Scripture Reference: Matthew 14:22-33
Suggested Emphasis: Look to Jesus and have faith in him. He will help us in our lives.
Memory Verse: “Without faith no one can please God. Anyone who comes to God must believe that he is real and that he rewards those who truly want to find him.” Hebrews 11:6, ICB
Jesus wanted to spend some time alone in prayer so he told his disciples to go on ahead of him and take the boat to the other side of the lake. In the middle of the night the disciples were caught in a storm and looked over and saw Jesus walking towards them on the water! The disciples thought they were seeing a ghost. Jesus asked Peter to walk out to him so Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water too. When Peter began looking at the waves instead of Jesus, he began to sink. Jesus saved him.
You can also read this story in Mark 6:45-51 and John 6:15-21. It is interesting and helpful to put all three accounts together. Matthew is the only one who records that Peter got out and walked to Jesus. Mark records that Jesus stood on the shore and could see the disciples straining at the oars even though they were 5 kilometres out and it was dark. He also mentions that Jesus was actually about to pass it by when the disciples saw him.
The fourth, or last, watch of the night (verse 25) would have been between 3-6 a.m. according to Roman calculation. The disciples were out on the lake without Jesus because he had sent them ahead so he could go onto the mountainside to pray. He stood with the crowd of 5000 and watched the disciples row away before dismissing them and going to be alone. Perhaps Jesus wanted to pray about the loss of his cousin John who had just been beheaded (Mathew 14:1-13).
Mark 6:52 records that the disciples still did not understand about what had happened earlier that day when Jesus fed the 5000. Sometimes reality is harder to believe than fiction. When they saw Jesus walking on the water they began to think of the superstition of the day. Many Jews at that time believed that the appearance of a spirit during the night brought disaster.
When they heard the voice of Jesus Peter called out for confirmation. He wanted to make sure it was Jesus so he gave him a test. “If it’s you, tell me to come to you.” He must have been shocked when Jesus actually said, “Come”.
Many writers have commented on Peter’s walk on water. Some have talked about his lack of faith resulting in his beginning to sink. Others have mentioned how he took his eyes off of Jesus. Whatever we have to say about Peter remember that Peter was the only one who actually got out of the boat and stepped into the waves. Also, he knew the right person to call out to when he began to sink. He didn’t ask the other disciples to throw him a line. He asked Jesus to save him. Jesus asked Peter why he doubted. But remember, Peter seemed to have more faith than anyone else on the boat that night.
Who do we put our faith in? Is it our family or our friends? Do we hold the church or church leaders responsible when we fall? Who do we look to for salvation?
Other verses about the power of God over the sea: Psalm 89:9; Isaiah 51:10,15; Jeremiah 31:35
Way to Introduce the Story:
Ask how many of the children know how to swim. Spend some time talking about fun that you have had in the water. Can anyone float? How do you float? Can anyone float on your back? Stomach? Knees? Can anyone float in the water standing up? Of course not! But someone in today’s story could stand up and walk on top of the water.
Jesus and his disciples had been around crowds of people for a long time. Now Jesus wanted to spend a little time alone so he could pray. In the evening he told his disciples to get in the boat and row over to the other side of the lake (which is called the Sea of Galilee). The disciples set out in the boat and Jesus went up to the mountainside to pray.
The water in the lake was rough. The disciples had to row very hard. Between 3 and 6 o’clock in the morning they had only rowed to the middle of the lake. Jesus had finished praying and he looked out on the lake and saw them trying to row. (Actually, this was amazing that Jesus could see four or five kilometres out in the lake even though it was dark).
Jesus began walking out on the water as if it was dry land. He did not swim or tread water. He just walked on top of the water but did not sink. What do you think the disciples thought when they watched him walking by?
You guessed it. The disciples were very afraid. They did not think it was Jesus walking by. They thought it was a ghost floating by. They began to scream.
When Jesus heard them he called out to his friends, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Peter couldn’t believe his ears. That didn’t sound like a ghost. That sounded like Jesus. Maybe it was a trick. Peter decided to test the ghost.
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter called out, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
Then he heard Jesus’ voice, “COME.”
Peter got out of the boat and began walking toward Jesus. He was walking on the water just like Jesus was. Then Peter started looking around and noticing all of the waves and wind. He stopped thinking about Jesus and started thinking about the water. Then Peter began to sink in the water.
He yelled out to Jesus, “Lord, save me.”
Jesus reached down and caught Peter. “Peter,” he said, “why did you start doubting me? You should always have faith in me.”
Then Peter and Jesus stepped into the boat and the storm immediately died down. Everyone in the boat worshipped Jesus. They knew it was very important to always have faith in Jesus.
Do you have faith in Jesus?
Ways to Tell the Story:
This story can be told using a variety of methods. Always remain true to the facts found in the Bible but help children connect to its meaning by using drama, visual aids, voice inflection, student interaction and/or emotion.
Click here for visual aids and story-telling methods.
Click here to download these illustrations and the slideshow. Be selective. Each teacher is unique, so only use the illustrations that best relate to how YOU tell the story in THIS lesson. Too many illustrations can be confusing, so eliminate any that cover other stories or details you do not wish to emphasise in this lesson.
- When the disciples first saw Jesus walking to their boat on the water, what did they think they were seeing? A ghost
- Who walked on the water to meet Jesus? Peter
- While walking on the water towards Jesus, when did Peter begin to sink? When he looked at the waves instead of Jesus
Learning Activities and Crafts:
- Before class half fill two clear drinking glasses with water. Stir three tablespoons salt into one of the glasses. Label the salted water “faith” and the plain water “doubt”. Draw a face on an egg to use for this activity. Review the story and talk about what would happen if you tried to walk on water. As you do this then gently drop the egg into the “doubt” water and watch it sink. Then talk about how that Jesus walked on water while you drop the egg in the “faith” water. The egg should float. Continue to tell the story showing how Peter floated (faith glass) and then sank (doubt glass). Then describe some real life situations that the children might face and let them place the egg in the “faith” or “doubt” glass according to the way they would act in the situation. Practice this at home first!
- Small children will like using large boxes to make a “boat”. Everyone can sit inside the boat as you tell the story. You can all “row” and bounce around in the waves. Be sure and be very afraid when you think you see a ghost!
- Class Outing: Gather at the beach or at a pool and “practice” walking on water before telling the story. Try some of the magicians tricks to make it appear people are walking on wather. Refer to this fun video for ideas: https://youtu.be/31pp22ETjx4
- Use a bowl of water and experiment to see which items float and which items sink.
- Snack: Make blue jelly (Jello gelitan) in a clear class or cup to represent water. In class, have the children place a a chocolate on top to represent a boat. Two jellybeans or small lollies (candies) on top can represent Jesus and Peter.
- Make a boat from paper or a cardboard box.
Check the Teaching Ideas page on this website for ideas that are adaptable to any lesson.
Other Online Resources:
- Colouring page and worksheets about Jesus walking on water (Calvary Curriculum)
- Colouring page (Sermon 4 kids)
- Craft: Illustrated instructions to make a paper boat (kirsty mcallister)
- Craft: Paper craft (DLTK)
- Craft: Food craft using jello(jelly) (DLTK)
- A number of different activities (Sermon 4 kids)
- Printable, Maze (DLTK)
- Printable,Puzzle page (Sermon 4 kids)
- Children’s sermon (Childrens sermon)
- Snack idea (Proverbial homemaker)
- Another snack idea (Bible school teachers)
- Youtube clip showing various ways to make it appear people are walking on water. One is a scaled-down version you could try in class is a paper doll person floating across water.