Training Them

From Commentary on Matthew (390)

When the disciples saw Jesus walking on the sea they were troubled, saying, “It is a spirit,” and they cried out for fear….

Christ did not remove the darkness, nor straightway make himself manifest, training them, as I said, by the continuance of these fears, and instructing them to be ready to endure. This he did in the case of Job also. For when God was on the point of removing the terror and the temptation, then he allowed the end to grow more grievous. I do not mean for his children’s death, or the words of his wife, but because of the reproaches, both of his servants and of his friends. And when God was about to rescue Jacob from his affliction in the strange land, he allowed Job’s trouble to be awakened and aggravated, in that his father-in-law first overtook him and threatened death, and then his brother coming immediately after, suspended over him the most extremes danger. For since one cannot be tempted both for a long time and severely, when the righteous are on the point of coming to an end of their conflicts, God, willing them to gain the more, enhances their struggles. Which God did in the case of Abraham too, appointing for his last conflict that about his child. For thus even things intolerable will be tolerable, when they are so brought upon us, as to have their removal near, at the very doors.

So did Christ at that time also, and did not reveal himself before they cried out. For the more intense their alarm, the more did they welcome his coming. Afterward when they had exclaimed, it is said, straightway Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Be of good cheer, it is I, be not afraid.” This word removed their fear, and caused them to take confidence. For as they knew Christ not by sight, because of his marvelous kind of motion, and because of the time, he makes himself manifest by his voice.

What then does Peter say, always ardent, and ever starting forward before the rest? “Lord, if it is you,” says he, “bid me come to you on the water.” … Do you see how great his ardor, how great his faith? Yet surely Peter is hereby often in danger, by seeking things beyond his measure. For so here too he required an exceedingly great thing, for love only, not for display. For neither did he say, “bid me walk on the water,” but what? “Bid me come unto you.” For none so loved Jesus.

This he did also after the resurrection. He endured not to come with the others, but leapt forward (John 21:7) And not love only, but faith also does he display. For he not only believed that Christ was able himself to walk on the sea, but that he could lead upon it others also, and Peter longs to be quickly near him. And Christ said, “Come.” And when Peter had come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, and came to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, Peter was afraid. And beginning to sink, he cried, saying, “Lord, save me”. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand and caught him, and says unto him, “O you of little faith, wherefore did you doubt?” … As when a nestling has come out of the nest before the time, and is on the point of falling, its mother bears it on her wings, and brings it back to the nest, so too did Christ. And when they had come into the ship, then the wind ceased.

Before this, they had said, “What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!” (Matt. 8:27). Now it is not so. For those in the ship, it is said, came and worshipped him, saying, “truly, you are Son of God.” Do you see, how by degrees Christ was leading them all higher and higher? For both by his walking on the sea, and by his commanding another to do so, and preserving him in jeopardy, their faith was increased greatly.

St. John Chrysostom (ca. 347-407) was Archbishop of Constantinople, and one of the greatest preachers of his era. He is traditionally counted among the Four Great Doctors of the Eastern Church. His Commentary on Matthew is based on sermons preached during his priestly ministry in Antioch.His feast day is September 13.


Online Archives