Homily on MATTHEW 14:22-34 — 9th Sunday of St Matthew
A Homily and a favourite Poem
“At that time, Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they entered the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.”
The Gospel writer presents us with a vivid scene on the Lake of Gennesaret. Peter sinking beneath the waves is a picture that resonates with our own condition when we are overcome with anxiety, guilt, sin, overwork, doubt and grief. We become immersed in the conditions that surround us, unable to focus on anything else. The waves seem to be too high and we begin to sink under the waves of pressure.
Peter may have had in mind the Psalm when in his panic and despair he cries out to Christ:
Save me, O God!
For the waters have come up to my neck.
2 I sink in deep mire,
Where there is no standing;
I have come into deep waters,
Where the floods overflow me.
We see that our Lord, after he had dismissed the crowds goes up into the hills to commune with His Father. After prayer he goes to the Lake of Galilee but His disciples had already gone fishing and it was dark, the fourth watch of the night,3.00 am.-6.00a.m. It is in the middle of the night when fear may overcome us. There was a strong wind that caused a storm on the waters. He walks on the water towards the disciples boat. His disciples thinks it is a ghost and they are terrified. We notice here how the storm outside, had entered into them and they cry out with fear. It is then when they were at their most vulnerable that Christ speaks His words of reassurance:
“Take heart, it is I, have no fear.”
When we find ourselves battered without and within by the storms of life then Christ will come to us bidding us to take courage and trust in Him.
Peter immediately responds:
“Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” The “if” signals a doubt in the mind of the apostle.
One word from our Lord,“Come!” So Peter jumps out of the boat, but he takes his eyes of faith from the Lord Jesus Christ and is more concerned about the surrounding turmoil and prevailing storm and begins to sink beneath the waves. This is precisely what often happens to us. We lose focus, we are distracted, we take our eyes from Him Who is the Lord over all Creation and we are embroiled, consumed, overwhelmed by the condition(s) in which we find ourselves.
Peter cries out: “Lord, save me!” and the Saviour does just that, despite his lack of faith, extending his arm for Peter to grasp. How speedily this vision takes us to the Icon of the Resurrection in which our extends His arms and brings Adam and Eve out from Hades. This is what Christ does for us, but we also can extend that saving “hand” of friendship, that word of comfort to others whose faith is weak, who feel lost; those that are sinking under the waves of anxiety. We see how Christ immediately comes to the rescue.
The miracle here is not that Our Lord Jesus walked upon water, but that His word and action is immediate towards His disciples! The One who made the Heavens and the Earth, the Sea and all that is therein, is Lord over all nature. He who multiplies five loaves and two fish to feed 5000 can walk upon the waters, can turn water into wine, can calm the storm, can cause a multitude of fish to be caught. The real miracle is that Christ knows our needs and responds to them immediately. He is with us always even unto the end of the age and His hand supports us and saves us now and unto eternal life.
Lord save us!
And when they entered the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Christ is indeed our Saviour and the Son of God
The poem “Footsteps in the Sand “so eloquently illustrates the nature of our loving and saving Lord Jesus Christ:
One night I dreamed a dream.
As I was walking along the beach with my Lord.
Across the dark sky flashed scenes from my life.
For each scene, I noticed two sets of footprints in the sand,
One belonging to me and one to my Lord.
After the last scene of my life flashed before me,
I looked back at the footprints in the sand.
I noticed that at many times along the path of my life,
especially at the very lowest and saddest times,
there was only one set of footprints.
This really troubled me, so I asked the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said once I decided to follow you,
You’d walk with me all the way.
But I noticed that during the saddest and most troublesome times of my life,
there was only one set of footprints.
I don’t understand why, when I needed You the most, You would leave me.”
He whispered, “My precious child, I love you and will never leave you
Never, ever, during your trials and testings.
When you saw only one set of footprints,
It was then that I carried you.”