The night had not gone well and sometime between 3am-6am, they found themselves out in the middle of the lake (Galilee) straining against a strong head wind. Dark. Windy. Water spraying up over the boat. And here came Jesus. Walking on water.
You may know the story. The disciples, exhausted from straining at the oars, are suddenly terrified by what they believe to be a ghost (Jesus). But not Peter. He apparently stands in the rocking boat and says, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” said Jesus. And Peter commences to set the unbeaten world record for walking on water.
I don’t know if Peter took 3 steps or 30. But at some point he notices the driving wind and finally “was afraid” (Matthew 14:30). He cries out “Lord, save me” and Jesus immediately stretches out His hand and takes hold of Peter.
Then comes the punchline I may have misread for years. Jesus says to Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
I’ve always imagined a bit of a sigh in Jesus’ voice. The sigh of disappointment. That sigh that reminds Peter he’s failed again. The sigh of weariness or perhaps a hint of disdain.
Plenty of times in my life I’ve seen the wind, dropped my gaze from Jesus, and sunk a little. A time or two I’ve sunk a lot! And when I’ve cried out Hosannah (“Save me”) Jesus has immediately responded. But in my spirit I’ve hardly made eye-contact with Him. Ashamed, I can hear the sigh again (and again): “O you of little faith.” It’s a gentle chiding, a little salt in the wound, the vocalization of my failure. Not nice…but understandable. I’ll try harder next time. I’ll try to have bigger faith in the next storm.
But I may have misheard the text.
“Little faith” in the gospels is not a criticism but a commendation. Jesus told His disciples that if they had faith as small as a mustard seed (that’s very small) they could move mountains (Matthew 17:20) or uproot mulberry trees with a word (Luke 17:6). Little faith is not a bad thing; no faith is.
Indeed, Peter’s little faith saw him walk on water. The story is not so much about Peter’s failure — which is how we tend to read it — but of Christ’s grace, power, and responsiveness to faith of any size. Perhaps the tone of Jesus’ voice was not frustrated disappointment but gentle admiration.
Feel like all you have today is little faith? Don’t beat yourself up. It’s enough for you to walk on water. Just keep your eyes on Jesus, and not the waves. Watch what He can do.