1 Kings 19:9-18
19:9 At that place he came to a cave, and spent the night there. Then the word of the LORD came to him, saying, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
19:10 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
19:11 He said, “Go out and stand on the mountain before the LORD, for the LORD is about to pass by.” Now there was a great wind, so strong that it was splitting mountains and breaking rocks in pieces before the LORD, but the LORD was not in the wind; and after the wind an earthquake, but the LORD was not in the earthquake;
19:12 and after the earthquake a fire, but the LORD was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence.
19:13 When Elijah heard it, he wrapped his face in his mantle and went out and stood at the entrance of the cave. Then there came a voice to him that said, “What are you doing here, Elijah?”
19:14 He answered, “I have been very zealous for the LORD, the God of hosts; for the Israelites have forsaken your covenant, thrown down your altars, and killed your prophets with the sword. I alone am left, and they are seeking my life, to take it away.”
19:15 Then the LORD said to him, “Go, return on your way to the wilderness of Damascus; when you arrive, you shall anoint Hazael as king over Aram.
19:16 Also you shall anoint Jehu son of Nimshi as king over Israel; and you shall anoint Elisha son of Shaphat of Abel-meholah as prophet in your place.
19:17 Whoever escapes from the sword of Hazael, Jehu shall kill; and whoever escapes from the sword of Jehu, Elisha shall kill.
19:18 Yet I will leave seven thousand in Israel, all the knees that have not bowed to Baal, and every mouth that has not kissed him.”
14:22 Immediately (following the feeding of the 5000+++) he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds.14:23 And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain by himself to pray. προσεύχομαι (proseuchomai) to pray, offer prayer, Mt. 5:44; 6:5, 6
When evening came, (Cf. 14:15) he was there alone, μόνος (monos) without accompaniment, alone, Mt. 14:23; 18:15; Lk. 10:40; singly existent, sole, only, Jn. 17:3; lone solitary, Jn. 8:29; 16:32; alone in respect of restriction, only, Mt. 4:4; 12:4; alone in respect of circumstances, only, Lk. 24:18; not multiplied by reproduction, lone, barren, Jn. 12:24
14:24 but by this time the boat, battered βασανίζω (basanizō) to examine, scrutinize, try, either by words or torture; in NT to afflict, torment; pass. to be afflicted, tormented, pained, by diseases, Mt. 8:6, 29; to be tossed, agitated, as by the waves, Mt. 14:24 by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against ἐναντίος (enantios) opposite to, over against, Mk. 15:39; contrary, as the wind, Mt. 14:24; Acts 26:9; 28:17; ὁ ἐξ ἐναντίας, an adverse party, enemy, Tit. 2:8; adverse, hostile, counter, 1 Thess. 2:15 them.
14:25 And early in the morning (28:1) (“in the fourth watch”) he came walking toward them on the sea.
14:26 But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, ταράσσω (tarassō)
to agitate, trouble, as water, Jn. 5:7; met. to agitate, trouble the mind; with fear, to terrify, put in consternation, Mt. 2:3; 14:26; with grief, etc., affect with grief, anxiety, etc., Jn. 12:27; 13:21; with doubt, etc., to unsettle, perplex, Acts 15:24; Gal. 1:7saying, “It is a ghost!” φάντασμα (phantasma) a phantom, specter, Mt. 14:26; Mk. 6:49
And they cried out in fear. φόβος (phobos)fear, terror, affright, Mt. 14:26; Lk. 1:12; astonishment, amazement, Mt. 28:8; Mk. 4:41; trembling concern, 1 Cor. 2:3; 2 Cor. 7:15; meton. a terror, an object or cause of terror, Rom. 13:5; reverential fear, awe, Acts 9:31; Rom. 3:18; respect, deference, Rom. 13:7; 1 Pet. 2:18
14:27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, “Take heart, θαρσέω (tharseō) to be of good courage, be of good cheer, Mt. 9:2; to be confident, hopeful; to be bold, maintain a bold bearing, Mt. 9:22; 14:27; Mk. 6:50; 10:49; Jn. 16:33; Acts 23:11 it is I; εἰμί ἐγώ (eimi egō) do not be afraid.” φοβέομαι (phobeomai) to fear, dread, Mt. 10:26; 14:5; to fear reverentially, to reverence, Mk. 6:20; Lk. 1:50; Acts 10:2; Eph. 5:33; Rev. 11:18; to be afraid to do a thing, Mt. 2:22; Mk. 9:32; to be reluctant, to scruple, Mt. 1:20; to fear, be apprehensive, Acts 27:17; 2 Cor. 11:3; 12:20; to be fearfully anxious, Heb. 4:1; absol. to be fearful, afraid, alarmed, Mt. 14:27; 17:6, 7; Mk. 16:8; to be fearfully impressed, Rom. 11:20
14:28 Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
14:29 He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came toward Jesus.
