Based on: Matthew 14:22-33
The lovely thing about scripture is that there is always more than one way of looking at the story. All four of the gospels offer us multiple challenges about what Jesus really meant and what that tells us about God.
This particular reading from Matthew's gospel is multi-interpreted. Some people believe Peter's great desire to go where Jesus was made him get out of the boat and he should be commended for that. Some people take Peter to task for not keeping his eye on Jesus, which of course gives us a handy reason for why Peter started to sink. Then there are people who say this story is really about being willing to take risks because God is always there to uphold us. Certainly all of these interpretations are valid. None of us has an absolute corner on scriptural interpretation, and all of us are working to understand more about following Jesus.
The interpretation that makes the most sense to me, based on what I know about being a Christian, and the balance of scripture, is that Peter is asked to follow Jesus willingly into chaos.
The disciples are in a boat that's been battered by the waves, is far from land, and worst of all, the wind was against them the whole night. This means getting back to where they started will take a long time.
In the midst of this struggle, Jesus appears, walking on water. Understandably, the disciples are terrified. They are terrified because this walking on water stuff is completely outside their human experience. They think they have seen a ghost. They cry out in fear.
Yet all of their recent experiences with Jesus have been about normal things becoming abnormal. Remember, Jesus just fed thousands of people from two fish and five loaves (in last week's gospel). Now the disciples have spent the entire night trying to cross about six or seven miles of sea at most. And right after that, here comes someone walking on water! The disciples have good reason to be fearful. If it really is Jesus, they are probably thinking, "Is this going to be the ‘new normal?'"
Peter, impetuous leap before he looks Peter, is ready to walk into that new normal. He's ready to follow Jesus now, no waiting. But for once, just to be sure, he asks, "If it's really you, command me to do the same thing you're doing." I'm pretty sure Peter didn't think he would be any less afraid, he simply thought following Jesus was what to do even if he was afraid. Peter thought following Jesus was all and everything and yes, if that really was the "new normal" then he'd better step out into it.
We may not like this and I'm pretty sure neither did Peter most of the time, but this is how Jesus works. This is how God, made in the shape of God among us, works in the world. What was normal is no longer normal. God creates a scary, walking on water, risky business new normal that turns everything inside out and upside down. The sick get visited, the poor get fed, the children learn to read, and those who suffer receive justice and dignity.
That is how Peter knew it was Jesus. Peter recognized that Jesus comes in the midst of chaos. He asks us to leave the familiar, the safe. He has us get into the boat and set out even when the wind is against us. And then, when we are brave enough get out of the boat, Jesus is there with his hand out when we begin to sink. Truly he is the Son of God. AMEN.
The Rev Nicolette Papanek
Trinity Episcopal Church
 Matthew 14:28b (NRSV) Paraphrase mine.