Matthew 14:22-33

Pentecost 12; Proper 14 of Year A

Matthew 14:22-33 –  Jesus, and Peter, walk on the lake.

Questions, for a group study: (take them in any order, and don’t feel obliged to answer them all)
1. Can we take this story at face value? What is the attitude of the writer, and how seriously must we take that? What did the disciples think, and how knowledgeable were they?
2 What does this tell us about Jesus? What provoked the reaction of v33? How would the disciples attitudes have changed after this? Why did that matter, and why does this story appear at this point in the gospel?
3 What do we learn about Peter? Do his actions also tell us anything about discipleship, or failure?
4. Why do the disciples get a “fuller” view of Jesus than the crowds? Does this still happen?

When you have had your discussion, don’t try and put everything into the dialogue sketch you produce – go for the things you found interesting, helpful, or encouraging. Don’t forget that your minister/priest/leaders may want to read through the script before you read it in worship.

If you want a ready-made sketch to adapt or perform, or just to view as an example, then try this (and see how it comes out of the questions above)

Sketch for 3 voices, A, B and C. A is fairly straightforward and unreflective; B is more ready to think deeply; C is more sceptical and liberal.

A: That was a really scary story! I wonder how the disciples coped.

B Why scary? Nobody got hurt

A Scary because they thought Jesus was a ghost; then scary because he wasn’t a ghost but he was walking on the lake in the middle of the night; then scary because Peter tried it and got so far before he had to be rescued and helped back into the boat. Is that enough?

B If you put it like that, yes.

C Come on, don’t tell me you’re taking it all literally.

B I suppose you want to say it didn’t happen like that at all?

C Well, let’s say I need a lot of convincing that people can walk on water.

A But I should think the disciples did, too. After all, several of them were professional fishermen. They knew the Lake of Galilee, and they knew Jesus. If it had been any sort of trick, they’d have been onto it. Even if they had been suspicious, they wouldn’t have passed on the story like that. But it’s pretty clear that they were convinced, and so was Matthew.

B I’ve never seen anyone walk on water, but I have seen those films of men walking over burning embers. It shouldn’t be possible, but they do it. If Jesus could rise from the dead, and for that matter create the Universe, I don’t see a great problem in doing this. What I’m not so sure about is – why?. Why did Jesus do it, and why was it remembered?

A Didn’t Jesus just want to catch up with the disciples? – he’d been left on the far side of the lake without a boat.

C Hardly, after all, we don’t know any details of most of the journeys they took. Matthew is making a point here by telling the story, and by telling it at the time when some people have given up on Jesus, and he has just fed the 5,000.

A Obviously the disciples are impressed by Jesus – “Truly you are the Son of God!” they say in verse 33. Is that the sort of thing you mean?

C Yes, Matthew tells us this story, rather than some other one, so that we understand something important.

B Which would be about Jesus control over nature, something they might have worked out from the feeding of the 5,000, but which obviously hadn’t sunk in. Now they get another chance to realise that their leader and friend is very special indeed.

A But if they learn something about Jesus – something which is specially important when some of the crowds are giving up on him – Peter pushes it further.

B Good old Peter! He wants to be part of it, and for a moment he shares in what Jesus is doing.

A Until he notices the wind, loses his nerve, and has to be rescued.

B Which is all right because Jesus is there to grab him and get him back to the boat – there’s a picture of Christian life for you.

C Just a minute. What are you saying about Peter?

B That he is able to do what Jesus does, but he hasn’t learnt fully how to and has to be helped. He’s a learner at walking on water, as well as many other things. That’s what Christians are – learners, or disciples.

A So it’s OK for Peter to try, and to fail, because Jesus is there to keep him safe.

B And it’s important for disciples to learn by doing, not just talking about it and inventing theories.

C You’ve got a point there. If it hadn’t been for Peter, we’d have understood that Jesus was very special and different, but that might just have made him more remote – so unlike us that he was no encouragement. But because Peter was able to walk on the water like Jesus, just for a moment, we are meant to think that the wonderful things that Jesus could do are things we can share in doing with him? I’ll have to think about that some more.

B I think we all will. There’s a lot in this story. It’s about Jesus, who he is and what he can do.

A And it’s about Peter, what he can do as a follower of Jesus. He’s safe, even when he gets things wrong. And he has the courage to try. I think that’s encouraging, as well as a bit scary.

C I think perhaps it is about who we trust, as well as what we believe. Thanks for the chat, its been quite useful.

B we must do it again sometime.

(784 words – about 8 minutes)                (Click here to return to the Index of Sketches)