Anatomy of Trial


(Matt 14:28-32)
Peter said, Ruler, if you are not, bid me to
go towards you upon the waters.
ho Petros eipe Kurie, ei ou  ei, keleuson me pros se
elthein epi ta hudata.
Matt 14:28
Weary from making very little progress against a raging contrary tempest and tossing waves for more than six hours during the darkness of night, the Apostles were struck with horror at the sight of Jesus walking upon the water in the midst of a storm. Observing Him to draw near to the ship and to walk alongside during the early morning before dawn, behaving as if He would have walked past nonchalantly, unimpeded and unaffected as they were by the wind and the waves, they had imagined that He was a menacing apparition (Matt 14:25-26, Mark 6:48-49 & John 6:19). Courage was immediately taken, upon hearing the voice of the Shepherd, and the phantasm (phantasma) that they had supposed Him to be in their panic and terror became their familiar Lord and Master; Supreme Deity Himself in the body of human flesh, standing upon the water and speaking to them (Matt 14:27, Mark 6:50 & John 6:20). At least one of them was not entirely convinced, however, and expressed his doubt by the challenge, Ruler, if you are not (a phantasm), bid me to go towards you upon the waters.

The challenge of the Apostle Peter reveals his design for Jesus to give him also the capability of walking upon water, supposing that if He were to grant him such power, remaining doubts would then vanish. The Apostle would learn, however, that apart from persuasion (one) is unable to be well-agreeable, for it is necessary (for) the (one) having been coming forward to the Supreme Deity to be persuaded, that it is He and He comes to be a remunerator to the (ones) searching Him out (Choris de pisteos adunaton euarestesai, pisteusai gar dei ton proserchomenon to Theo, hoti esti kai tois ekzetousin auton misthapodotes ginetai - Heb 11:6). The flawed premise of Peter’s proposition was that, in that particular moment, he was not persuaded, that it is He. Jesus would presently demonstrate the flaw, in a manner that Peter would never forget, by bidding him to proceed upon such a flawed premise. In so doing, Jesus would portray the anatomy of trial, for the edification of all true believers in every succeeding century.

Indeed the (One) said, Come. And having
descended from the sailing vessel, Peter had
trodden around upon the waters, to go
towards Jesus.
Ho de eipen, Elthe. Kai katebas apo tou ploiou ho
Petros periepatesen epi ta hudata, elthein pros ton
Matt 14:29
As Jesus bids each of the chosen at the outset of their individual trials, each of them possessing faith as imperfect as Peter’s, the One said, Come. The chief goal and end for which all trials are imposed upon believers is greater intimacy with the Father. When they falter and their feebleness causes them to fail, His strength alone shall overrule and prevail: All will assuredly come and experience greater reliance upon Jesus. He will forsake none to whom He bids, Come, though they shall certainly falter and fail in their efforts. It is only by means of His power and their experience of that reality, however, that each of them arrive at the chief goal and end to which they are bidden. It is upon the wind-driven and disturbed sea of humanity that believers are bidden to walk towards Him, to go towards Jesus. The contrary wind is representative of the obstinate resistance powered by the (one) being chief of the authoritative privilege of the air (ton archonta tes exousias tou aeros - Eph 2:2). The waves are symbolic of developments upon the restless sea of humanity, formed and driven by the winds of change; mounting and then dissipating, causing those within the Kingdom upon Earth to be temporarily rocked and tossed.

Peter’s performance is demonstrative of the performance of all believers, as he begins this simple trial of faith, by having trodden around upon the waters. At the outset of each trial, far more arduous and complex than Peter’s here, believers who are undergoing trial (being tested and put to proof) thus proceed upon the troubled waters of their own oppressive difficulties and distressing circumstances; having attentively considered into Jesus the chief Leader and Completer of the persuasion (aphorontes eis ton tes pisteos archegon kai teleioten Iesoun - Heb 12:2), some with firm and resolute determination and others with weaker resolve, fraught with uncertainty and indecisiveness. Those who are thrust upon the waters of tumult and danger, as the result of punishment, however, invariably begin their experience without
having attentively considered into Jesus. Although the commencement of trial is thus different in those being punished, as opposed to those who are relatively blameless, the object and results of trial are nevertheless the same. Both those who are being punished and those who are relatively blameless immediately sink. Through trial in both cases, Supreme Deity thus begins to achieve a desired degree of intimacy, endurance, refinement and purity within each believer.

