Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. 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. 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.”
(From the Daily Office Lectionary – Matthew 14:22-27 – June 8, 2012)
The writer of the Gospel according to Matthew may have intended this story to show Jesus’ power over nature underscoring his divinity, or at least his status as a major prophet. But I have often thought it might be considered from an allegorical perspective, as well. ~ As Jesus walks upon the waters, he transcends that which would overwhelm him; the physical act represents the indispensable gift of grace, the ability to rise above the negative elements and events of one’s time. His defiance of the natural order symbolizes his life lived according to standards higher than any human code of conduct; his reaching out to Peter and inviting him to do the same demonstrates the extending of grace to others. ~ Madeleine L’Engle once wrote, “Peter was able to walk on the water until he remembered he didn’t know how.” The hand of grace extended to us is what gives us the ability to set aside the memory of not knowing how, the ability to rise above the flood that would otherwise inundate us. ~ Creedence Clearwater Revival sang a song entitled Walk on the Water in which the singer tells of seeing a man walking on the water of the river near his home, a man calling out his name and saying “Do not be afraid.” The singer’s reaction is exactly the wrong one! “I swear I’ll never leave my home again . . . I don’t want to go; I don’t want to go. No, no, no, no. I don’t want to go.” ~ Staying at home, cowering in fear, is simply not an option. The only option is to seize the hand of grace and forget that we don’t know how to walk on the water.