14:30 But when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, φοβέομαι (phobeomai) and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!”
14:31 Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “You of little faith, ὀλιγόπιστος (oligopistos) scant of faith, of little faith, one whose faith is small and weak, Mt. 6:30; 8:26; 14:31; 16:18; Lk. 12:28 why did you doubt?” διστάζω (distazō) to doubt, waver, hesitate, Mt. 14:31; 28:17
14:32 When they got into the boat, the wind ceased.
14:33 And those in the boat worshipedπροσκυνέω (proskyneō)to do reverence or homage by kissing the hand; in NT to do reverence or homage by prostration, Mt. 2:2, 8, 11; 20:20; Lk. 4:7; 24:52; to pay divine homage, worship, adore, Mt. 4:10; Jn. 4:20, 21; Heb. 1:6; to bow one’s self in adoration, Heb. 11:21him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
Like last Sunday, location plays an important function in today’s gospel. As Jesus provided satisfying bounty precisely in the desolate place, in today’s reading the Lord (14:30) speaks calmingly to our deepest fears precisely amidst our most adverse afflictions. The parallels are intended to heighten our sense of the really stunningly awesome.
The “immediately”, the first of 3, each significant, in today’s reading, that commences our text, follows immediately as it were, on last sunday’s reading. “Immediately” after the feeding of the multitude. Jesus’ appropriate mourning was interrupted, intruded upon by the public need, so upon fulfillment of project compassion, Jesus defaults, now more than ever longing for a moments refuge, to be alone (μόνος), to centre & ground (reorient), to offer prayer, to listen for the still small voice. Once again Jesus clears the stage of distractions. Jesus seeks the uncluttered silence to listen, for a moment at least. We however are uncomfortable in desolate places. We interpret the silence as absence, rather than divine opportunity. While Jesus is seizing the opportunity to be refreshed & regrounded in the silent Presence the separated disciples off course & under trial battle adversity.
The vocabulary Matthew uses to describe the disciples’ journey suggests the disciples are being tested by the storm. They are in the pressure-cooker, this is a trial that will test the mettle the disciples are made of. The security of terra firma is far off & the wind is adverse. Matthew’s language hints that perhaps The Adversary is assaulting them. This is not an uncommon reading of the scriptural tradition. Waters in the Bible are dangerous suspect things. Water is associated with chaos. It is out of chaos, by a creative word, that in the beginning the Lord God creates everything calling creation into ordered being. Hence the emphasis in today’s reading is not on Jesus on the sea, walking on the water, but that Jesus (“immediately” 14:27) speaks to the horrified disciples.
But I am getting ahead of myself. The next important detail to notice is that Jesus comes to his disciples “early in the morning” or as the original text has it “in the fourth watch”. By this detail Matthew reminds us of another profound event that occurs at this hour (28:1). The Roman clock divided the night into four watches. Ask any watchman trying to keep alert & vigilant through the hours of the night, the last watch is the hardest. Those last hours seem to be drag slowly, elongated. “It is always darkest before the dawn” popularity wisely has it. Jesus, finally, comes to the struggling disciples at the Divinely opportune moment, but probably tardy for their preferences. He comes at the possible last moment. He comes when it is darkest. He comes in the absence of faith, in their deepest fear. He seemingly tarries. He arrives at the 11th hour. At the last moment, in the nick of time.
Matthew clearly identifies the problem in today’s text. Three times he repeats (φόβος). The disciples were terrified (troubled like the waters). They cried out in fear (φόβος). Jesus promptly speaks directly to that dominating threat, he says to them “do not be afraid (φόβος)”. Once again, the timing is important, Jesus responds to their anxiety “immediately” (14:27). This is the second important “immediately” in today’s reading. While Jesus might seemingly appear to be tardy in arriving to alleviate their trials, He speaks the assuring, faith inspiring word, to them promptly, without delay! Jesus speaks the creative word into the chaos to create order & stability.
