Matthew 14:28
The answer of the disciples to the sight of Jesus walking on the sea revealed the fact that they shared the superstitious sentiments of their age. They said, "It is a spirit." "Orientals continue to believe, as of old, in supernatural agencies, not only in the all-pervading and all-controlling providence and personal influence of the Deity, which they have ever pushed to extreme fatalism, but also in the existence and activity, either for good or for evil, of spirits and invisible beings, who people the air." Our Lord desired to guide his disciples to worthier apprehensions of spiritual things, through the proper apprehension of himself as a spiritual Being and a spiritual Messiah. Our Lord had wrought many miracles which displayed his power, and revealed him as

(1) Lord of Nature in all her moods;

(2) of death in all its stages;

(3) of devils in all their forms of mischief;

(4) of souls in all their spiritual needs.

Now, by this walking on the sea, he would reveal to them something of the mystery which belonged to his own Person. And this particular revelation was called for by the fact that the disciples had encouraged the attempt of the people to make their Master a merely earthly king (John 6:15).

I. CHRIST'S BODILY PRESENCE DID BUT ILLUSTRATE HIS SPIRITUAL PRESENCE. It should be clearly seen that our Lord was with his disciples in a double sense. He was with them spiritually, just as he is still with us; but, besides that, he was with them in bodily relations, in ways that could be apprehended by their senses. That bodily presence was given to teach them what the spiritual presence is and involves. The record of that bodily presence is preserved that it might do the same thing for us. Christ, by coming on the sea, taught the disciples two things.

1. That he would be with them when they could not see him.

2. That they must not wonder if he came to them in strange forms and manifestations. He was teaching them how to use their wings in the spiritual atmosphere, as the mother bird teaches her fledgelings.

II. CHRIST'S BODILY PRESENCE WAS PRESENTLY TO PASS INTO A SPIRITUAL PRESENCE. The first suggestion was the loss of bodyweight which enabled Jesus to walk on the water. The second suggestion was the passing of the bodily into the spiritual at the Resurrection. The third was the passing of the spiritual body beyond the apprehension of the senses at the Ascension. The illustrative bodily presence has gone now, and gone forever; the reality of the spiritual presence of Christ is the possession and the glory of his Church today. - R.T.

And Peter answered Him and said, Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.
There are two powers working side by side under which Christ has taught us He means every true Christian life shall move forward, undervaluing neither the one nor the other. One of these is the IMPELLING POWER, impulse. This impulsive part of religious character is indispensable. St. Peter was right in his outset "Bid me come to Thee," etc. The other is the REGULATING POWER. It is this that keeps alive the life that has been awakened, and fulfils the good intentions. Impulses spring up in the region of feeling. Their continuance, regulation, and practical results, depend on the conscience and the will. It is easy to reach the transition point between impulse and principle; some reach it as soon as danger threatens. How shall I turn the ardent impulse of penitent faith into consistent piety? By leaving no good impulse to grow cold or waste in a neglected sentiment, but by embodying it immediately in its corresponding action; in other words, by Christian regulation. Steadfastness will come as you are really planted in Christ.

(Bishop Huntingdon.)

The religious feeling is the soul of humanity. It may exist in these three forms:

I. Acting WITHOUT intellect, under the control of the external.

II. Acting UNDER intellect — controlled by the judgment. This is as it should be.

III. Acting AGAINST intellect. This is the religion of impulse, and it is here exemplified by Peter in three aspects.

1. Urging an extravagant request. Men are not made to walk on water; were never known to do so; have no capacity for it. To guard against this evil, we must study general laws, cultivate self-command, and seek Divine guidance.

2. Impelling to perilous conduct. One foolish act has often plunged men into a sea of difficulties.

3. Corrected by a merciful God. Christ first allows full liberty for the play of passion and freaks of folly. Then He helps, if asked to. And, lastly, He exposes the error — "Wherefore didst thou doubt? " Peter ought not to have engaged in the act without faith — and faith implies the full action of intellect. Do not act from impulse — nor even from custom or habit. Act ever from faith. Remember that faith implies intellect, evidence, and reliance.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

1. His walking on the sea was needless. There is no pressing necessity shutting him up to this sea-walk-ing; but it is faith experimenting in high and holy things. No important end to be served.

2. He asks permission to do that which is not commanded by Christ. Peter asks help to do what Christ had not done; to walk on the sea for the walking's sake. This Christ permits to prove what is in him, but not to his honour or comfort. A salutary discipline.

