Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost

by Bear Wade

Buffeted by Wind, Waves and Water
Matthew 14: 22-33
Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost
analysis by Ed Schroeder

Marie and I, d.v., will be out of town from Aug. 8 to 28. Volunteers are welcome for suppling some Sab. theol. for the next three weekends, Aug. 10, 27, 24–and for Saturdays thereafter. Of the 23 Sabb-theol pieces sent so far, three have come from three of you. Might we have more?
I hope so. Ed

A Crossings matrix of the Gospel appointed for August 11, 1996 (Eleventh Sunday after Pentecost) in the Revised Common Lectionary: Matthew 14: 22-33–Jesus Walking on the Water .

Preliminary considerations–

  1. An earlier pericope in Matthew (8: 23-27)–also found in Mark and Luke–has presented Jesus on the stormy sea of Galilee with the disciples. But on that occasion Jesus was already in the boat when they left shore. As the storm arises Jesus has fallen asleep. The disciples awaken him. He rebukes the storm. Their response is amazement that the winds and waves obey him, and perplexity at “what kind of man is this?”
  2. Today’s text, Matt. 14: 22-33, follows the feeding of the 5000 in Matthew, Mark, and John, but is absent in Luke. Here the focus is on 1) the disciples buffeted by the wind and waves and terrified on seeing a ghostly Jesus [“phantasma” in Greek] coming across the water, 2) Peter’s faith/unfaith in walking on the water himself at Jesus’ invitation, and 3) their concluding worshipful confession: “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
  3. Important here is to recall the Biblical perspective of the lethal dark side of water, especially the massed waters of sea and ocean. Recall the ominous “deep” of Genesis 1. Although the Spirit of God in Gen. 1 (Ruach: wind-power) blows above the face of the deep (i.e., the deep is no threat to God), and although God later separates the water into controllable locales, the water is a constant threat to humankind. If God relaxes his control over it, it becomes lethal again. Recall the flood. Recall the exodus. Israel is saved when God’s breath (wind) blows the water away for their escape from Egypt. But the water becomes deadly again for Pharaoh’s charioteers when God stops blowing. Then the waters become the agent of death for Israel’s enemy.
  4. Some years ago Crossings offered semester-long 3-credit courses in St. Louis. One of them was “Crossings from Matthew: Relocating Authority.” In that course we tracked Jesus’ upside-down kind of authority [“exousia” in Greek] as Matt. presents it. In Matt. 20:20-28 Jesus contrasts his authority with that of the Gentile world, and specifically “locates” it in his “giving his life as a ransom for many” (v.28). That cross-connection of his authority is confirmed in Jesus’ last words in Matthew’s gospel, Matt. 28:18. His cross and resurrection give him “all authority in heaven and on earth.” We need to keep this in mind as we program this pericope of Jesus’ authority over wind, wave, and water. Those three “w’s” and his authority over them is of a piece with his authority over death, and that authority he has, not merely because he is Son of God, but the Son of God who went the route of Good Friday and Easter.


Buffeted by Wind, Waves and Water: the Signals of Death’s World-Wide Web

D-1 Surface Symptoms: Daily Life Encounters With the www of Death. Our common experience of being buffeted by the waves, having the wind against us, with the water always there waiting for us. Threatening powers over which we finally have no control.

D-2 The Deeper Infection: Fear-full, Faith-empty Vis-a-vis the www. Upon “seeing the wind” even disciples of Jesus, “give in to fear and begin to sink.” Jesus’ word for Peter, “little-faith,” amounts finally to no faith at all, no faith at all in Jesus who bade him “come” and his authority to cope with the www that threatens Peter.

D-3 The Deepest Dimension: The www of Death Wins. Vulnerable to Death, Perishing without being healed. Not just the maxi-death at our life’s end, but the “little” deaths that flow over us like water long before we get to life’s end. Water, the power to destroy in Biblical imagery, overwhelms the disciple who may indeed cry “save me!” but has no “Lord” big enough to cope with the power of the www, and does not trust the Lord (see D-2) who does indeed have the authority for just such saving.

Jesus Gains Authority over Death’s Web–and Hands it On to his Disciples

P-3 (Healing for D-3) This Son of God in our Boat. His Authority over the WWW. The Son of God comes into our hazardous boat, gets entangled in our www–all the way to the cross. Jesus buffeted with our waves, the wind against us also against him, and finally also entangled with our death. Jesus succumbs to and thereby conquers death’s web. Thus he now has authority over the www of death that entangles us.

P-2 (Healing for D-2) Faith-full, Fear-Empty Vis-a-vis the Web of Death. “Seeing” Jesus’ words: “Come. Take Courage.” Faith replacing fear. Trusting Jesus as the Web-Master, the one with authority over our own web of death. Such faith places us in the same boat with Jesus. Cf. v.36 where touching Jesus = being healed.

P-3 (Healing for D-1) Walking on Water: Coping with Death in Daily Life–and Surviving. Capitalizing on being in the same boat with Jesus. Even walking on water = treading on the power of death in daily life. Living by faith in daily life. “Seeing” Jesus, death’s master, and not “seeing” (being transfixed by) the waves and winds of everyday lived experience that do indeed buffet. And, when nevertheless sinking, calling for help from The Authority.


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