Why Did Peter Take His Eyes Off of Jesus in Matthew 14?

Keep your eyes upon Jesus;
Look full in His wonderful face;
and the things on earth will grow strangely dim;
in the light of His glory and grace.

This song has been around for quite some time. People like the Oakridge Boys, Amy Grant, Blackwood Brothers, Alan Jackson, Dorothy Moore, Michael W. Smith and a theater of other singers have recorded this song or a close version to it. The facts behind the above lyrics may not be so well known as are these professional artists. If one goes to the website:http://yhoo.it/1bNYED9, s/he will find over 40 professional singers echoing out his or her version of this famous song.

Jesus Walks on WaterToday I want to bring the reader to a less known, but critical consideration. It will help those of us who struggle to stay the course of our daily Christian walk. Yes, there are thousands who can point out that this song, actually it is the chorus, is based upon when Peter walked on the water, took his eyes off of Jesus Christ and sank into the rough waves of the Sea of Galilee. The chorus of this song reflects this event in recorded history; i.e. Matthew 14:22-33. PS: Don’t confuse this event of history with the one Matthew records in chapter 8:23-27. BUT, there is a parallel for which I do not recall ever hearing it preached and perhaps the reader hasn’t either.

A parallel: In Matthew 8 Jesus is along with his disciples but is asleep in the boat. The storm appears to threaten or “sink the ship’ as one might state it today. In chapter 14, there are rough waves but no indication that the ship needs to be bailed or is in serious jeopardy of sinking or capsizing. The insight into these two separate events is that Jesus each time questions their faith but He hadn’t left them on their own. He is also with them both times. So even when we are in a group of fellow believers or on one’s own (i.e. Peter’), things happen, in our course of life on this earth that threaten us. Sometimes we think we are going down for the third time. Other times we simply seem to be in a battle with circumstances. The question one should ask in either situation, “where is Christ in our life, not “what is going on?”

If suddenly we don’t feel as close to God as we did just a few minutes or seconds ago, guess which one of us moved?

Back to Peter and his ‘walk on the water’. Walk on the Water is a song my gospel quartet often sang while in concert. An aside: I love the song, liveliness of the tune, and the great harmony of voices, but I do have a concern about a small part of the lyric (chorus). It goes “sweet Jesus as you walk on the water won’t you walk on out to me.” Why should we not simply walk on out to him? Staying in the boat (church pew) shows no commitment whatsoever. Reaching out to Him is faith in action (Book of James).

Asking Jesus to walk on out to us while we stay safe boat/pew demonstrates *no faith on our part. Just as in many religions of today, we try to make God fit our wants and needs instead of us unconditionally going to Him. *For by grace we are saved through FAITH (in action; emphasis mine)

Peter did venture out in a sea that was a bit rough, but not described as a storm as in chapter 8 when Christ calmed both the winds and the waters. Peter stepped out in faith knowing what he was doing was impossible on his own merits, but trusting Jesus, he did as he was told to do. Here is the metaphor so often if not usually missed when this historical event is preached from the pulpit, discussed in home bible studies, or read during personal bible studies. We should not only understand that Peter stepped out in faith then took his eyes off Jesus, but WHY did he take his eyes off of the object of his demonstrated faith in action? The answer: he became distracted or concerned about the*rough waves and seas around him; is environment, the world woes around him.Rough blue ocean under dark sky

*rough sea in this passage is not equal to the capsizing sea recorded in Matthew 8.

This is what happens to so many of us as Christians/believers during our time on earth. We step out in faith trying to move closer to Jesus then some rough seas as is recorded in Matthew 8 surrounds us. They aren’t life threatening but we panic or lose our vision and purpose, then compromise our intent or commitment. Yes, Peter took his eyes off of Jesus Christ, but it was because he put his eyes on the issues around him; his focus became one of concern for his safety. Even if by chance it was only that he was dazzled by the fact he was walking on the water, yet alone during rough sea, his focus had changed.

Charles Spurgeon once noted: Let your intellect be excited concerning the Lord Jesus. Meditate upon what you read. Don’t stop at the surface; dive into the deep waters! Be like a fish that swims and explores the farthest depths!

Joshua 1:8, Matthew 4:4, and Psalm 1:2 are additional quick Bible references that basically say the same thing…i.e. commitment.

James 4:8 ESV – Draw near to God, [in other words, don’t sit in the safe haven of the boat or the church pew waiting for God to come to you] and he will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts… (ESV)

Conclusion? Peter stepped out of the safety of the boat in faith and walked on the rough sea water. Then he got distracted by his environment or circumstances. This made the distraction a trump card over keeping his eyes peeled on Jesus; i.e. scripture. When this happened it wasn’t like he didn’t believe, or that he changed his mind and no longer wished to follow Jesus. Satan had temporarily refocused Peter on something other than Christ. This is why we are instructed to PONDER the scripture and PRAY continuously. If we do that, our environment will not take us out of our game.

This blog could easily be a solid sermon from which many could be set free from the distractions of this world’s news, calamities, threats, wars, climatic events, etc. However, it is why Peter shifted his thoughts off of Christ and what it was that caused this shift to happen that is the lesson today. As the words of the opening song goes: ….

“…and the things of earth will grow strangely dim” (no longer a distraction)

Murphy James