Summary: The Power of Faith
Dear Brothers & Sisters in Christ Jesus,
I read quite recently that someone has purchased the right to allow tourists to walk on the Sea of Galilee. No, they have not also purchased the rights to the law of gravity. Instead, what they intend to do is build a plexiglass walkway hundreds of feet out into the Sea of Galilee exactly at water level. To onlookers, the person will appear to be walking on water. And even for the person themselves, I assume that the plexiglass will allow them to look down and look through it, allowing them to feel as though they are walking on water.
I don’t know how much it will cost tourists for this privilege, but I suspect that the market will bear a fairly high price for it. I’m sure that tour operators will start including it in their brochures. “Day 5: See the site of the Sermon on the Mount. Visit Capernaum. Walk on water at the Sea of Galilee.” There will be many people who will want to do what Peter did, many people who will want to “walk on water.”
Today, then I offer you an incredible bargain! I am going to save you hundreds of dollars! Forget the passport, forget the airfare, forget the 5 or 10 or 20 shekels that it will probably cost to get on the plexiglass. Today I’ll teach you how to walk on water--for free. Yes, you can walk on water! You can do so by imitating the boldness of Peter, by learning from his weakness, and by relying on Peter’s Savior.
The details of the story are fairly few, and they are fairly familiar. Jesus had just finished feeding 5000 men--plus women and children. Far from having the intended result--that the miracle would back up the message he had been preaching--the people instead wanted to make Jesus their earthly king.
Jesus dealt with this problem in two ways. First, he makes his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him. By doing so, they would be removed from temptation to join in and buy into the idea of Jesus as an earthly king.
Secondly, he goes up on a mountainside by himself to pray. As a human, the idea of being a king would have been a temptation for Jesus. In fact, Satan himself had used a very similar temptation when he offered Jesus all the kingdoms of the world in exchange for worshiping him. Therefore Jesus spent some time alone with his Father, probably praying for strength for himself--and also that the Holy Spirit strengthen faith in the disciples and create faith in the crowds who had seen the miracles but not really heard the message.
But St Matthew tells us, “during the fourth watch of the night” (sometime after 3 AM) that Jesus went out on the water to them. It was dark out, the sea was choppy, the disciples’ nerves were all probably a little frayed from battling the storm all night, and so when they saw Jesus, they thought they were seeing a ghost. Popular Jewish superstition held that the appearance of spirits during the night brought disaster--very possibly death. While the disciples had faith in Jesus, they weren’t immune from the superstitions they grew up with and so they cry out in fear.