Indeed looking at the forceful wind he was
frightened, and having begun to be plunging-
down called out, laying forth, Ruler, deliver
Blepon de ton anemon ischuron ephobethe, kai
arxamenos katapontizesthai ekraxe, legon,
Kurie, soson me.
Matt 14:30
drawing courtesy of
Peter’s determination had vanished with the intimidation he experienced at the fierceness of the wind. The result is the same in the strongest of believers, succumbing to a sense of inferiority and inability, in the mounting face of threatening circumstances. As Peter had removed his concentration from the strength derived in having attentively considered into Jesus and began to anxiously regard the power of the violent wind instead, all believers eventually begin to panic and to lose confidence in the ability of Jesus to bring them across their troubled waters. In circumstances which seem to dwarf any hope for well being, which appear to negate any tangible benefit of being persuaded into Jesus, the supernatural properties in both substance of confident expectation and evidence of what cannot be naturally perceived apparently begin to erode. Those who boast of a faith exceeding Peter’s are deluded and presumptuous and have never really been tried.

Whether a believer enters upon the disturbed water of difficulty, purely as a consequence of the Father’s determination to refine him or as the consequence of the Father’s determination to punish him for recalcitrant adherence to a particular sin, the necessary experience is the same in both cases (with the believer beginning to be plunging-down) and Jesus’ desire for undivided attention and absolute dependence upon Him is thereby perfected. There is a particular point in every genuine trial, at which Jesus achieves such focus of consciousness and receptivity within all believers, where He informs them, My grace avails to you, for my ability is completed in feebleness (arkei soi he charis mou, he gar dunamis mou en astheneia kai teleioutai - II Cor 12:9). That point arrives when the believer’s soul is overwhelmed and completely filled with alarm and urgency, forsaking all confidence in self and in others, begging the living Christ, Ruler, deliver me!

Someone far more powerful than a respected leader of men was needed here by Peter. With regard to the natural elements terrifying him, Peter thus conveys his acknowledgment of Jesus having power and authority, not only over a small band of men and not only over all men upon the planet, but also over the wind and the waves (Matt 8:26, Mark 5:39 & Luke 8:24). Nay, Peter expressed his perception then of Jehovah Himself, who alone has power and authority over space and time and over all the elements, events and destinies therein. Only such a Ruler could possibly be his Deliverer. True believers can settle for nothing less, while being overwhelmed by that which is humanly and naturally insurmountable.

“Ruler”  &  “Supreme Authority”
Translators generally and correctly treat Kurios as the nominative case (subject form) and Kurie as the vocative case (person spoken to) for the title, “Lord”.  However, in the New Testament Scriptures (particularly the writings of the Apostle John), the titles often allude to separate meanings. When used in addressing men, the title, Ruler (Kurie), without consideration for the fact that the word is the nominative case for "Lord", conveys instead the meaning of either a property owner or a man who directs and controls the behavior of others. Although it is certain that Peter’s understanding of Jesus, while he rapidly sank into a profound sense of helplessness and doom, was of “one having power and authority over others”, much more is meant by his use of Kurie. When used concerning Jehovah, the title conveys the meaning of “Supreme Potentate” and “One who wields omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence”. The title, Supreme Authority (Kurios) is used only of Supreme Deity, emphasizing the attribute of omniscience, in His flawless application of perfect knowledge. It is a virtual symbol within the Revelation of Jesus Christ, representing Origin and Source from whom all knowledge is drawn. Whereas the title, the Alpha and the Omega, relates to the totality of knowledge, the Supreme Authority relates to the commanding use of all knowledge.

