“Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone . . .” (Matthew 14:22 – 23)
Last week’s gospel passage was a “big reveal” for Jesus. A large group of people – five thousand men plus women and children the gospel tells us – saw what a prayerful Jesus was capable of. Maybe the experience drained him and he needed to rejuvenate himself. Or maybe he did not want to answer a lot of questions as to what happened there with the two loaves of bread and five fish. I am not suggesting that Jesus was “running away” or was fearful. There is a difference between fleeing in fear & apprehension, and withdrawing to consider what has happened & what next steps should be. And maybe I did Elijah a disservice by assuming fear was his motivation.
Jesus withdrawal might have more similarities to what Paul was writing about. Leaving behind old ways of thinking that depended on the laws that Moses brought down from the mountain, and embracing a new idea and concept of righteousness. Is it hard for you to imagine, beloved reader, Jesus needing to ponder on what is best to do? If it were not for Jesus’ prayer in the garden of Gethsemane, I (and you maybe) would think that Jesus was “fearless” striding ahead without any doubt or hesitation. Maybe, just maybe, Jesus was not running “away” but towards the Divine to speak with the Lord God who had sent him.
“. . . . but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea.” (Verses 24 – 25)
What must have that night in prayer wrought in Jesus Christ?! The evening before needing to withdraw and process the event with the five thousand. Now, in the morning, calmly walking out on the rolling sea toward his disciples.
“But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.” (Verses 26 – 29)
Now it is the disciples turn to leave their fears behind and journey towards hope and the Divine. As is so typical, Peter does it in a dramatic way. Do you notice, beloved reader because I am sure you did/do, that Peter at first walks with the same ease.
“But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Verses 30 – 31)
But when he pays attention to his fears and takes his focus off of Jesus the Christ, he falters and sinks. What a metaphor for sinning – although I do not mean that Peter sinned. But when we take our eyes off the Divine, we tend to lose our way. But praise be to the Lord God, the Divine finds us and lifts us up again so that we might continue the journey towards hope in the Divine that does not fail us.
“When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Verses 32 – 33)
I have this mental picture, beloved readers, of this tiny little boat that the disciples are all crowded into. And in this small confined space Jesus the Christ steps in, and in such awe they prostrate themselves in worship. You see, when I think of corporate worship, think of large spaces with pews, altars, and such. To worship corporately in a small space seems hard to envision. In my defense, the Greek word used does mean prostrate in worship. Maybe I have to re-image it as a bigger boat.
When I started this series of scripture for the week, I did not intend for it to be a sustained theme. But it just seems to have turned out that way. It is a good motif, though, for our current times. Letting our fears drop away and focusing on the Divine, and seeking our hope there. It excites and intrigues me to see how the Psalm passage might fit into this. Be sure to find out tomorrow.
May the Lord God who bids us to cast aside all fear be with you, and may you find hope and peace under the Wing of the Divine! Shalom & Selah!