Stepping Out of The Boat

We all have heard the story of Jesus walking on water and how Peter stepped out of the boat and then started to sink after being frightened by the storm. We also frequently quote Jesus’ response, “You of little faith”. Although the story illustrates one of Jesus’ most well-known miracles and speaks to the need to have faith and trust in the Lord, I believe there are more jewels for us to learn if we dig a little deeper. The miracle is told in Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-56, and John 6:16-24 but it is in Matthew 14 that we read about Peter stepping out.

For context, this miracle happens after the feeding of the 5000 on the shore of the Sea of Galilee (modern-day Lake Tiberias in Israel).


Matthew 14: 22 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go before Him to the other side, while He sent the multitudes away. 23 And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray. Now when evening came, He was alone there. 24 But the boat was now in the middle of the sea, tossed by the waves, for the wind was contrary [strong/turbulent]. 25 Now in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went to them, walking on the sea. 26 And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”28 And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 So He said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the boat, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. 30 But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, “Lord, save me!” 31 And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 Then those who were in the boat came and worshiped Him, saying, “Truly You are the Son of God.”


In the scripture we see that Jesus gave His disciples instruction to sail to the other side of the lake while He wrapped up with the 5000 and then spent time alone with the Father in prayer. Jesus shows us first that when you serve and fill others in His name, you must spend time with the Lord in order be refilled and recharged yourself. He also shows us that sometimes He gives us instructions that we may not understand fully but we must trust Him and follow through. The disciples only knew that they were supposed to go to the other side of the lake. They didn’t know how long the trip would take, what they would encounter on their journey, how long until Jesus would join them, nor what they were supposed to do when they got to the other side. We often want God to tell us the whole plan and purpose before we will be obedient to His will but the disciples show us that we must have blind faith. If the disciples had known ahead of time that their journey would be perilous and would be far longer than the trip should normally take then they probably would’ve taken a different course or not have gone at all. They would’ve then not experienced the miracle nor would they have grown in faith and trust in the Lord.

We know that the disciples were alone and in the storm all night without Jesus. Verse 23 says evening came and He [Jesus] was alone, but the boat [with the disciples] was in the middle of the sea being tossed by the winds and waves. This would’ve been around 5pm to 7pm in the evening when the storm started and it was continuing through the 4th watch of the night – around 3am to 6am. All of the disciples were awake so it's likely that they had been up and active for at least the past 24 hours. First, serving 5000 people and then fighting through a storm all night with no apparent end in sight until Jesus showed up. They would've been physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually exhausted by now. Sometimes it seems like our storms are never ending and during the process may lose our strength and even sometimes our hope and our faith. But God is strong when we are weak and His power is made perfect [revealed to us] in our moments of weakness (2 Corinthians 12:9). We may question why God allowed us to go through the storm. We may wish that we took a different path and at times we may even want to give up. Like the disciples, our days may see never ending and our days may even be months or years. We get weary on the journey but if we only knew what God was about to do in the middle of our storms...

Matthew 11:8 - "Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest."

Although the disciples (and we) get tired and stressed in the storms of life, it is often in the midst of our storms and during the last stretch before dawn that we experience the Lord in profound ways. In Genesis 32, Jacob wrestled with God in the last hours of his storm (conflict with his brother Esau) before the dawn and entering into his destiny as Israel. In Exodus 14, Moses led the Israelites across the Red Sea in the last hours of their storm (captivity) before the dawn of their freedom from Egypt. Here in Matthew 14, Jesus comes to the disciples walking on water in the last hours of their storm before the dawn of morning with peace and calmness. Then again in Matthew 28 at the fourth watch before dawn, Jesus was resurrected, bringing the fulfillment of scripture and the gift of salvation. Often times when we go through the storms of life, our boats get rocked and shaken and we feel alone and as if God has forgotten us but He tells us in Deuteronomy 31:6 and John 14:18 that He will not leave us nor forsake us.  Even if we feel alone, He is still near and we will experience Him in new and profound ways in the middle of our storms and right before the dawn. So instead of fearing the storms, we should embrace them because it is in those moments when God does a powerful miracle in the fulfillment of His purpose for our lives.

