Matthew 14:22-33 might be a Victor Meldrew story – “I don’t believe it!”, if it wasn’t for the fact that some of those who were there and told it were experienced fishermen. Jesus walking on the waters of Lake Galilee made a big impact on a group, some of whom had worked it for years.
In telling the story, Matthew is making clear the power Jesus has, even over “natural forces”. It reinforces the same point from the Feeding of the 5,000 (last week’s reading, if we hadn’t replaced it with the Transfiguration for 6th August). Both raise questions for the modern reader – but the ancient reader must also have wondered “How?”. Not having a clear answer should not lead us to the mistake of saying, “That can’t happen!”. I have the same response to some modern physics, which I also don’t understand clearly.
So we are invited to reflect, in a culture where Jesus is often seen as a “good man” or a “teacher of spirituality”, on Jesus in Charge, Jesus with the creator’s power over creation. The power Jesus holds is difficult for us to get our heads round. He refuses to coerce people, even to ensure his own comfort or survival, yet is able to do awesome things.
But that isn’t the only significance of this story. Peter goes for a walk. Not for long – but long enough to discover that with Jesus’ permission he can walk on water, but that he frightens easily and needs help. (He gets help, and everything is all right).
It is not just about Peter. Discipleship is learning. One part is to know something about how special and important Jesus is, because that is basic to our understanding, and also our motivation to live as Christians. The other part is to learn how we are going to do what Jesus does. [compare Mark 16:17-18]. We may not be as good at it. We need confidence, but confidence in Jesus and not in our own ability. But as disciples we are learners, both of theory (about Jesus) and practice (“walking on water” – whatever form that may take for us).
With a story like that, why is it so easy to be sure there is nothing we need to do, or even nothing we can do?
[There is also a dialogue sketch on this passage – see http://www.andrewknight.org.uk/dialogue-sketches/index-of-dialogue-sketches/matthew-1422-33/ ]