The 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time at St Mark the Evangelist Church in Norman, OK
August 8, 2002
1 Kings 19:9-13 + Romans 9:1-5 + Matthew 14:2-33
It takes some thinking to figure out where the miracle is.
It is not Jesus walking on water.
That image is an old one found in the Old Testament: in Job 9:8, Psalm 77, and Isaiah 43. God walks on water. No big deal here. That surprised nobody in Matthew’s church who knew his or her scriptures.
Keep the story in context. We are dealing here with Food provided by God last week, and a water passage this week.
These are serious Exodus events: food in the desert, passage through water.
But there is a miracle here, and like last week, this one concerns a change in the disciples rather than something Jesus did. Last week they stopped their whining about what they didn’t have and celebrated what they did have. This week think of it this way as I propose an alternate reading to this Gospel story, and you will get the point and see the miracle…….
“Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water toward Jesus. But when he saw how strong the wind was, he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he turned around and swam back to the boat while the other disciples threw him a line and pulled back on board.”
Or maybe it could go this way:
“Take courage, it is I, do not be afraid.” Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you come over here and get in the boat.”
The miracle here is not about Jesus. It is about a fisherman getting out of a boat in the middle of a storm, and what happens to him because of it. If he had stayed in that boat, or turned back when it got really scary, nothing would ever have happened. But he did not stay in the boat, and because he was willing to take the risk and get out; because he reached out to the Lord who was reaching out to him, Peter experienced the power of God, and for moment, I believe he stepped into the Kingdom of God.
Peter had to leave the boat and risk his life on the sea in order to learn both his own weakness and the almighty power of his Savior. Only by doing so did he come to faith. It cannot be different for us. We all sit in our little boats, thinking we are safe and sound, but those boats rock and they sink. They get swamped, and they turn over. The stock market fails us. Our houses burn down or blow away. Health fails. A loved one dies, or we find ourselves abandoned or divorced. Friends turn on us. We lose a job. We sit in our boats, and Jesus walks by, and he invites us to get out, because faith does not mean sitting and waiting. It means getting free from everything except God alone, knowing and acting as if only God can save, protect, and get us home.
The road to faith passes through obedience to the call of Jesus: “Come.” The only possible way to be a disciple of Jesus is to take the step. We saw it last week when they were willing to find out what Jesus could do with what they had. We see it again this week as we discover what Jesus can do if we are willing to get out of the boat, so to speak. The miracle at which we marvel this week is what God can do for those who will get out of their boats and reach out to the one who calls. The miracle is what happens to Peter or anyone for that matter who imagines that they are losing it all, and will reach and out and cry out: Lord, Save me.”
The story ends with the winds dying down and the disciples bowing down before Jesus in adoration. In a historical sense, this does not make sense because Jesus has not yet risen from the dead. The title: “Son of God” could not have occurred to them yet, but Matthew gives us a glimpse of the end of time. Those who trust in God rather than their boats, those who reach out after responding to their call, are at peace. They shall be found in the Heavenly Kingdom.
None of us will ever know what God can do for us much less know what the Kingdom of Heaven is like unless we get out of the boat and go toward the Son of God.