Nineteenth Sunday of the Year (10 August)

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After John’s death Jesus took the boat to a lonely place, but the crowds followed, and because of his compassion he ministered to them. Then, after sending the disciples away to the other side in the boat he dismissed the crowd. Again he withdrew to pray, and remained there until the 4th watch, which is a few hours before daybreak.

By that time one might think that the disciples might have reached their destination, the other side of the lake, but the storm had prevented them. Sudden storms and squalls were not uncommon on the lake, and no doubt this was not the disciples’ first experience of such a storm, particularly those who were fisherman and had made their living fishing these same waters. They knew the dangers and the terror.

Then in the midst of their trouble Jesus came to them when they least expected it. They were on the water, and they knew they had left him on the land. Nevertheless, he came, came to them in their distress walking on the water. Did Jesus come to them on the water because they were distressed, or had he hoped to surprise them on the other side? After all they had the boat, so how was he to get to the other side unless by walking all the way around the lake. Whatever the reason we know that his initial appearance added to their confusion and distress. Because they were not expecting him, they did not recognize him, especially in this strange way. They cried out in terror at the image. Even when he spoke and told them to have no fear, they still had doubts and Peter asked for further proof.Sea-of-Galilee

When Peter needed further proof and asked to walk on the water, Jesus did not discourage him or tell him that was crazy. He simply told him “Come.” He helped Peter believe in the possible, and for a while Peter did just that. He took Jesus at his word and came to him on the water. It took a lot of faith on Peter’s part to do this. Here in the midst of a terrifying storm, Peter ventured out of the boat, the last scrap of safety he had and walked to Jesus on the water. Then he became overwhelmed again by the storm, and he began to sink. He lost his faith in the possible, but not in the power of Jesus to save him. He called to Jesus to save him, and Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him.

Like the disciples in the boat, it is not always easy to recognize Jesus when he comes to us in the midst of our storms. Like Peter, it is easy to become overwhelmed by our trouble and lose faith in the possible. But like the disciples in the boat and Peter on the water, we are reminded not to lose faith in the power of Jesus to rescue us.


Elizabeth Ferguson, OP

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