9 August 2020Matthew 14:22-33
“ … immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’” (v. 27)
Psalm: Psalm 85
It may seem odd that, previously, the disciples had wanted to send the people away to find food but Jesus insisted on feeding them; then, as soon as they had finished eating, Jesus insists that everyone leaves immediately (verse 22). The Gospel of John's account of the miraculous feeding may explain the issue. So amazed was the crowd at what had happened that they wanted to take Jesus and make him king (John 6:15).
If Jesus had crossed over to flee Herod then he wouldn't want to do anything to suggest he was leading a revolution. In Jewish history Moses had led the people through the wilderness until they reached the edge of the Promised Land. During this time they ate bread from heaven (Exodus 16:1-5). Now, here was Jesus providing bread in the wilderness for people to eat. He wanted to be clear that he was not going to be like Moses and lead them against the Romans.
Maybe the disciples were getting caught up with the crowd and that is why Jesus sent them away first. But whilst travelling across the lake a storm blew up as is common on the Sea of Galilee. Despite all they had just witnessed the disciples were still gripped by fear.
It is possible this account was included for the benefit of those early disciples. Jesus was no longer physically present and they felt buffeted in the storms of persecution. It might have seemed as though Jesus had abandoned them. It is worth noting that the disciples were not crossing the lake to escape anything (as Jonah did in the Old Testament in Jonah 1), but rather because they were following the instructions of their master.
In the midst of their fear, Jesus appeared. As with the miraculous feeding we needn't waste time trying to work out how. But in their darkest time the disciples suddenly realised that Jesus was present. At first this realisation scared them, but then he spoke. "It is I" could be translated I AM, the divine name for God given to Moses (Exodus 3:13-14). With these words Jesus sought to reassure them and offer comfort.
- How have you heard the voice of Jesus during stormy times?
- Are there occasions today when the Church risks getting caught up in the crowd and losing sight of who Jesus is? What might they be? And how might the Church guard against this?