In Matthew 14:22-34, we learn an important lesson about being Christ’s disciples.
In today’s Gospel, we see the disciples rowing against the howling wind. But the fact that they are going against the wind doesn’t mean they are headed in the wrong direction or that they are moving away from Christ. In this Gospel lesson, that raging wind is necessary for their encounter with Christ and for their understanding to grow.
We sense their and our powerlessness in the world – they are too far from the shore for help. The wind might capsize their boat and sink their mission. Not only are they being blasted by the wind but their faith is being buffeted by the winds of disbelief. There is more than one storm raging on that lake.
It might be piously inspiring if in the Gospel we were to see the disciples calmly praying through the storm. Not so in the Gospel. They are struggling against the storm and they are panicked and terrified. Jesus comes to them in the storm, walking on the raging sea. He doesn’t prevent the storm from happening. We find Him in the storm and there we are to be strengthened and comforted, calmed and guided in and through the storm. The values of the Kingdom of Heaven are so unworldly.
The Storms of life are many – violence, stress, financial, family, death, grief, personal struggles, temptations, passions, diseases. Christ still can be encountered in the storm. The storms are no less violent, but we can find God if we are looking and we can hold on to God just as Peter grasped the hand of Christ.
In the Orthodox Funeral service we sing: “Beholding the sea of life surging with the storms of temptations. And taking refuge in your calm haven I cry to you: Raise up my life from corruption O greatly merciful one.”
We are reminded that there are so many storms we have to face in life.
Jesus calls to us from the midst of the storm: “Take courage! Don’t be afraid! It is I” Can we hear Him despite the raging wind of the storm? Or are we of so little faith that all we hear is the roaring storm and can only imagine human solutions to worldly disasters?
We are Christ’s presence in this stormy world. In that storm we are to be present offering our hand to those who are drowning. God is not hidden in heaven, God is present in the midst of the storm. Besides, as the Scriptures show raging winds are not only threatening but can be useful:
At creation: “The earth was without form and void, and darkness was upon the face of the deep; and the Spirit/wind of God was moving over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)
In the great flood: But God remembered Noah and all the beasts and all the cattle that were with him in the ark. And God made a wind blow over the earth, and the waters subsided; (Genesis 8:1)
In Exodus 15:10 after Israel crosses the Red Sea, Moses describes God’s intervention to save Israel from the Egyptian army in these terms: You blew with Your wind, the sea covered them; they sank as lead in the mighty waters.
In Ezekiel 37:9, Ezekiel is given a vision of the resurrection and is told by God: “Prophesy to the breath, prophesy, son of man, and say to the breath, Thus says the Lord GOD: Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live.” When the wind blew the dead came back to life.
In the book of Jonah, it is the wind which prevents Jonah from running away from the Lord, from going the wrong way: But the LORD hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. (1:4)
In the Gospel we see Jesus showing His power over nature as He walks on the storm tossed waters. We see Peter, a disciple, being given power to imitate our Lord in the midst of the storm. And we see how we as disciples are dependent on Christ even when empowered by Him.
Peter asked permission to walk on the water. Christ responds not with an invitation but with a command: “Come!” Jesus orders Peter to walk on the water! As Peter walks on the water he and the other disciples are amazed and edified as they learn to what extent they can share in the powers of God’s Son on earth. As soon as Peter loses sight of the fact that this miracle, that he is walking on water, is being done to edify him and the other disciples, he is sunk. No miracle, no power of God is given to us to elevate us above anyone else. All are given to edify us and everyone else. Nothing is between you and Christ alone. Everything is done in love for the benefit of all. Sinking in the storm sea brought Peter back to his senses and he turns again to Christ.
All miracles are done to the glory of God and for the upbuilding of one another. All miracles are done in order to increase faith and for the edification of all. Even Peter’s failure was a lesson for all in discipleship. Let all you do be done in love.
Fr Ted Bobosh