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Bible work: Peter on the water

Youth session on Matthew 14, 22-33

Thoughts on water

For the bible work „Jesus and Peter walk on water“ a few physics experiments as an introduction are suitable for the introduction to research some properties of water in closer detail. The following experiments are bound to be known from school:

The Cartesian diver

A Cartesian diver (or simply matchstick heads) is placed in a bottle filled to the top with water. The bottle is sealed air tight and firmly shut with a rubber stopper. By applying pressure to the stopper the floater starts to move. When more pressure is applied the floater starts to sink. The reason for this is because the change in pressure occurs with buoyancy although the weight force remains the same.

The table tennis ball with a mind of its own

A table tennis ball usually floats on the water. However if a table tennis ball is placed in a funnel and the funnel is filled with water the ball stays at the bottom and does not float up. The ball floats to the surface only when the funnel opening is held closed. This happens because of hydrostatic pressure which increases with the depth of water and can therefore make an object move. If the funnel is open the water can run away without any hydrostatic power building up under the table tennis ball.

The closed water glass

A glass filled with water is covered with a piece of paper and is quickly used. You should notice that no water can escape. This happens because the pressure in the glass is stronger than the weight of the water and a thin piece of paper is enough to stop the water from running out.

Pipe level

If you do not have a spirit level to hand you can also make a spirit level with a transparent water pipe. Due to the fact that water always levels itself out a spirit level is made in the right and left ends of the pipe.

Further properties:

  • Water extends when cold
  • Due to the physics of buoyancy objects can float on the water as long as the volume/weight relationship is correct.

Introduction to bible work:

Water has special properties which humans have made into their own use. One special property has not yet been named which is used very seldom, which is that water can be walked on.


A catholic priest, a reform pastor and a Baptist pastor all spent a Monday in the open-air fishing. Suddenly the Baptist pastor’s hook gets stuck. He places the fishing rod to one side, looks at his boots, nods his head, flips his legs over the edge and walks over the water to the place where the hook is stuck. He sets it free and comes back. The priest is amazed but does not say anything. Shortly afterwards the pastor’s hook also gets stuck. He calmly places the rod to one side, takes off his shoes, nods his head, climbs out of the boat and walks over the water to free the hook. As fate has it, the catholic priest’s hook also gets stuck. He has never walked over water before but if the other two pastors can do then he can too. He is a little unsure as he places the rod to one side, slowly takes his shoes off, makes the sign of the cross, climbs over board – and sinks straight away. The Baptist pastor looks to the reform pastor and smiles asking: "Should we tell him where the stones are?" Unfortunately I cannot tell you where the stones when you try to walk over water. I can tell you how to walk on water without the help of the stones. Do I sense doubt?

The instructions are written in the bible and we know that the bible is true, so it must be possible.

Bible text:

Jesus walks on the water (Matthew 14, 22-33)

Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat was already a considerable distance[a] from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

During the fourth watch of the night Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. "It's a ghost," they said, and cried out in fear.

But Jesus immediately said to them: "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid."

"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."

Three factors are important.

  1. The first factor is the deciding factor. You need a call from Jesus.

    If Jesus says "come!", then the water still carry you too. Then you won’t need any stones under the surface of the water. Without Jesus’ summons I can only advise you not to walk over water. You will sink just like the priest, but if Jesus says: "Come!", then you can walk on Jesus just like Peter.

  2. The second factor is your faith.

    You must trust Jesus that he really means what he says and does not want to fool you. If you really trust Jesus is shown if you really swing your legs overboard, place your feet on the water and walk. I you only think or hope that you trust Jesus and what he says, then it’s better if you stay in the boat. If you trust what Jesus says to you and do what he says then you will experience that it works.

  3. The third factor is: Keep looking towards Jesus and not the water!

    As long as Peter saw Jesus he could walk on water. Once he lost sight of Jesus because of the wind and waves he was scared and began to sink. You can walk on water for as long as you are in contact with Jesus. He will let you walk on water. He will hold you on the surface. If you lose contact to Jesus you cannot keep yourself on top. The three factors must come together so that you can walk on water: The word of Jesus, your faith and constant contact to Jesus are the 3 factors. As far as I know no one has walked on water like Peter. This is why many people think that the text in the bible is just a nice, invented story. I don’t believe that. I believe that Jesus really let Peter walk on water so that we have an example of how we should react in such a situation.

What is an example in the report?

How Peter and the other disciples always land in emergency situations. God allows them. Yes, he sometimes sends us into situations where the wind and waves can hit us, situations which are difficult to overcome and where it becomes dark around us; situations in which are at the end of our human possibilities.