Indeed Jesus having directly extended the
hand seized him and lays forth to him,
Puny truster! Into what have you doubted?
Eutheos de ho Iesous ekteinas ten cheira epelabeto
autou kai legei auto , Oligopiste, eis ti edistasas;
Matt 14:31
While a reprobate drowns in bitterness and hardening of the heart as a result of severe adversity, a true believer is caused to desperately grasp at Jesus for deliverance. It is at that point of wits’ end and extreme anxiety, when every thought and hope is arrested by Jesus, when the essence of the believer’s spirit unifies with all parts of his soul in the importunate and urgent cry, Ruler, deliver me!, that the hand of the Deliverer is directly extended. According to the Apostle Paul, You have not taken a testing if not human. Indeed the Supreme Deity (is) trustworthy, He who permits you not to be tested (tried) above that which you are able, but He makes also the exit together with the testing, of the (one) to be able to bear under (Peirasmos humas ouk eilephen ei me anthropinos. Pistos de ho Theos, hos ouk easei humas peirasthenai huper ho dunasthe, alla poiesei sun to peirasmo kai ten ekbasis, tou dunasthai hupenegkein - I Cor 10:13). The term, a testing, is translated from peirasmos, which is used in New Testament Scripture to indicate “putting to proof” and “testing by adversity”: It is accurately understood by believers to mean “trial”. The words, to be tested, are therefore correctly understood to mean “to be tried”.

The fact that Jesus... seized him is recorded, not simply to furnish greater description of the event, to show gracious response to an urgent cry, but to call attention to the fact that deliverance was not dependent upon Peter’s efforts. As certain that Peter could not reach Jesus, deliverance was not dependent upon his ability to clutch Him: It was dependent solely upon Jesus’ effort, having seized the Apostle (literally, “took upon” - epelabeto). Every tried believer is thus seized and sustained by the Ruler of all events and circumstances, during their moments of greatest weakness. They are given grace, enabling them to bear under the weight of the trial. The expression, puny truster, was used by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, with reference to the man who worries about provision for tomorrow, while his bowl is being filled with provision for today (Matt 6:30). It is used by Him here, with reference to the man who panics in the very presence of the One who sustains him.

This phrase is cast here upon all sorely tested believers, when their endurance begins to flag, while being upheld by the hand of Jesus and finding in Him our escape and ability, an aid in oppressive pressures (hemon kataphuge kai dunamis, boethos en thlipsesi - Psalm 46:1 LXX). The rhetorical question, into what have you doubted?, is calculated not only to cause the believer to consider the point at which his endurance had diminished, but also to capture the reason for the unwarranted doubt. The believer thus discovers the fact of Jesus’ ability dwarfing all that threatens to overcome him and the lack of viable reason for regard to anything, but the design of the chief Leader and Completer of the persuasion, the Exemplar and Builder of endurance (Heb 12:1-3).

Bear in mind...
Deliverance was not dependent upon Peter’s efforts.
As certain that Peter could not reach Jesus, deliverance
was not dependent upon his ability to clutch Him:
It was dependent solely upon Jesus’ effort,
having seized the Apostle.

And of them going on into the boat, the wind
had ceased.
Kai embanton auton eis to ploion, ekopasen ho anemos.
Matt 14:32

Notice, that the wind did not cease at the moment that Jesus had extended His hand and seized him. Held by the strength of Jesus, Peter was brought back to the comfort of the ship, while the violent wind continued to blow and while the consequent billowing waves continued to toss. Hence, the trial of a believer does not end when that point arrives in which Jesus achieves undivided attention and absolute dependence. The built-in exit of a trial does not arrive until Jesus and the believer are into the boat together. His hand is extended and His seizure is made as a means to the exit, but His actions do not represent the exit itself.

The hand and seizure are accomplished for the purpose of enabling you to bear-under, not for the purpose of relieving you of all the circumstances. Once a jealous God achieves such focus of consciousness and receptivity within one of His beloved subjects, He is not anxious for the intimacy to diminish and will continue to enjoy the clinging and the fellowship, until a closer walk is perfected and until the believer’s endurance is fortified. When Peter was made to feel as safe with Jesus outside of the ship as he would be with Jesus within, they entered into the ship together and then the wind had ceased. Henceforth, Peter enjoyed a more intimate union with His Deliverer than he had before the trial began.

The anatomy of trial is thus seen, in the details of Peter sinking and crying for deliverance, in the immediate response of the One who initiated the trial and in the aid given by Him until He had brought the trial to an end. The trial does not end when a believer thinks that no more can possibly be endured, but when the designs of Jesus are achieved. When the desired degree of intimacy, endurance and refinement is fully realized, the gracious wisdom of Supreme Deity is vindicated.

~Dei Gratia~

Editor's note: The foregoing is an excerpt from the book, Songs in the Night (
You can either read the book online or download it absolutely free.