God has an amazing ability to surprise us, and confound our expectations. It is a manifestation of God’s love for us, a love which sees us change and grow. We see this clearly in our first reading this morning. Elijah the prophet has been experiencing a crisis of faith. He is being persecuted by Jezebel, the wicked idol-worshipping Queen of Israel, and filled with despair, it all seems pointless and hopeless. Then God comes to him not in the wind, nor the earthquake, but in a still, small voice. Quietly, God promises that He will be faithful to those who have not worshipped idols. No matter how bleak the situation may appear, there is a fundamental trust that God is in control, and that all will be well. Elijah has faith in God, and in the power of that faith he brings Israel back to worship God. But he needs to learn the lesson that God is the God of love and mercy, and not just zeal: Elijah has been a fierce defender of God, he has put the prophets of Baal to death on Mt Carmel, but he now must see God’s gentleness in the still small voice, not in the fire or the whirlwind . It is an important lesson of the spiritual life. The gentleness of God is shown to us first and foremost in the Incarnation, where God is born among us in the quiet of Bethlehem. Such lessons are hard to learn. The world values noise and activity, yet God works in ways which defy our expectations and surprise us.
‘Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.’
This morning’s Gospel carries straight on from the miraculous feeding which we heard last week, as Jesus goes to send the crowds back home, he sends disciples ahead so that they might be ready for Him.
‘And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray.’
Prayer is important, it is as important as the food we eat, the air we breathe, because it is about our relationship with God. Throughout the Gospels Jesus spends time alone, spends time close to the Father as this relationship is crucial. Where Jesus leads we should follow his example, and stay close to God in prayer. We tell God our hopes and fears and listen for Him to speak to us. Prayer precedes both the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fishes and the Walking on Water. When we start with prayer, we can let God do wonderful things.
When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them.
It’s getting dark, and the disciples are out in the middle of the lake, in deep water; will the boat sink, what can they do? The Sea of Galilee can be a treacherous place, and they are afraid. Then something happens.
And early in the morning he came walking towards them on the lake. But when the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear.
But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’
The disciples cannot believe that they are seeing Jesus, they think that it is a ghost, not a human being. But it is Jesus, and He encourages them, His presence can give them confidence. Once again, Jesus tells the disciples, and He tells us, ‘Paid ag ofni’ not to be afraid, not to fear the world, but to trust in Him.
Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’
As usual, Peter is the first to react, he takes the lead. Jesus speaks a single word to him, ‘Come’. He speaks it to each and every one of us as Christians, to come, to follow Him. We are called to be close to Jesus, and to live out our faith in our lives strengthened by prayer. Will we trust Jesus enough to follow Him? This is the challenge of the Christian life, our challenge to accept Jesus’ invitation and walk with Him.
“So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshipped him, saying, Truly you are the Son of God.’
Peter listens to what Jesus says, and obeys Him. Peter does something miraculous, something extraordinary: he walks on water, until he is distracted by the world around him, and becomes frightened. Likewise, in the power of God, we can do wonderful things, if we are not distracted by the cares of the world around us. If we listen to what Jesus tells us and do it.
But Peter becomes frightened; he starts to sink, as do we all when the cares of this world overwhelm us. His reaction is to cry ‘Lord, save me’ which Jesus does. Indeed, through Christ’s offering of himself upon the Cross Jesus saves each and every one of us, taking the sin of the world upon Himself so that we might be freed from sin, fear, and death. That same sacrifice will be made present, so that we the people of God, can be fed by God, to be strengthened to have life in Him, to be close to Him.
Peter is rebuked for lacking faith, he still has to learn to trust Jesus. We too need to trust God, to have faith in Him, so that He can be at work in us and through us.
Once the wind has died down, the disciples bow down and worship Jesus, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’ Our fulfilment is worship. This is what we are made for as humans and as Christians. We are to worship God, in our love and our prayer, so that our whole lives are an act of worship, drawing us ever closer to the source of life and love. So that all we say or think or do may proclaim God’s love and truth to the world, so that they may believe and give glory to God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit, to who whom be ascribed as is most right and just, all might, majesty, glory, dominion and power, now and forever. Amen.