What does Jesus say? He urges his disciples to “take heart”, to be confident (to be full of fides/faith), to be hopeful (to be full of hope). Trials may/certainly will arise, but even in the darkest time(s) Jesus comes precisely there inviting faith. And it is important what he offers to instill such hope in the chaotic darkness. Jesus says to the legitimately fearful disciples, εἰμί ἐγώ (eimi egō). “It’s me!” These words are very familiar to us already. They are exactly the same words we have heard Jesus speak in St. John’s gospel when he reveals himself in the “”I AM” sayings. They are the same words God uses to identify God’s own self (YHWH) to Moses (Exodus 3:14). Speaking only these two words Jesus offers hope & identifies himself with the God of Moses. Jesus speaks the creative word into the chaos.
The disciples’ phobias had driven them to the wildest early morning dream terrors ” it is a phantom” We tend to blow things out of all realistic perspective. But to our deepest ghostly fears with a word Jesus assures his stabilizing inspiring presence “it is I”.
Only then, with the invitation to faith explicit does the story continue. Reliably impetuous Peter daringly suggests another trial. Notice that the adversarial storm has not yet abated, it is still raging about them (14:30,32). “If it is you” Peter prefaces his test. “If” you are “εἰμί ἐγώ” I AM. The test is conditional upon Jesus being whom he claims to be. In case it is not perfectly clear this is a test of Jesus’ identity. (Hence the confession of faith concluding today’s reading 14:33). Peter is already indicating his fear, his lack of certain confidence that Jesus isn’t just an ethereal apparition that might dissolve with dawn’s daylight.
“Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest” (11:28) we have heard Jesus say only a few Sundays ago, earlier in this gospel. And now he just repeats this invitation for Peter then. “Come”. But already unconfident, Peter is readily distracted, focusing on the storm rather than on the Bidder. And for the 3rd time in today’s text fear takes over & the threatening storm engulfs. But for the 3rd time “immediately” also resurfaces. Jesus “immediately” extends his hand & caught sinking into the swirl of chaos Peter. Nobody else exists in this moment, it is only Jesus & Peter.
Matthew is telling us more by the title (open-mouth-insert-foot) Peter uses to twice describe Jesus in this exchange (14:28,30). Although doubtful Peter addresses Jesus as κύριος (kyrios). Jesus is Lord is a post-resurrection Christological affirmation. For doubtful Peter to acknowledge Jesus as “Lord” is what this story is all about (as the last verse ultimately affirms). Jesus is Lord. Jesus is Lord, over the chaotic elemental forces of nature. Jesus is Lord over the dark assaults that assail us. Jesus is Lord who speaks the faith inspiring word into our storms. Jesus is Lord over even the approaching trial of his betrayal, arrest & death.
Jesus explicitly coins new vocabulary to describe the disciples’ condition; “You, ὀλιγόπιστος (oligo/pistos). You little-faith, scant of faith. Because there is no word to describe this condition Jesus creates a descriptive word. Inquiring “why did you doubt/waiver/hesitate?”
Only then, finally, does the storm abate. This is invitation. The storm abates as the Lord invites his disciples to persevere in trusting him despite the chaotic apparent circumstances. Jesus is finally with them in the boat.
Today’s reading is, as the last verse suggests, an invitation for us too! Finally, the disciples worship (an activity due God alone) Jesus & profess “truly you are “εἰμί ἐγώ” I AM (the Divine name), the Son of God. Jesus, κύριος (kyrios) is Lord. Jesus is Lord of creation. Jesus is Lord of the darkest most fear inspiring experiences of our lives. Jesus appears at precisely the right moment & promptly speedily responds to our deepest most paralysing fears. And He authoratively bids us trust & come.
I particularly love that their profession of faith suggests a physical posture. The disciples prostrate themselves. Faith is not just reason, not just a head thing, it encompasses the whole of our persons & is expressed (w)holistically. We too are invited by today’s text to make the same profession of faith in our worship & to worship Him (w)holistically with our whole lives.
In the Name of the Father & of the Son & of the Holy Spirit. AMEN.
the Reverend Brian Heinrich