3. Yet Christ does not fail Peter; it is not the power or word of Christ that gives way, but only the faith of Peter in this power or word. So long as he looks to Jesus this word supports him. It is easier to believe in the ship than on the waters. Now he fears, his faith gives way. Peter in his extremity cries aloud to Jesus. He has not faith enough to walk on the waters, but enough to cry for help.

(A. M. Stuart.)

It is not difficult to discover the characteristics of St. Peter as they come out here. Whatever he felt for the moment was sure to come out in his words or actions. It is easy to blame and say that Peter should not have been so eager to meet his Lord, or he should have maintained his faith to the last. But we must not forget that the very height to which his faith had for the moment attained, exposed him, more than others, to the temptation of unbelief. They who sit securely in their boats are not liable to sink. The men of even temperament cannot understand an experience such as this. They know nothing of ups and downs. Where the hills are highest the ravines are deepest, Peter must not, therefore, be unduly blamed. We learn from the incident:

1. That when His disciples are in danger of being carried away by earthly influences, Christ sends them into trial. If we are bent on something which shall endanger our spirituality, God may send us serious affliction to keep us out of mischief.

2. That while our trial lasts the Lord prays for us.

3. That when Christ comes to us in our trials we are able to rise above them. He did not come at once. He came over the big waves which constituted their trial. He makes a pathway into our hearts over the affliction which distresses us. The disciples did not know Christ when he came. Have we never mistaken him? When Christ comes, and is recognized, He brings relief.

(W. M. Taylor, D. D.)

y: — Peter required a lesson in humility: and it is instructive to observe in what way he received the lesson from our Lord. He did not meet the erring disciple with sharp and sudden reproof. He did not refuse the man's petition; but He taught the required lesson by its very fulfilment. We have seen a father adopt the same plan in giving a lesson to his son. The boy was anxious to carry a heavy burden, believing that he was able for the task. The father let him try; and as the little arms struggled' and quivered, and failed, the little mind was taught its own weakness, and the little heart was truly humbled. Just so when Peter asked to walk with Jesus upon the water. He said, "Come." The request is granted, but not approved; and Peter is left to try the work in his own strength, and fail through inglorious weakness.

(P. Thompson.)

He failed in the midst of success. It is difficult to carry a full cup, or walk upon the high places of the earth. It is more difficult to walk erect, and firm, and far among the tossing waves of adversity. The movement of Peter at the outset was grandly courageous. How truly the other disciples would gaze upon him with admiration! He stepped over the little boat; placed his foot upon the rising billow; walked step after step with perfect safety. It was a great moment in the man's life; but it was a greatness for which the man was not equal. His nerve was too weak to carry the full cup, or bear the heavy burden, or tread the stormy water. He failed in the hour of triumph, and lost all by not looking to Jesus. The word is very touching. "When he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid." There was the defect. He looked to the raging winds and the surging waters. He looked to the danger, and not to the Saviour. He forgot the power of Christ, and trusting to himself, and trembling like a breaking wave beneath the boisterous wind, he began to sink. The work was done, and the lesson learned, with great rapidity. His faith, and courage, and devotion, were not so great as he imagined. He discovered his helplessness, and prayed for safety. "Lord save me;" and now the daring man was brought to regard the Lord's band as the fountain of spiritual strength.

(P. Thompson.)

1. The presumption of faith — "Bid me come to Thee on the water."

2. The power of faith" Come."

3. The weakness of faith.

4. The power of prayer.

(T. Dale, M. A.)

I.We must feel our NEED of salvation.

II.We must know the only SOURCE of salvation.

III.We must PRAY individually for salvation.

(W. D. Harwood.)


1. The transient nature of our best and strongest feelings when they are not kept alive by Divine grace.

2. The danger of needlessly putting to the trial cur highest graces. Never make a presumptuous display of grace.

II. THE CAUSE OF PETER'S FEAR. "When he saw the wind boisterous," etc. Here we are taught not to be unmindful of our dangers, but to keep our thoughts fixed on the greatness and faithfulness of Christ when we are surrounded by them.

III. THE CONSEQUENCE OF PETER'S FEAR. He began to sink. Our support in dangers and trials depends on our faith.


1. In all our troubles, if we are Christians, we shall be men of prayer.

2. The fears of the real believer, however strong, are still accompanied with a cleaving to Christ.


1. There is no situation in which Christ cannot help us.

2. There is no state in which Christ will not save us.

(C. Bradley.)

I. ST. PETER'S DESIRE — "Bid me come unto Thee." The truthfulness of the Bible seen in the striking preservation of the individuality of the characters brought into view. Peter uniformly rash. Many a time does the yearning spirit of the believer say, "Bid me come," etc.

