Sinking or Standing: Six Leadership Lessons From Peter’s Brief Walk On Water

By Danya M. Jordan

Kneeling on the shoreline of the Sea of Galilee, I breathe in the aroma of this ancient body of fresh water. It’s surreal gazing out on this glassy sea, a sea that’s really more of a large lake. It’s surreal even being here in the Holy Land, on this same shore where Jesus was. The Sea of Galilee is one of my most favorite, tranquil places in all of Israel.

I bend down and cup the water in my hands. I let the chilly water slip through my fingers gently. My mind wanders to the Bible passages of Jesus walking on this water. Of Peter’s brief walk on this same water.

I stand up and walk over to sit on a rock on the shoreline. I open my Bible. The story of Jesus walking on the water is found in three of the four Gospels—Matthew, Mark, and John.

The Gospels to me are like different camera angles of some of the same amazing events of Jesus. Matthew is the only Gospel that records Peter’s brief walk on water.

Let’s set the scene. Jesus had just performed the amazing miracle of feeding the 5000+ people with merely a few fish and loaves of bread.

“When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, ‘This is indeed the Prophet who had come into the world! Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.’ John 6:14-15. ESV

Some Bible scholars and I believe that Jesus would have gone up onto Mt. Arbel, which is a gentle-sloping mountain overlooking the Sea of Galilee. What a good example for us. Even Jesus quieted his soul and rested after doing a miracle. How much more then should we take time to be still after a flurry of activity in our lives?

I also like the Gospel of Mark’s perspective as the story continues.

Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.’ Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.” –Mark 6:47-52 NIV

Notice the phrase that the disciples were “straining at the oars.” So often Jesus shows up so clearly when we are “straining at the oars.” When have you experienced His presence clearly recently as you were “straining at the oars”?

Back to the “camera angle” in the Gospel of Matthew 14, then good, impetuous Peter chimes in.

“’Lord, if it’s you,’ Peter replied, ‘tell me to come to you on the water.’

Come,’ he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’

Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. ‘You of little faith,’ he said, ‘why did you doubt?’

And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’” –Matthew 14:28-33 NIV

What leadership lessons may we learn from Peter?

  1. Stay focused on Jesus and keep your eyes on Jesus. As soon as we get distracted by the storms in life or other distractions, we can sink. What does focusing on Jesus look like for you?
  2. When Jesus commanded Peter to come, he obeyed. Even though it made no sense, Peter did what Jesus said. This is what obedience looks like–doing what Jesus says. Are there any areas of our lives Jesus we are not obeying Him right now?
  3. Faith is simply taking the next step. Peter sank when he lost sight of the next step. What next step has Jesus asked you to take?
  4. Faith unleashes the supernatural. Let miracles happen.  Lord, help our unbelief. Is there anything you need to be doing differently in faith to unleash miracles?
  5. Fear will sink you. Is there any fear that is gripping and controlling your decision making?
  6. A little faith is better than no faith. The other disciples in the boat demonstrated no faith to walk on water.

What is your boat?

May we learn from Peter’s courage and obedience.

May we get out of our boats–our comfort zones—and step out in faith.  Be not afraid, friend.

4 thoughts on “Sinking or Standing: Six Leadership Lessons From Peter’s Brief Walk On Water”

  1. Thank you. I am inspired by the question, “What next step has Jesus asked you to take?” I needed to be asked that today. Your words have encouraged me to go before God this morning for guidance in what He has for my next step.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much, Andrea, for commenting. That is wonderful news that you received encouragement from this message to discern your next step. God has mighty plans for you. I believe in you and believe you have the courage to walk forward in faith to carry out His plans.


  2. Danya, this spoke to me in volumes. 4 years ago I felt led to go back to HMS to teach for a year. The year has turned into 4 years. This year has been such a challenge. Thanks for reminding me that I am there for a reason. To keep my eyes on Jesus and He will use me for His glory. I am going to read this every time I start to wonder why am I doing this! Faith over fear!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Wow! It is great to hear from you, Mrs. Spagnolia (Charlotte). I had no idea you went back to HMS. They are so blessed to have you. You were one of the best teachers I’ve ever had. I can only imagine what you are experiencing this year. You are such a bright light for Jesus. God will let you know when your assignment there is finished. I believe in you and know He has mighty continued plans for you, inside and outside of HMS. I look forward to connecting again soon when you are in Blowing Rock/Boone. 🙂


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