  • It might be problems at school or at work which take all of your confidence away.
  • It might be financial problems which let the waves crash over our heads.
  • It might be an illness where no more therapy can help and where the last hope is taken.
  • It might be loneliness which sends us into despair.
  • It might be a bad habit which you simply cannot beat despite your efforts and makes you weak.
  • It might be that you are standing in front of a brand new situation and do not know how to go about it.

In these situations we should remember these examples and the think about how Jesus does not leave his people alone with their problems. He came to them and when we face difficult situations he is with us too.

We are probably in the same situation as the disciples. They could not have imagined that Jesus would be so close and would come to them on the water. They did not count on this. They thought that Jesus was far away as they had to fight for their lives. They could only imagine that not only the wind and waves would come but also a spirit who would threaten them. And they screamed with fear.

There are situations where people do not find the presence of God helpful but feel threatened by it.

For example, this might happen when someone has experienced a tragic loss. We often hear reactions like: „We already have enough problems and he comes along with the God thing,“ or the famous remark „where was God when all this happened? I don’t need him anymore.“ I often think about all of the victims of the tidal wave in Asia – how many of these people will have asked questions of God and received no reply. There are always senseless tragedies and senseless deaths. These problems are often made by ourselves but we like to give God the blame for them.

We Christians should not give up hope in ourselves and in God in these situations. In difficult times we should take this text from the bible and remember and listen to our hearts and hear how Jesus says to us: "Take courage! It is I, do not be afraid!"

Now our 3 factors come back into play.

In life’s difficult situations we need a word from Jesus first of all. This is why we must call to Peter: "Jesus, if you are so close to me, do what I want!" and Jesus will reply. All of a sudden you have a new idea or remember a part of the bible or you meet a person who has an unusual piece of advice or you just simply know what to do.

You "hear" Jesus. What he says to you still sounds “impossible”.

You yourself cannot say what “impossible” thing you should do to solve a problem at school or which “impossible” deed will solve your financial problems, how Jesus will challenge you with an illness, which impossible steps you should take out of loneliness, how you should conquer a bad habit or how to do something impossible in a totally new situation.

You only think about the “possible” things which you have already tried without any success. Now Jesus will say what you can do only because he says it. Jesus will always summon you to do something you have not done before, what you cannot do with your own power – something which is usually impossible.

And now for the second factor: The main thing is to trust Jesus.

Do you believe him or not? If you really believe you will do what Jesus told you to do – even if you have not done it before. You actually do the impossible and “walk on water”. Do you understand? In order to journey over your difficulties, needs or problems – do what Jesus says. If you do what Jesus says the difficulties will not simply be washed away but you will cross them to get to Jesus. Every time you do something which Jesus says you come a step closer to him. In these moments, hours, days and years in which you do the “impossible” and “walk on water” by overcoming problems when you are in need and in difficulty, the third factor becomes important.

Do not look at the waves and win. Do not watch out for the difficulties. Do not watch the others

You are sitting worried in the boat and the others clap their hands over their eyes and shake their heads at you. They make out as if they are decent and clever. In reality they are more in danger in their boat with the small mindedness than you with your faith in Jesus on the water. Look to Jesus, trust in and walk step by step. You will not sink!

Peter is a good example for the first two factors. He listens to Jesus and he does what he has never done before: In the middle of the storm he trusts Jesus’ word more than his human possibilities and can walk on water.

He did not manage the third factor quite so well. He looks away from Jesus at the waves and the wind and sinks. His view was pointed in the wrong direction. That can happen – but it is not the end. Peter looked to Jesus again, cried for help and Jesus grabbed his hand and saved him. They went back over the water together to the boat and the storm calmed.

We are different people with different difficulties and problems. For some people it is important that they ask Jesus today: "what should I do?" Others know what they should do and now need confidence to move into action to do the “impossible” new things, to swing their feet over the side and stand up to difficulties.

Other might already be “walking on water". For them it is important not to lose Jesus from view. Others have already lost contact to Jesus, are sinking and should shout: "help me Jesus!" Some people are probably still sitting in their old boat and don’t understand why others can risk the “impossible” and try to “walk on water”. Jesus is near to us all. He is our saviour. We can trust him. We do not to despair with him. If we have his word and do what he says and do not see the difficulties, then we can conquer them and we can “walk on water”.

We now know how we can “walk on water”. It is now our job to do it. Do it like that the catholic priest at the beginning of this sermon. He followed the example of his colleagues, did it like them and trusted himself for the first time in his life to “walk on water”. He looked to his colleagues and not to Jesus.

I do not make this mistake. Look to Jesus, listen to what he says to you, do it and stick with it – then you will “walk on water” just like Peter.

(This entry was sent in by Johannes Bräuer. The bible work is based on a preaching by the pastor Manfred Brüning and was allowed to be used with kind permission.)

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