Jesus Walks on Water | UMC YoungPeople
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August 2017

Jesus Walks on Water

By Neal Bowes

Wouldn’t everyone want to be able to walk on water! How cool would that be!? In this lesson we dive into that moment for Peter and Jesus as we help students think about fear and faith.

Warm Up Questions

-What is the most afraid you have ever been?

-What do you do when the movie you’re watching gets scary?

-Have you ever been rescued?


Jesus had just performed a miracle where he had fed thousands of people with a few pieces of bread and a couple of small fish. Now, he dismisses the people to their homes and sends his disciples ahead of him, in the boat, to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Nothing is mentioned as to how or where Jesus intends to meet up with them, but they depart obediently as Jesus stays behind to be alone in prayer.

The Sea of Galilee is about 8 miles wide and 13 miles long. The disciples weren’t making good time because the wind was against them. Still, they were far from the land when the storm blew up. They had been battling the stormy sea for many hours, from the evening until Jesus showed up during the fourth watch, between 3 and 6 AM.

In Biblical times, it was understood that only a deity had the ability to walk on water. (See Psalm 77:19 and Isaiah 43:16.) When they see Jesus, they assume that an evil spirit has come to assail them. Jesus attempts to assuage their fears by calling out to them. The English translation is, “It is I,” but the original language reads, “I am,” just like God’s self identification to Moses in Exodus 3:14.

Peter’s is a curious response, asking Jesus to command him to walk out across the water. Here, Peter is not testing Jesus, but responding in faith. Peter fixes his eyes on Jesus and actually takes several steps on the water. But then, his faith is interrupted by the reality of his situation and he immediately sinks into the water. Our faith can often be compromised when we pay attention to obstacles rather than focusing intently on Jesus. A mountain biker who must navigate between two trees will set his sights on an object beyond the trees and will make it through. If he focuses on the trees, he’ll likely hit one of them.

Once Peter goes into the water, he has two choices: turn and try to swim back to the boat or reach out to Jesus. There is a great lesson to learn in Peter’s reaching for Christ.


Matthew 14:22-33

Discussion Questions

-How did the disciples react to seeing somebody walking on the water?

-If you had been in the boat, how, do you suppose, would you have reacted?

-How does Jesus try to calm the disciples’ fears? Does it work?

-How does Peter react?

-Why did Peter get out of the boat?

-What do you think of Peter’s reaction? What do we learn about Peter from his reaction?

-What was it that made Peter able to walk on the water?

-Why did Peter sink?

-What might the stormy waters represent in real life?

-What kind of “storms” do teenagers endure?

-What does it tell you that Jesus was able to stand calm and firm in the midst of the storm and raging waters?

-Where do you see Jesus in the midst of your struggles?

-When Peter sank, he could have to swum back to the boat or reached out for Jesus. Which did he choose?

-What can we learn from Peter’s reaching for Jesus?

-Did Jesus hesitate in reaching for Peter?

Related Scripture

-Psalm 23

-Isaiah 63:7-9

Wrap Up Questions

-Why can it sometimes seem like we are all alone in the midst of trouble?

-What can we do to help us remember that Jesus is always with us?

-What are some things that you can think of that are causing you to sink rather than walk with Jesus?

Sending Forth

When Peter set his sights on Jesus, he walked on water. When he looked away from Jesus, he sank. This week, consider the things that take your focus away from Jesus. Pray about them. Ask God to remove these obstacles and help you with these situations.

Closing Prayer

Most awesome God, we thank you for allowing Jesus to walk in the midst of all of our lives’ storms. Help us to realize that when we’re surrounded with troubles and we feel like we’re about to be pulled under, Jesus is standing right there with his hand extended, waiting for us to reach out. Help us to always focus keenly on Jesus and ignore the obstacle that would cause us to doubt. In Jesus’ name we pray. Amen.

Neal has had the privilege of being in ministry with the youth at Jesse Lee for the last 15 years. He also works through the New York Annual Conference to train and support volunteer youth workers in local churches. He loves speaking at youth gatherings--group retreats or conference-wide events.