Text study for Matthew 14:22-33
Lectionary text for August 7, 2011
When our Gospel selection begins, “Immediately,” I wonder what happened just before we started reading.
First, Jesus learned that John the Baptist had been beheaded — and Jesus tried to get away to pray. But the crowds followed him and with the help of a few of his friends he fed the multitudes (last week’s Gospel).
After all that drama and excitement, I can’t say that I blame Jesus for immediately putting his disciples in a boat, dismissing the crowds and heading up the mountain.
As we now encounter the disciples in a boat being battered by the waves, we can imagine that it’s not just the boat that’s been battered. They all have had a rough time of it recently.
On top of it all, they see someone walking on the water. No wonder Peter asks for proof — “Command me to come to you on the water.” Maybe he has just had enough of the excitement. Or maybe he is getting a bit too confident and proud.
At best, it’s an ominous scene. If we were hearing the story for the first time, perhaps we would be nervous, too, as Peter puts first one tentative foot on the water and then another before going ker-sploosh!
Many times, I’ve read and preached this text painting Peter as the Rock that sinks so predictably. Peter becomes the disciple who is easiest to point to, shaking our heads in disbelief that he would do or say “that.” Because, of course, we would never do or say that! Right.
On that water so long ago, Peter took a risk and stepped out of the boat. Peter believed first before becoming afraid. Is our call to be more like Peter, taking a step away from a boat that’s battered (but that at least floats!) and having the bravado to command Jesus to call to us?
Or do we need to give up the notion that we can walk on water, admitting our fear and desperately calling, “Lord, save me!”
How does this text resonate with you? Do you need to step out more boldly with an almost too-proud faith that needs more humility and dependence on Jesus? Or, do you need to see Jesus reaching out for you as you flounder about on our own?
Either way, Jesus meets us in our need. Jesus reaches out to save us.
What lessons do you take from Peter? Are you stepping out right behind Peter, or are you huddled with the other disciples in the boat?
How do you connect this story with the feeding of the multitudes from last week? Does the abundance that we celebrate in the meal disappear when the storms batter our boat?
How can someone be too proud or too fearful in faith? How does Jesus bring humility or strength?