Ninth Sunday After Pentecost
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22 Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, 24 but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. 26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, "It is a ghost!" And they cried out for fear. 27 But immediately he spoke to them, saying, "Take heart, it is I; have no fear." 28 And Peter answered him, "Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water." 29 He said, "Come." So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; 30 but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, "Lord, save me." 31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, "O man of little faith, why did you doubt?" 32 And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. 33 And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, "Truly you are the Son of God." 34 And when they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret.
22 Καὶ εὐθέως ἠνάγκασεν ὁ Ἰησοῦς τοὺς μαθητὰς αὐτοῦ ἐμβῆναι εἰς τὸ πλοῖον καὶ προάγειν αὐτὸν εἰς τὸ πέραν, ἕως οὗ ἀπολύσῃ τοὺς ὄχλους. 23 καὶ ἀπολύσας τοὺς ὄχλους ἀνέβη εἰς τὸ ὄρος κατ᾿ ἰδίαν προσεύξασθαι. ὀψίας δὲ γενομένης μόνος ἦν ἐκεῖ. 24 τὸ δὲ πλοῖον ἤδη μέσον τῆς θαλάσσης ἦν, βασανιζόμενον ὑπὸ τῶν κυμάτων· ἦν γὰρ ἐναντίος ὁ ἄνεμος. 25 τετάρτῃ δὲ φυλακῇ τῆς νυκτὸς ἀπῆλθε πρὸς αὐτοὺς ὁ Ἰησοῦς περιπατῶν ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης. 26 καὶ ἰδόντες αὐτὸν οἱ μαθηταὶ ἐπὶ τὴν θάλασσαν περιπατοῦντα ἐταράχθησαν λέγοντες ὅτι φάντασμά ἐστι, καὶ ἀπὸ τοῦ φόβου ἔκραξαν. 27 εὐθέως δὲ ἐλάλησεν αὐτοῖς ὁ Ἰησοῦς λέγων· θαρσεῖτε, ἐγώ εἰμι· μὴ φοβεῖσθε. 28 ἀποκριθεὶς δὲ αὐτῷ ὁ Πέτρος εἶπε· Κύριε, εἰ σὺ εἶ, κέλευσόν με πρός σε ἐλθεῖν ἐπὶ τὰ ὕδατα. 29 ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, ἐλθέ. καὶ καταβὰς ἀπὸ τοῦ πλοίου ὁ Πέτρος περιεπάτησεν ἐπὶ τὰ ὕδατα ἐλθεῖν πρὸς τὸν Ἰησοῦν. 30 βλέπων δὲ τὸν ἄνεμον ἰσχυρὸν ἐφοβήθη, καὶ ἀρξάμενος καταποντίζεσθαι ἔκραξε λέγων· Κύριε, σῶσόν με. 31 εὐθέως δὲ ὁ Ἰησοῦς ἐκτείνας τὴν χεῖρα ἐπελάβετο αὐτοῦ καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· ὀλιγόπιστε! εἰς τί ἐδίστασας; 32 καὶ ἐμβάντων αὐτῶν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον ἐκόπασεν ὁ ἄνεμος· 33 οἱ δὲ ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ ἐλθόντες προσεκύνησαν αὐτῷ λέγοντες· ἀληθῶς Θεοῦ υἱὸς εἶ. 34 Καὶ διαπεράσαντες ἦλθον εἰς τὴν γῆν Γεννησαρέτ.
Larger Thought Unit
See last week’s notes as this reading continues the theme. It must be noted that the disciples are commanded to feed the people in the wilderness. This will become their mission and the food, of course, will be the gospel of Jesus’ resurrection among the Gentiles. So it is not surprising that what Matthew presents us next with is a ‘theophany’ of the risen, conquering Lord. What God alone does in the Old Testament—trampling on the waters and walking in the recesses of the deep (Cf. Job 9:8; 38:16, Ps 77:19; Is 43:16)—Jesus does here in Matthew. That this episode is a true theophany is confirmed at the end of the story where the disciples worship the conquering Lord and confess that he is the Son of God. At the same time, with Peter begins a series of episodes where he will be in the forefront as the foremost disciple who will yet lack faith.
The disciples’ lack of understanding is, as usual in the gospels, exemplified in the attitude of Peter who, according to Galatians, misunderstood the gospel (Gal 2:1-14). The entire pericope is about reminding Peter and the disciples that the one gospel is to be preached to all, including the Gentiles, until the Lord comes. At his coming, the Lord will judge the disciples on whether or not they will have done so.
First, Jesus had to “force” (hvna,gkasen) his disciples to go to the other side of the sea of Galilee toward the territory of the Gentiles (see the comments on Mt 8:28-9:1), which shows that they were reticent to do so. Secondly, he sends them before him on this mission, and he will come “in the fourth watch of the night,” toward the morning (Mk 13:35) at the least expected moment in order to judge them. Thirdly, upon his coming, he will do so walking on the sea, i.e., in control of the Roman sea/empire and all who live in it, proving that he is Lord of all—Gentiles as well as Jews. Fourthly, Peter who betrayed the gospel (Gal 2:11-14) does not realize that the one who fed the multitude in the desert is the same one that subdues the inimical waters.
That Peter’s attitude is so reproachable lies in that it is put on a par with that of anyone who scandalizes the believers:
Whoever receives one such child in my name receives me; but whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened round his neck and to be drowned (katapontisqh/) in the depth of the sea. (Mt 18:5-6)
So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink (kataponti,zesqai) he cried out, "Lord, save me." (14:29-30)
Peter’s lack of faith is rebuked and he has to submit to the teaching of the gospel: If Jesus is the messiah (Son of God) then he is also the Lord of all, including the Gentiles: “Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36)
David E. Garland, Reading Matthew, Crossroads Publishing Company, NY, NY, 1995; pp 156ff
Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.1: Paul and Mark, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 1999; pp.176-77.
Paul Nadim Tarazi, New Testament Introduction, Vol.3: Johannine Writings, St Vladimir’s Seminary Press, Crestwood, NY, 2004; pp.174-75.
 These are the only two instances of that verb kataponti,zesqai in the New Testament.