Sunday, 13 August 2017

His storm as well as ours

In the Gospel today Jesus walks out across the water when he sees that the apostles are struggling in  a storm on the Sea of Galilee. However, the story takes on more depth when we remember what happens immediately before in St Matthew's gospel.  Jesus had just heard the news of John the Baptist's tragic death - John his relative, who had baptised him, who had pointed him out as the Lamb of God, who had handed his two disciples over to him, etc etc.
I think we sometimes underestimate the humanity of Jesus in our desire to remember his divinity. This bereavement must have been profound, so we are not surprised to find Jesus wanting to be on his own. But the crowds follow him, and this leads to him preachng to them and then feeding the 5,000+ who have gathered. Eventually, the crowd disperses and he and the disciples are left alone. This is where our Gospel starts, and we find him taking a second attempt at getting time on his own, as he sends the apostles off over the lake. 
So, Jesus takes several hours alone - or not alone, as this is time for communion with his Father in prayer. We shouldn't assume that all this was made oh-so-easy because "he is God after all". He was "like us in all things but sin" a prayer says. This wasn't part of the path laid out he may well have been thinking - why? why?  That's what we ask when faced with such tragedy. 
Perhaps it's after regaining  his composure after his emotional storm that he sees that it is now the apostles  - us - who are panicking in a storm. So he hastens to them taking the direct route across the water. I notice then that he doesn't wait to arrive at the boat and calm everything as he did on another occasion. Instead, he invites Peter out on to the stormy waters of life. Most often God does not take away our storms, especially not the man-made ones. By inviting Peter to join him, he tells us that we can do it - we can walk across the waters of life. We can do it as long as we keep our eyes on him. And even if we can't, he is there to hold us as he did Peter.
I think this had a huge impact on Peter. When he and John heal the cripple after Pentecost, Peter helps him up, perhaps holding him fast, just as Jesus had held him on that day when the storm blew and he, a fisherman from Galilee, walked on water.

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