By Ken Asel
A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 14:22-36
22 Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 2 3And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25 And early in the morning he came walking toward them on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
34 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35 After the people of that place recognized him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to him, 36 and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
On my first visit to the Holy Land I remember being told that a few years back a man arranged to build a walkway from the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee out into the water. When asked about it, the man told a reporter he wanted all Christians to have the experience Jesus had by walking on the water. Alas, after some miscalculation of the water’s depth and a few years of drought, the eager pilgrims realized they were now on a pier.
We are called to follow Jesus; yet there’s so much we can’t presume. We follow him by invitation.
The apostles were sent away after the Baptizer’s death. They sailed away from the shore; Jesus was finally alone. It was time to grieve and to pray. Soon, though, a storm arose. Perhaps God himself shared his Son’s grief. But as the storm grew fiercer, Jesus, caring for his companions, comes walking across the tumultuous Sea of Galilee. “Do not be afraid,” he calls out to them, but they are afraid. Peter speaks up, asking to join the Holy One on the waves, but almost immediately after stepping into the lake, he begins to sink. “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” queries Jesus. Peter steps into the boat; the wind and the waves cease.
Perhaps Peter like many of us, became afraid for a host of reasons. Enthusiastically, he approached the Lord, tried to do as he did, but the reality of what he was doing quickly took over. Like Peter, our fears can prevent us from doing what God calls us to do or be. We can also forget that we have to rely on his power to follow in his steps. The boldness and wisdom of Christian witness can quickly be dissipated by our fears and limited notions of how following him should look — as it did for many European Christians during the Holocaust. We must step out, but never alone. He calls; we keep our eyes fixed on him.
(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming. Devvie and he have been married for 30 years and reside on the Front Range.
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