During the storm, Peter doesn’t recognize Jesus from the boat; as a matter of fact, Peter and his companions are terrified, thinking Jesus is a ghost. This ghost is walking atop the waves.
Jesus has been praying. He’s told the crowds to disperse, and has gone “up on the mountain by Himself to pray.” (Matthew 14:23) We aren’t certain how long Jesus prays, but Matthew’s account indicates “when evening came, He is there alone.” (Matthew 14:23) And in the time He has been on the mountain, the boat has traveled far from land. Peter and the other disciples are “a long way from land” and “the wind is against them,” meaning they can’t return to Jesus. He must come to them. (Matthew 14:24) And, of course, Jesus does walk out on the waves to join them in the boat.
At some distance, however, Peter and the disciples see Jesus and believe He is a ghost, a disembodied spirit likely planning them harm. They are terrified, shouting out their false belief. Jesus hears their fear. He reassures them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
Peter takes the lead. He tests, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” (Matthew 14:28) Jesus goes along with Peter’s request, and commands him to come out of the boat and walk to Him on the water. Peter obeys. He steps out of the boat and walks all the way to Jesus. Again, we don’t know the distance but it can’t be extremely far — Jesus has heard His disciples shouting over the wind. When Peter becomes aware of the wind and the storm, his fear overwhelms his faith and he begins to sink. Peter intelligently asks Jesus to save him. And, of course, Jesus saves Peter. Jesus also points out Peter’s lack of faith. When Jesus and Peter get into the boat, presumably by walking together across the wave-tops, the wind ceases. Then, the other disciples exclaim, “Truly You are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33)
Lord God, we thank You that You are willing to save us even when we are too terrified to even recognize and know You fully; that You are able and desirous to rescue us from our fear and from the danger of sinking even when we show such little faith in Your power to save us. Help us Lord to know You, to know Your love, its depth and faithfulness. In Jesus’ Name, amen.