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storm on lake Peter notes

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The absence of Jesus from His disciples

His role in prayer as they strive against the wind

His coming to them – a twofold effect

It is I

at that point Peter asks to called to walk

what does that add to the narrative?

Peter is here paradoxically a model both of faith and of lack of faith. The story is also a demonstration of the saving power of the Lord. If we take the narrative as historical, it is difficult to know what lay behind Peter’s request. It may be that Peter wanted to participate with Jesus in this miracle as he had in the preceding one. Perhaps it was no more than impulsiveness or the desire to do something excitingly dangerous—to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience—which appealed to him. The impossible would be possible through the power of Jesus. Thus Peter’s request is based upon faith in Jesus and not upon an uncertainty about whether the apparition really was Jesus (this reality is assumed in the protasis of the condition). He did get out of the boat and did walk toward Jesus: περιεπάτησεν ἐπὶ τὰ ὔδατα, “he walked on the water” (cf. vv 25, 26; the substitution of ὔδατα [the plural here, as in 8:32] is probably a Semitism; “water,” for θάλασσα, “sea,” may reflect simply the short distance he walked). For OT and Jewish background, see Lövestam.

30 Peter’s lack of faith is caused by a failure of concentration: he is distracted by the fierce wind. His mind became more affected by the circumstances than by faith in the power of Jesus, and once again he became filled with fear (cf. a similar sad turn in his life in 26:69–75). He began then to sink (καταποντίζεσθαι) and cried out in desperation: κύριε, σω̂σόν με, “Lord, save me.” Almost exactly the same cry is made by the disciples in the storm-tossed boat in 8:25. There is undeniably a paradigmatic character to this cry for salvation. In the moment of most dire human need, there is but one cry, just as there is but one source of salvation.

31 Jesus responds to this desperate cry “immediately” (εὐθέως), stretching out his hand (as in 8:3) to save Peter. Jesus then addresses Peter as ὀλιγόπιστε, “you of little faith” (see Comment on 6:30 for this word in Matthew), just as he did the disciples in the boat according to 8:26, and asks εἰς τί ἐδίστασας, “Why did you doubt?” (the only other use of διστάζειν in the NT is in 28:17; it means “to be of a divided mind”). Here the object of the doubt is whether it was possible indeed to walk on the water and hence indirectly expresses a doubt concerning the power of Jesus. Peter was nevertheless saved. The underlying message here is as much for the disciples and for Matthew’s church as it is for Peter himself.

32 A sometimes unnoticed aspect of the story is the miraculous cessation of the powerful wind. This makes the story quite similar to that of the stilling of the storm in 8:23–27. ἐκόπασεν ἄνεμος, “the wind stopped,” not apparently in response to a command of Jesus (as in 8:26) but simply in response to his presence in the boat.


Jesus on the mountain

        on the sea

        in the boat


cf. confer, compare

vv verse(s)

OT Old Testament

NT New Testament

[1]Hagner, D. A. (1998). Vol. 33B: Word Biblical Commentary : Matthew 14-28 (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; Word Biblical Commentary. Dallas: Word, Incorporated.

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