for us in the Scripture. Consequently each part of this narrative has a spiritual implication. Jesus taught His disciples not only with words, but even with actions. This holds true also for this event.
The stormy sea in Scripture pictures the wicked apart from Christ. Isaiah declared, “But the wicked are like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt.” Isa. 57:20 According to Rev. 13 the beast that arises out of the sea represents the success of antichrist among the nations. If we put these ideas together, we can say that the troubled sea represents the ungodly with all their lusts and evil ambitions, even in so far that they join together and in defiance of the living God try to build an empire on the quick sands of human society.
As the disciples rode in the boat in the midst of the stormy sea, they thereby represented the church that is called upon to pass through this world. We are not exhorted to physical isolation. Our whole life is expended within the sphere of this world. We eat and drink, we work and play, we raise our families, we are busy as a church within the sphere of this world. The relationship between the church and the world is depicted by the storm. The boat was tossed about by the stormy sea. Similarly the world surrounds the church on every side and with mighty blows seeks to exterminate the church by breaking her to pieces and swallowing her up within her own depths. The evil men of our generation hate the faithful church as she witnesses. By violence and seduction the world strives to silence the voice of Christ as He calls to repentance and warns men of their evil way. Hence, the storm!
By faith we behold Christ walking upon the sea in the midst of the storm and hear Him calling, “Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid.” He alone is the Lord of the storm! True, at the historical moment when He walked to His disciples, He had yet to ascend the hill of Calvary and seal the victory of His church over the world. Nevertheless, His message to His church is always the same, “I have overcome the world, peace I leave with thee, my peace I gives unto thee.” He could walk upon the heaving waves and billows because He was about to face the “prince of this world” and bring him down in crushing defeat. This He did at the cross. Being appointed by the Father to make satisfaction for all His own, He took our place before the bar of divine justice and bore the condemnation which the righteous God would have meted out to us. While the terror of divine wrath came upon the obedient servant, He loved the Father even unto death. By that loving obedience He merited righteousness and life for us. To us He is known as the resurrection and the life.
By this work, Christ received all the power to cause all things to serve the royal purpose of redeeming His own out of the world and to bring them into the kingdom of heaven. He stripped every claim from the devil and emptied him of all power over the children of God. Instead, Christ now receives all the power to cause the devil to serve His purpose and be the means in His hand to bring many sons into glory. Only in this way can we begin to understand the sudden calm when Christ entered into the boat. This proves the absolute lordship of Christ over all the wicked, including the devil himself. The disciples responded, “Surely this is the Son of God.”
Peter knew this power of Christ. By faith he declared, “If it be thou, bid that I come unto thee.” By this request Peter showed his faith in the lordship of Christ. He knew that apart from Christ there was reason for fear, for the world is a terrible place, the ship was tossed by the storm.
By faith he desired to be near to Christ. He knew that in Christ’s arms he would be the most safe. By faith Peter walked upon the water. He turned away from the storm and sought Christ. He renounced sin and self and sought the Savior. With the eye of faith shining brightly he looked upon Christ and triumphed.
Yet that faith was but a principle. Christ responded, “O ye of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” As Peter walked toward Christ he turned his eye upon the windblown waves and he became afraid. Suddenly he began to sink and the cry came from his fainting heart, “Lord, save me!”
Peter tried to rely upon himself. It was that old self-confidence that clouded his faith. When he took his eye from Christ and looked at the storm he began to sink. While sinking he realized his helplessness and again turned to Christ with the plea for help.
What a lesson this is for us to learn with Peter. If we direct our eyes to the terrible times in which we live, and see nothing but the world and the terrible plight the church has in the midst of this world, we surely will doubt and our faith will grow lean and we too will begin to sink beneath the terrible billows of fear and hopelessness. If we think we can stand of self in this evil day and direct our eye to ourselves, we are sure to be disappointed, and when the hour of trial becomes our portion we are going to learn that as man we cannot attain the victory, for we are weak, and this finding will bring doubt to brood within our soul. Self-confidence brings one down into the waves and evokes the terrifying cry, “Lord save me.”
May we learn with Peter that faith requires us to keep our eye upon Jesus Christ the Lord of the church and true Conqueror of Israel. In the midst of the storms of life there is only One Who is our safety and retreat and that is Jesus Christ. The Babe of Bethlehem became the Man of Sorrows, Who has climbed the Hill of Golgotha and has risen from the dead and ascended into heaven and now sits at the right band of God the Father Almighty. He alone is worth looking to.
Apart from Him there is doubt, fear, tears, loneliness, rebellion, need, care, and a horrible restlessness. With our eye of faith upon Him there is assurance, peace, comfort, friendship, contentment, an abundant supply of all our needs, joy, and the calm of a soul that knows the living God.
Thank God that such a faith is not conditional upon our free will. If it were, Peter would have drowned. Though Peter took His eye from Jesus, Jesus never took His eye from Peter. When Peter cried for help, Jesus lifted Him up and carried Him into the boat. All marveled at the calm.
We too will continue to marvel at the calm that shall endure unto all eternity when we shall be brought through the portals of perfect peace and abide with our faithful Lord forever.
Faith is the victory that overcomes the world.
Praise God from whom all blessings flow!