Walking on water: truth and impossibility: Matthew 14:22-36

It was in the small hours of the morning that Jesus finished his prayer and came walking across the Lake Genessaret toward his disciples as, obedient to his instruction, they rowed their way across the lake. They had been rowing for some time and it was hard work against the wind. In John’s gospel we discover that they had rowed about twenty five to thirty furlongs-four to five kilometres-against the wind. So they were well on the way to their destination, but must have been tired.
I believe that Jesus had the freedom to disregard the ‘laws’ of nature and simply walk across the lake. Such freedom is at the heart of the spiritual meaning of this miracle. Jesus wanted the disciples to see that his benefits were spiritual and not simply material.
This story is in a section of Matthew that is about the instruction of the disciples concerning their mission. It is a story of miracles, the seemingly impossible that can be done if there is faith.
Earlier, Jesus had taken the five loaves and two fish and used them to feed a large crowd of people. That miracle had aroused popular enthusiasm rather than spiritual faith. The crowd was ready to accept Jesus as a prophet like Moses who had given them food to eat in the desert. They saw, too, that Jesus had healing powers. They were yet to understand that he could touch them in their spirits.
Walking on water was beyond the disciples’ experience; at first they feared they were seeing a ghost. Jesus was teaching his disciples, and teaching us, that their destiny, and ours, doesn’t depend simply on circumstances like the wind and the waves. We can see here and elsewhere in Matthew that the disciples did not come to understand this very quickly or easily.
Jesus once again was showing them that that the natural world, its rules, and its deepest fears, could be overcome. Faith does not rely on the material, the earthly, the objective, or even the logical. Science would say that no one could walk on the sea. But this story insists that Jesus did.
From humanity’s earliest days on earth, water and journeys over water, have been part of our understanding of our place in the world. Ancient legends tell of perilous journeys on water-the Norsemen, the Greek Argonauts-always subject to the fates and the vicissitudes of wind and tide.
The Christian message differs from these legends. We can and must move beyond the world we know and its restrictions and enter into freedom. The Gospels speak of the coming of Jesus, his death, and resurrection and how these events changed what we might once have believed were the "facts".
Just think of the freedom that Jesus had, because his spirit was not overruled by logic, by laws of nature, by objective reasoning. Feeding thousands from one boy’s lunch is impossible. Walking on water is impossible. Yet we are told that Jesus did these things.
Hebrews 11 says that faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see. That is, our faith rests in spiritual things that cannot be seen physically, especially God’s own self, who is Spirit.
Peter faltered and began to sink when as he became more influence by what he could see, the wind and the waves, than by Jesus’ command. Peter did not lack courage. He did step out of the boat onto the water, at night, in heavy weather-more than most of us would dare to do. But Peter did not yet have the spiritual eyesight to rely on something he could not see.
"We walk by faith and not by sight." That is why Jesus asked Peter, gently I suspect, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?"
Jesus demonstrated power over the physical realm. The freedom he has given us comes not from reason or natural laws. This does not mean that we should disrespect lawful principles. Jesus was plainly on the side of justice for the captive and the downtrodden. But human freedom is limited to the humanly possible. There is never complete freedom in social, political and economic life. True freedom is spiritual and comes from the Spirit.
We cannot escape from the fact that the Christian life is in some ways mystical and that there are mysteries. Paul described himself as a "servant of Christ and steward of God’s mysteries." Yet Paul expected that his readers would understand the mysteries of Christ, by the Spirit. Anselm of Canterbury famously described theology as "faith seeking understanding,", not, we note, faith relying on understanding. We need to be able to accept a certain amount of mystery.
Feeding thousands from one boy’s lunch is impossible. Walking on water is impossible. Resurrection is impossible. Eternal life is impossible. It is in the truth of the impossible that God brings freedom. "You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free."”