“Who is this man?” And our answer will be the same as the disciples, “Surely this is the son of God


 

As the Lord Jesus’ ministry is drawing close to the very last year of His life on this earth amongst His disciples, Jesus performs tremendous miracles like the feeding of the 5,000, and  today, we are going to see another significant miracle of our Lord. There’s going to be one major difference. Whereas the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 was done in broad daylight, in the midst of multitudes, including many who really did not believe the teaching of the Lord Jesus Christ. They wanted to be healed. They wanted to see His miracles. But they didn’t necessarily believe the claims that He was making, to being the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy, and the Messiah sent by God. But the miracle in today’s gospel was not done in broad daylight, but in the very pitch of night; and only with and for His own disciples who believed and trusted in Him.

This passage focuses our attention on the powerful, providential protection of the Lord Jesus Christ for His people. And because we are amazed at the lengths to which the Lord Jesus Christ will do to assure the safety of His people, we are bid to contemplate His person, and ask, “who is this man?”  And our answer will be the same as the disciples, “Surely this is the son of God

Turn to Matthew 14:22. “And immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side (Mark says to Bethsaida), while He sent the multitudes away.” What were the disciples to make of this? This was not what they were expecting.

Verse 23 tells us why Jesus did this. “And after He had sent the multitudes away, He went up the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, he was there alone.” Jesus had originally come to this lonely place to get away from the crowds. The crowds had followed Him and in His compassion He had both healed their sick and fed them, but now it was time to be alone and to pray. It was now dark and Jesus would spend uninterrupted time with His Father in prayer.

But the disciples were not aware of what was going on. Jesus had sent them ahead so that is what they were doing. They did not understand all that Jesus did, but they had learned to trust Him and follow His directions. The Scriptures do not say whether they knew that Jesus was praying, but even if they did they may not have thought much about it because they were quite occupied with another concern at the moment.

Verse 24, “But the boat was already many stadia away from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary.” They had left in a boat in the early evening to go back to Capernaum (John 6:17) which was only about five miles away by boat. It should have been an easy journey, especially since several of the disciples were experienced fishermen and were well acquainted with traveling that area by boat at night, but they have run into a storm. The Scriptures describe the storm as a strong one. The wind in contrary to them so they have been rowing hard and it is now late, verse 25 says it is the fourth watch, which would be between 3-6 a.m., and yet they have only traveled 25-30 stadia or about three to four miles. The waves are “battering” the boat. The Greek word here is also used to describe “torment,” “distress,” and “torture.” These are sizeable waves crashing against the boat.

So you now get the picture of what these twelve men where going through. How would you feel if you were in their situation? It is late at night and you are tired. You are perplexed by the events of the day. Things had been going so well earlier, but now you have been sent away and you find yourself rowing very hard but not going much of anywhere. The waves are crashing against your boat making it creak and groan with the strain – almost as loudly as you do as you strain in pulling on the oars trying to reach shore and safety. You are wet and cold and it seemed a long time ago that you ate of the bread and the fish. You are also alone for your leader has sent you ahead without Him. Now add another element of fear.

Verse 25, 26, “And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were frightened, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out for fear.”

They already had enough to be afraid of just with being in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in the middle of a storm, yet now we find them very frightened by something that they simply cannot comprehend. The word here for being fearful is a strong word with a literal meaning of being “shaken” and a figurative meaning of being “upset,” “thrown into confusion and alarm“. The men saw something that was beyond their ability to understand. It was Jesus coming to them in a manner that they would not have expected in their wildest dreams.

They had been sent ahead and they did not expect to see Jesus until sometime later after they had reached Capernaum. They did not expect Jesus to meet them in the middle of the Sea of Galilee in any case by any means, and even more so on such a stormy night. What would you think and how would you react if you had been in their situation?

How many times in life have we felt overwhelmed and wondered if we could meet all the expectations we or others have placed on us? Sickness, financial issues, family dynamics: all are examples in life which might overwhelm us at some time or other. Leave it to St. Peter in the gospel of today to help us see how we deal with these surging waves of reality! The gospel describes St. Peter impetuously getting out of the boat and attempting to walk on the Sea of Galilee toward Christ. Love moves toward the Beloved. With his human tendencies, Peter became fearful and distrusting, and began to sink. His beautiful plea, a prayer we all can use, saved him. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” and immediately Jesus stretched out His hand, caught him and said to him, “Oh you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31)

We might criticize St. Peter for doubting, but with his loving, guileless nature he had enough faith in Christ to to step out of the boat. The other apostles had remained in the boat. At certain times a responsible Christian life requires us to step out of our usual comfort and security. When this happens, let us remember St. Peter. Let us walk toward Christ with open arms and cry out, “Lord, save me!

 

 

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