1. There is the memory of joys of which earth knows nothing, experienced in His Presence.

2. There is the consciousness of security from every harm.

3. The confidence created by so many trials of His love. No wonder that this desire of Peter should be the longing of Christ's faithful followers.

II. ST. PETER'S FAILURE. The first part of the history show us his daring zeal; now his failing faith. At first his faith laid hold on Divine power, and he was able to tread the waves without sinking. There was an element of wrong in the undertaking; self-confidence again. It was regarding the danger more than the Saviour that made him weak.

III. AT THE REPROOF MINISTERED TO ST. PETER BY OUR LORD. The rebuke was gentle. After all seen of the power of Christ could he doubt? Christ bids us " come" to Him in the gospel. His power works in those who heed the message. The need and value of true faith in our Lord. There is no happiness without it.

(R. H. Baynes, B. A.)

There are three conditions of soul.

1. Some think they are sinking, and are not.

2. Some are sinking and do not know it.

3. Some are sinking and miserably do know it.

4. The consequent is evident, what was below you is now over you, your servant has become your master, cares, and anxieties.

5. Your escape is in looking again to Jesus.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Let me gather up the steps to the " sinking:" — an emotional state, with abrupt and strong reactions — a self-exaltation — a breaking out, under a good and religious aspect, of an old infirmity and sin — a disproportion between the. act and the frame of mind in which the act was done — neglect of ordinary means, with not sufficient calculation of difficulties — a devious eye — a want of concentration — a regard to circumstances more than to the Power which wields them — a certain inward separation from God — a human measurement — a descent to a fear, unnecessary, dishonouring fear — depression — a sense of perishing — "beginning to sink."

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

In the spiritual navigation, it is well to remember that the feelings are the sails, and very quickly and very beautifully do our feelings carry us along while all is favourable. But let once difficulties and temptations come, and if we have only feelings, we shall stop. The best-spread feeling, if it be only feeling, will never make head against a contrary wind.

(J. Vaughan, M. A.)

Of this nature was that extravagant desire of martyrdom in many of the Primitive Church, when even novices in Christianity, and those of the weaker sex, must needs be thrusting themselves into the hands of the persecutors, when they might easily, and without sin, have escaped them; and thereby exposed themselves to such cruel torments as they were not able to endure, and then did very ill things to be free from them again, to the great dishonour of their holy religion, the deep wounding of their consciences, and their lasting shame and reproach, which they could not wipe off but by a long and very severe repentance. And, indeed, 'tis no better than knight-errantry in religion thus to seek out hazardous adventures, and lead ourselves into temptations, and then expect that God should support us, and bring us safely off. 'Tis not faith, but presumption, that engages men so far.

(Francis Bragge.)

In this verse are considerable.

1. The Person that spake; the Lord Jesus Christ.

2. Those to whom He spake, viz., the disciples in their present distress.

3. The kind nature and design of Christ's speech to them at this time.

4. The argument He used to silence their fears.

5. The time when He spake to them thus comfortably — straightway.

I. WHENCE IS IT, THAT EVEN REAL DELIEVERS MAY BE READY TO SINK UNDER THEIR TROUBLES. Causes of despondence are: we have not thought of the cross as we ought, or not counted upon it at all, and so have taken little care to prepare for it. Perhaps from our being so long spared, we promised ourselves an exemption from any remarkable trials; or perhaps we mistake the nature, end, and design of afflictions when they come, and so are ready to faint under Divine rebukes. There is a peculiar anguish with which some are overtaken, when they are under apprehensions of approaching death. As to the springs of this —(a) We are too prone to put from us the evil day.(b) Death may find us in the dark as to our title to the life to come, or meetness for it.(c) Conscience may be awakened in our last hours to revive the sense of past sins, and so may increase our sorrows and terrors.(d) Satan sometimes joins in with an awakened conscience, to make the trial the more sore.(e) God sometimes withdraws the light of His countenance.

II. WHAT CHRIST SPAKE TO HIS DISCIPLES NOW, WHEN THEY WERE IN GREAT DISTRESS, He is ready to speak to all His members, whenever they are any of them distressed.

III. WHAT IS CARRIED IN THESE COMFORTABLE WORDS, AND MAY BE GATHERED FROM THEM, FOR THEIR SUPPORT. It notes His presence with them. and His wisdom, power, faithfulness, and love to be engaged for them.

(Daniel Wilcox.)

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