I often associate the story of Peter requesting to walk on the water with the children’s story, “The Little Engine That Could.” It’s about a small locomotive that goes up a hill that larger engines have failed to climb. The little engine was able to do so because it said over and over, “I think I can, I think I can.” Because it thought it could, it in fact became the “little engine that could.” The Little Engine is loved because it gives confidence. That is probably why the story was told in the first place – as a way to encourage children facing the big, overwhelming and confusing world dominated by grown-ups.

This may also be part of the reason the story of Peter on the water is in Matthew’s Gospel. The evangelist wanted to encourage the Church and individual Christians to trust in the Lord, in the power of the Lord.

Notice how Peter’s walking on water was not the idea of Jesus. It was Peter’s. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you across the water,” he said. It was like Peter asking the Lord: “Tell me to do the impossible.” So, Jesus tells him to go ahead and do the impossible: “Come.” And Peter does. He walks on the water. Perhaps as he got out of the boat onto the water, he was thinking, “I think I can, I think I can.” So long as he thought so, he could and did walk on the water. The problem came, Matthew says, “when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened.” His confident “I think I can” became a rational “I think I can’t do this.” So, he started sinking and cried to the Lord to save him. Jesus did so, but at the same time, he rebuked Peter. “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” But why should Peter not doubt? People do not walk on water. One should not even try something so unrealistic. It’s irrational.

We are like Peter. We ask the Lord to have us do the impossible – to bring peace, to show the love of God to the world – and He says, “Go ahead.” Then reason and our hearts tell us that it is impossible. Why do we even think to do the impossible? ….