Summary: Drenched, cold and fearing for their lives, they bucket the water out the boat as figure comes towards them. Is it the ghost of a drowned sailor....?
“in the beginning when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was a formless chaos and darkness covered the face of deep, while the Spirit/breath/wind of God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said “let there be light” (Genesis 1:1)
So begins the first creation story. Genesis has two (count them) two different creation stories - the first one based on a Babylonian story of creation and the second based on the Persian story of creation - but both edited to take out the many Gods and leave just one God.
In the Babylonian myth the Sea Dragon of Chaos is defeated and out of that defeat creation is born. The compiler of Genesis isn’t quite so keen on seeing chaos as a dragon - as a rival God - but the compiler of Genesis keeps in the waters of chaos. Creation is about the bringing of order out of chaos,of things out of nothingness, of land out of water.
Step onto a boat - feel it swaying under you as the storm builds up - feel your face turning green - and you will feel how the Isrealites felt as they looked on the Ocean. The ancient Isrealites were a nation of land lubbers.
Genesis may have edited out a reference to the sea monster of Chaos - but the Psalms, Job and Isaiah - all keep reference to this monster that is Chaos that is the Ocean, that is Leviathan.
And so the disciples are rowing in a boat. They are Gallileans - more intrepid than their southern cousins they have settled a centur or so back in a land previously pagan, a land surrounding the inland Sea of Gallilee. Yet even though they fish, they keep their Judean fear of the Storm, fear of the Tempest, fear of the Ocean.
Now it doesn’t take much to make me turn green - some people choose to go on cruises for their holidays - for me the very thought of crossing the bay of Biscay makes me turn green. But Jesus’s disciples are hardened Gallilean fishermen. It takes a real storm to make them fear - and this was a real storm. verse 24 “by this time, the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land for the wind was against them”.
If you have a picture in your mind of a serene Jesus walking across water, then take that picture [mime it] and tear it up. The rain is soaking them. The disciples are cold and very wet. The boat is going like this and like that. They are bucketing out the water with all they have got. The boat is going like this and like that and they think they are going under. It’s a thunder storm. It’s dark! They can’t see clearly at all… and they see a figure coming towards them. Is it the ghost of a drowned sailor? Or is it Leviathan herself, the terrible dragon of the deep?.
“Do not be afraid!” - we read the bible so serenely, [slow voice down…]
...so calmly …
that it must seem odd to us when Angels and Jesus alike constantly tell people “Don’t be afraid”.
The bible is not weet plain chant but something with full percussion … perhaps ride of the Valkyries or 1812 Overture with real canon. There are moments that are meant to be parental guidance.
Moments when you are meant to NEED someone to say “Do not be afraid”
You are soaked to the skin, you think you are going to drown and there is something coming towards you over the water … no wonder he says do not be afraid.
Skip a bit of the passage - we’ll come back to it. But for now lets go to the end of the Story
“When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. and those in the boat worshipped him saying ‘truly you are the son of God’” (Matt 14:33)
Like the other story where Jesus sleeps in a boat - sleeps like a baby while the storm rages until they shake him awake expecting him to help bale out the water - but instead he speaks and the waves calm.
So here he steps into the boat and the waves calm. Coincidence? not in the disciples mind. He steps into the boat - and the waves calm.
There is only one person who can control the uncontrolable like that, who can defeat the death that is the Ocean Storm like that.
Isaiah 27:1 “In that day the Lord with his hard and great and strong sword will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, Leviathan the twisting serpent, and he will slay the dragon that is in the sea.”
Genesis 1:1 “the earth was a formless chaos and darkness covered the face of deep, while the Spirit/breath/wind of God swept over the face of the waters. Then God said “let there be light”