Reflection for OS19, Sunday August 9, 2020
Gospel passage, Matthew 14.22-33. Jesus walks on water.
The story of the walking on water follows that of the loaves and fishes. After the miracle and the clean up when the fragments left over fill twelve baskets, Jesus sends the disciples off in the boat. They are to precede Jesus who goes off to pray alone. We are told that Jesus urges the disciples to embark, probably because of the impending storm. In the event they get caught in the middle of the lake, buffeted by the waves and a head wind. It was frightening, even for experienced fishermen. The boats were small and fragile, and 12 men would be a big load.
Then Jesus comes walking on the water. The disciples think they are seeing a phantom, or a ghost, perhaps they think Jesus is dead and it is His ghost they are seeing. Peter summons his courage and asks Jesus to identify Himself. Jesus replies with the command for Peter to walk to Him on the water. Peter leaves the boat but his faith is inadequate and he begins to sink. Jesus rescues him and speaks words of comfort to the rest.
Chrysostom comments on the delay before Jesus rescues them: ‘Jesus waited, instructing them not hastily to seek for deliverance from their present dangers, but to bear all occurrences manfully’. Faith continues to trust despite delays. God sees the big picture and will ultimately do what is best.
The 18th century Lutheran scholar Bengel also has a perceptive comment: ‘Peter is not blamed for leaving the vessel, but for not abiding in firm faith. He was right in exposing himself to trial, but he ought to have persevered’.
Faith is a many-faceted virtue. In this story it includes: trust; belief in Jesus’ power as Lord of the sea; willingness to take a step into unknown waters; delay and patience; and perseverance.
Reverend Dr Calum Gilmour.