The Gospel According to Matthew – 2017.08.13
King of the God’s
First we must bear in mind that these events never happened.
This myth is a metaphor.
It is intended to communicate the idea that Jesus is not merely the Son of God, but the king of the gods. In it Jesus is depicted as master of the storm, and lord of the deep, like other God-Kings, in the Ancient Near East and Mediterranean region.
It is also intended to convey that the early church, represented by the person of Peter, was not entirely comfortable with this narrative, but set aside their fears and embraced it nonetheless.
The image of Jesus walking on water, abating the winds, mastering the weather, and calming the storm, is analogous to the triumph of Zeus over the sea monster Typhon, or Marduk over the forces of Chaos represented in the dragon Tiamat.
Jesus is depicted as triumphant over the same forces, walking over the water, just as Zeus stood atop the body of Typhon in victory.
In this metaphor Peter is the Church (Peter is always the church in Matthew’s Gospel), and the Church has been shaken by the death of Jesus.
Jesus has disappeared, and returns as a ghostly apparition. Peter moves toward the ghostly figure seeking to embrace it, but he is terrified and begins to lose heart.
At this moment in time, the Church do not know it can perpetrate a false narrative. Peter does not know if they can transform the life and death of his friend and teacher into the grandiose and spectacular narrative that the people who follow them are hungry for.
Ultimately Peter does embrace it, the church embraces it. The chaos that was shaking their movement in the wake of the crucifixion settles down. The alternate narrative is advanced, Jesus was not an ordinary man, he was the Son of God, he was Christ the King.
The church would survive, the storms would abate, if the people believed this above all other things.
Calming the Storm
Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. ‘It is a ghost’ they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, ‘Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.’ It was Peter who answered. ‘Lord,’ he said ‘if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.’ ‘Come’ said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. ‘Lord! Save me!’ he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. ‘Man of little faith,’ he said ‘why did you doubt?’ And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, ‘Truly, you are the Son of God.’
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time