The other night I read Matthew 14:22-36 to my step-daughter as a bed-time story. Don’t worry, she got a “normal” bed-time story from Dad earlier in the evening. I think it was “The Pink Planet.” Which if you haven’t read, I recomend. It’s fabulous.*
This story (Matthew 14, not “The Pink Planet”) has a special place in my theological heart because it was the text that I got to explore in my preaching class when I was at Regent College. I lived in that text for several months, and teased apart every word in that passage in umpteen translations and in the Greek.** What was most amazing to me was that Jesus would respond to Peter the way He does – by inviting him to do the (normally) impossible. Jesus doesn’t reprimand Peter for making an audacious (borderline rude?) request. He doesn’t laugh and tell Peter he is being a dork. Instead, He graciously and unexpectedly invites him to walk on the water with Him.
This story is one of those that many theologians put in the “epiphany” category – stories that reveal who Jesus is.
If this is a story like the other epiphany miracle stories, which show Jesus’ power over the physical world and thus, his divine status, his “son-of-God-ness,” then why on earth invite Peter to be a part of that? Isn’t that just a Jesus thing? Jesus never invites the disciples to lay hands on the sick with him. Although of course He does invite them to heal the sick. Neither does Jesus have the disciples hold up their arms with Him and still a storm. They didn’t preach in the round.
I asked B if she had and idea about why Jesus would get Peter out on the water. She said she didn’t know. But when I asked her how she thought Jesus did it, she answered immediately, “He used His power on Peter.”
He used His power on Peter. I know part of her response is colored by lots of Disney and Narnia, but she was spot on. He did use His power on Peter.
I think that Jesus did this audacious thing to help us see that this is the extent to which we can be used by Him. And as He pours out His power on us, in the here and now, we can reveal – in tiny epiphanies – who Jesus is.
Yup, us punks, those of us who call ourselves disciples. I won’t speak for anyone but myself, but as a disciple, I mess up plenty, and I often make crazy-ass requests of the Saviour while stuck on a boat and freaking out in the middle of a storm. Somehow, Jesus thinks Peter is worth sharing an epiphany with, and somehow He thinks we are all worth saving and inviting. Because we are invited to be a part of revealing who He is and what He can do. Crazy, but true.
There is more to this story, especially Peter’s trepidation (much like any disciple’s trepidation) and Jesus’ response to his fear, but that is stuff for another post.
*especially if you happen to cohabitate with someone who loooooves pink. And if that person is female and under the age of, say, nine.
**don’t be too impressed. My Greek is not all that great. I require mucho help from books and computer programs and several painful hours to glean a single insight.