I'm in the middle of reading a book entitled Twelve Ordinary Men about the lives of the apostles and a great point was made about Peter that I had never thought about before.
22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd.23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone,24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake.26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”29 “Come,” he said.Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said,“why did you doubt?”32 And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down.33 Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God."
Before today, when I read this story I saw only the story we've all heard countless times before. Jesus came to the disciples during the middle of a storm and Peter, upon seeing him rushed out to meet him only to lose faith and fall into the water. It's always preached as a lesson in lack of faith and I think that's a disservice to Peter all together. Peter didn't have a lack of faith at all. Incomplete faith, sure. But Peter had more faith than anyone else in that boat for sure.
Having grown up a fisherman with his brother, Andrew, and fellow apostles James and John; Peter would have known exactly what happened to people who fell out of their boats during a storm in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. The closest land was 100 feet below him and he would doubtlessly be dead before he reached it. Storms on the sea were nasty and swimming would have been nearly impossible amid the waves.
In spite all of this, all it took was for Jesus to say one word and Peter was over the side of the boat putting his faith to the test. Not only was he willing to step out in faith, it was his idea. Probably in order to show the other disciples in the boat just exactly what they could do if only they believed.
Sure, Peter slipped and began to sink. That's what happens when impulsive people do crazy things without thinking about the consequences first. He got a few steps out onto the sea and realized the severity and danger of what he had just done. I can't tell you what the Aramaic phrase for "Oh shit" is; but I'm sure at this point in his life, Peter could.
The fear of drowning is a pretty big seed of doubt and I'm sure when you're standing on top of the sea during a storm that seed grows pretty quickly if it finds it's way into your head. I can't fault Peter for falling. I don't doubt my faith in the Lord at all; but knowing me, I'd have been with the other 11, kept my mouth shut, and kept my feet in the boat at that point.