Psalm 30:5 – “…Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning.” 

Romans 8:18 – “For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” 

Romans 8:28 – “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.”

1 Peter 5:10 – “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you.”

Galatians 6:9 - “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.”


When Jesus came walking on water to the disciples, they were terrified and thought they were seeing a ghost. Why were they terrified? Up to this point, the disciples had seen Jesus’ prior miracles of healing people and feeding the multitudes but their minds couldn’t fathom the impossibility of what they were now seeing. Hence why they assumed Jesus was a ghost. It was the only point of reference they were familiar with that could explain what was in front of them. However, when God shows up with power and authority in our lives there is no point of reference for us to grab on to. We cannot begin to comprehend the Lord and all that He is able to do. When He shatters our beliefs about what is possible by doing the impossible all we can do is be in awe and fear of His glory. When God shows up with your miracle it will be so unfathomable that it will scare you!

1 Corinthians 2:9 – “But, as it is written, ‘What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him’ “

Ecclesiastes 8:17 - “then I saw all that God has done. No one can comprehend what goes on under the sun. Despite all their efforts to search it out, no one can discover its meaning. Even if the wise claim they know, they cannot really comprehend it.

Job 36:26 – “Look, God is greater than we can understand. His years cannot be counted.”

Luke 1:37 – “For nothing will be impossible with God.”


Peter, always the boldest of the disciples, asked Jesus if he could come to Him and then he proceeded to step out of the boat. Peter began walking on water toward Jesus but then looked at the storm around him and was afraid. It was when he took his eyes off of Jesus that he began to sink.

Psalm 123:1-2 – “To you I lift up my eyes, O you who are enthroned in the heavens! Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their master, as the eyes of a maidservant to the hand of her mistress, so our eyes look to the Lord our God, till he has mercy upon us.”

Colossians 3:1 - “Therefore, if you have been raised with the Messiah, keep focusing on the things that are above, where the Messiah is seated at the right hand of God.”

 Philippians 3:13-14 - “No, dear brothers and sisters, I have not achieved it, but I focus on this one thing: Forgetting the past and looking forward to what lies ahead.”

Hebrews 3:1 - “Therefore, holy brothers, partners in a heavenly calling, keep your focus on Jesus, the apostle and high priest of our confession.”


Jesus then pointed out Peter’s little faith and asked why he doubted Him. The Lord knows all things and He didn’t expect an answer from Peter. He wanted Peter to realize for himself why he began to sink. When the storms of life surround us, we often focus on the storms instead of Jesus and when we do, we begin to lose our faith and sink. However, even when we begin to sink all we have to do is look back to the Lord and call out to Him. He is right there to grab our hand and pull us back up – He is never far away. After Jesus pulled Peter up, He got in the boat and the storm subsided. This shows us that even if we are surrounded by storms and chaos, we can receive peace and calm when we let Jesus in the boat of our lives, for He has all power and authority – even over the storms and the seas.

John 16:33 – “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” 

2 Thessalonians 3:16 – “Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all.”


When we read this story, we typically look down on Peter for not having faith in Jesus. However, Jesus said that Peter had “little” faith, not a lack of faith. Peter had enough faith to step out onto the sea in the middle of the storm. Although he began to sink, he had enough faith to be the only person besides Jesus to walk on water whereas the other disciples stayed in the boat. If we persevere through our storms and wait on the Lord to show up, we can see a miracle in our lives but if we take a step of faith outside of the boat to walk towards the Lord then we can experience and live a miracle in our lives. In life, we will face all sorts of storms and challenges. You may have gone through a terrible storm in 2020 or you may still be in one now. When the storms are overwhelming and jostle you through the night, take heart and do not fear, joy is coming in the morning! It is during the 4th watch of your storm that the Lord shows up with all glory, power, and authority bringing with Him miracles and fulfillment of purpose in your life. When we see Him show up in the middle of the storm, we can choose to see the miracle or we can choose to live the miracle. Which will you choose? Will you keep your faith intact or will you let God grow your faith? Will you stand afraid or will you step out of the boat on faith and walk on water?