Peter is twice saved by Jesus in this episode where both men walk on water.
Jesus has sent His disciples out in their boat across the lake as He goes off by himself to pray, to be strengthened by His Father in Heaven. Then, in the middle of the night, He comes walking across the water towards the boat.
The disciples were making slow going because of the wind and waves, so Jesus catches up to them, but they do not recognize Him. We can hardly blame them for that. It was dark and windy, and He was walking on top of the waves.
Their first inclination was to believe that this was a ghost, some sort of spirit hovering over the waters, and they are afraid. But Jesus calms them with His words: “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
The word of Jesus is enough for most of the men in that boat, but not for Peter. He is still unsure. He wants proof that this really is Jesus, and not some masquerading demon. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Peter is a fool, at least here. He should have simply trusted what Jesus’ said, but now he has to step out of the boat and test his theory. His initial lack of faith puts him in a rather precarious position.
Yet, by the grace of God, Peter walks on the waves. It never occurred to him, apparently, that Jesus might give the command, but not the ability to obey it. Peter is saved from his unbelief by the gracious call of Jesus Christ to come to Him on the water.
Jesus had really been doing this throughout His entire ministry. The people of Israel, His fellow descendants of Abraham, had begun to waver in their faith. They had been waiting for the coming of their promised Savior, but after 500 years that hope had begun to fade a bit.
So Jesus calls them all back. He graciously invites the children of Israel back into God’s kingdom. In fact He brings that kingdom to them, in their midst, through His teaching and miracles. This is how Jesus gathers His disciples. It is how the crowds are inspired to follow Him everywhere.
The gracious invitation of Jesus Christ calls the descendents of Abraham to believe in the Son of God.
And so with us. You too have been called from unbelief to faith, from doubt to trust, from darkness to light. For many it happens in the waters of baptism, or through the preaching of the Gospel, or the reading of the Scriptures.
We were once dead in our sins. We were lost in the darkness of transgressions and trespasses. But Jesus calls us out of there. He invites us to trust Him, and by the work of the Holy Spirit, He enables us to believe what He says.
We are called from our natural paganism into the supernatural life of Christianity. We are reborn, given a fresh start, by the gracious call of Jesus, the Word of God.
Yet that initial calling is not enough for us. Though we are born anew, we remain sinners. And so we fail in our calling. We fall into temptation. We succumb to unbelief just as Peter did.
Peter was getting it done. We have to admit that. He was, against all odds, walking on water. Jesus had called Him onto the waves and Peter walks to Jesus, within arm’s length. But then something else catches his attention.
Peter looks down. He looks around. He looks away from Jesus. And he begins to sink. What small amount of faith that Peter had began to fade the instant that fear came between him and his Lord. He was instantly back in his old unbelief, not trusting Jesus, not believing that He was the Son of God. And it almost killed Him.
I say “almost” because Jesus was still there. Although Peter’s faith was weak, Jesus was strong to save. The Christ reaches out His hand and pulls Peter up from the water. He saves His disciple for the second time in a span of about two minutes.
Peter’s recurring unbelief needs to be met by the recurring power and salvation of Jesus. Left to himself Peter will always doubt. But Jesus is there to save.
The people of Israel doubted too. Although Jesus called many disciples, all of them abandoned Him at the cross. Although He had healed and fed the crowds, they turned against Him and called for His crucifixion.
So He died. And He rose. And He did it all to save them from themselves. They doubted Jesus. They faltered in their faith. But He never faltered. He did what He came to do, to forgive their sins with His own bloody sacrifice, to give them new life with His triumphant resurrection.
That is what we need too. We do not need Jesus only on the day that we are baptized. We need Him every day thereafter. Though we are reborn in baptism, though the death and resurrection of Jesus becomes ours, we too fall and falter. We take our eyes from Jesus. We look at the wind and waves, and we doubt. We sin. We sink.
We sink into anger and resentment because we want vengeance. We sink into pornography or promiscuity because we are lonely. We sink into greed and lies because we fear the future. We start to drown in our own wicked desires and evil actions.
And Jesus is here to save you. Every single day He calls you back. He reaches down His almighty hand in forgiveness and restoration. He brings the forgiveness of the cross to us, not just once or twice, but every moment of every day. He throws your soaking wet body back into the boat.
As often as we need it, which is constantly, Jesus is here to give us the cross and empty tomb, to forgive and restore.
Peter needed help from his Lord more than once. He needed it again after the death and resurrection, after he had denied even knowing Jesus. We too shall fall. We shall be distracted by the cares and worries of the world and fall into the deep of sin.
And Jesus will be there to reach out His hand. He will call you back, to repent, to be forgiven, to be saved.
In one sense we are only saved once. Jesus dies once for all. There is only one resurrection, and it is for all times and all places.