- Genesis 37:1-4, 12-28
- Psalm 105:1-6, 16-22, 45
- Romans 10:5015
- Matthew 14:22-33
“Jesus’ miracle of walking on the sea is not just to ‘show off’ who he is but to come to the aid of his threatened disciples. That is to say, while the story is indeed talking about who Jesus is, it emphasized his function rather than his nature. As Messiah he is the one charged and empowered by God to shepherd and care for Gods people.” Douglas R. A. Hare (Matthew: Interpretation, A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, Louisville: John Knox, 1993), 169.
Matthew typically shows the disciples as people of “little faith” who fail despite their best intentions. In the reading from Romans, Paul quotes Isaiah 52:7, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” in reference to those who are willing to go where they are sent and proclaim the good news. And today, the disciples do what Jesus tells them – they go “to the other side.” Doing this, they literally land in “rough waters.”
Being on the move (going to the other side) is how many of us get into trouble. It is when we often get beat up. Taking the hard path puts calluses on our feet – anything but beautiful! But Jesus shows up, just as he always does, when we are most battered and when everything around us seems in disarray. He walks out onto the sea of chaos, on those beautiful feet, bringing his good news: “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” (Matthew 14:27)
As Jesus pulls Peter to safety he proclaims, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (v. 31). The phrase “you of little faith” occurs frequently in Matthew and the word for doubt is used in Matthew 28:17 to describe the response of some disciples to the Risen Jesus. However, Jesus never deserts those who doubt. The storm ceases as Peter and Jesus enter the boat, and the disciples fall down and worship him, confessing, “Truly you are the Son of God” (v. 33). Despite their “little faith,” they understand and acknowledge who Jesus is.
Faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the Good News of Jesus Christ.
- In our chaotic world, what are ways we can bring the peace that Jesus brought to the disciples? Organizations like Christian Peacemaker Teams and Witness for Peace go to the most dangerous and needy places in our world and bring peace into chaos, as Jesus did when he walked on water.
- When Jesus shows up he says, “It is I,” which can also be translated, “I am,” a phrase suggesting the divine presence. A prayer from Scotland’s Hebrides islands demonstrates this desire for the divine presence when out on the waters: “Round our skiff be God’s aboutness ere she try the depths of sea. Seashell frail for all her stoutness unless Thou her Helmsman be”.
- Images of water are throughout our liturgies in the Book of Common Prayer. The Thanksgiving over water in the baptismal rite (BCP 306) emphasizes the times in salvation history when God’s power and calling were revealed through the waters. Through our baptism we are “rescued” and formed as disciples to new life in Christ. What challenges to your faith do you find in your own life, and how does God rescue you in the midst of them?
“To be joyful out on 70,000 fathoms of water, many, many miles from all human help – yes, that is something great! To swim in the shallows in the company of waders is not the religious.” Søren Kierkegaard (Concluding Unscientific Postscript, Princeton University Press, 1992).
O God our defender, storms rage around and within us and cause us to be afraid. Rescue your people from despair, deliver your sons and daughters from fear, and preserve us in the faith of your Son, Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. (Sundays and Seasons, Year A 2008 (c) 2007 Augsburg Fortress)