After the miracle where Jesus fed a multitude of people, he made his disciples ride a boat and tells them that he’ll meet them on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Which was in Capernaum. Evening soon came and the boat that the disciples were on was being tossed about by the waves and strong winds. Then they saw what they first believed was a ghost walking towards them on water who turns out to be the Lord himself. Jesus, witnessed by his disciples, was walking on water!
People wonder why was there a need for such occurrence. Why didn’t Jesus just joined his disciples on the boat? Why must there be a scene of power? We also often point out Peter’s failed faith in this episode and how it backs up the notion that we too need Jesus to save us in times of trouble for we lack faith as well. But what most readers don’t usually realize is that this moment illuminates the fact that Jesus is God. It’s not too farfetched to see this fact if you know where to look.
The God of the old who walks on seas
In the Old Testament, the sea has been mentioned a few times as God’s “pathway” (Psalm 77:20) where he alone “treads upon” (Job 9:8). Therefor the image of a lone God walking on sea water is reserved only to him. Two important chapters in the old testament that will shed light on this claim is Psalms 77 and Job 9, which we shall get back to later.
Although Peter was also able to walk on water for a moment when he was invited by Christ out of the boat, let us be reminded that Peter was only able to do so by Christ’s invitation. If ordinary people were worthy enough to walk on water, then there would have been no need for God to split the Red Sea for Moses and the Israelites to cross it. They would have just walked right on it. To stress out Peter’s case: A big faith was needed, but only after Christ’s invitation.
Signs of God’s presence
When Peter got off the boat to come closer to Jesus, he became terrified with the things he saw around him. Strong winds is what mainly scared him. He was frightened by the powerful display of a chaotic environment. But what he didn’t realize, probably because of his lack of faith, was that this was an actual sign of the presence of God.
Strong winds, earthquakes, thunder and lightning, the bible is littered with this chaotic moments of nature each time God is present. In Genesis, before God said “Let there be light”, a mighty wind swept over the waters of a formless earth. In Exodus, when God came down to Mount Sinai to speak with Moses, the mountain trembled violently and God spoke with thunder. In 1 Kings, when the Lord was passing by, Elijah witnessed strong winds that rendered the mountains and crushed rocks.
To be more obvious with scripture, Job 9 shows how God moves mountains and the earth whenever he commands it and in Psalm 77 how the waters lash about and tremble even in their very depths.
Nature trembles with fear when God is present. If nature was a person, it would be shivering and prostrating itself before God.
Do Not Be Afraid!
When the disciples have mistaken Jesus for a ghost, Jesus tells them “take courage, it is I, do not be afraid”. Jesus reminds us that we are safe with him, that nothing around us is worth being afraid of. Sure it is natural for us to be distracted and worried by the things that seems to be problematic, but perhaps we need to remind ourselves that these things that are chaotic in our lives might well mean that God is also present with us. And we only need to recognize him in that moment.
We can use these moments of tribulations to seek Christ as our savior and not as a some kind of a “ghost” anymore. The whirlwinds of our lives might be an invitation to strengthen our faith, not by the promise of safety, but by the very image of God’s power over nature.