Questions about Matt 14:22-34 9sunape (Walking on the Water)


"And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into the mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary."

Why did Jesus go up into the mountain to pray?







St John Chrysostom answers this question well: "To teach us, that loneliness and retirement is good, when we are to pray to God. With this view, you see, He is continually withdrawing into the wilderness, and there often spends the whole night in prayer, teaching us earnestly to seek such quietness in our prayers, as the time and place may confer. For the wilderness is the mother of quiet; it is a calm and a harbor, delivering us from all turmoils." (Chrysostom HOMILY L. MATT. XIV. 23, 24)



"And when He had sent the multitudes away, He went up into the mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, He was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary."

There was another time when the Apostles were in a boat that was in a storm.

  1. Was this earlier than this event or later?
  2. Describe this other event.
  3. What can we glean from the order of the events?






    ANSWER 2

    At an earlier time, the Apostles were with Jesus in a boat, that was beset by a storm, while Jesus was asleep. The Apostles were terrified, and woke Jesus, saying "Lord, save us: we perish." (Matt 8:25). The Evangelist reports their amazement: "... the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him!" (Mat 8:27)

    This event, chronicled in Matthew 8:23-27 was much earlier in Jesus' ministry. At this time, the Apostles were still unformed, and weak in faith. They were terrified in a boat with the God-man right beside them, because they did not really understand all things about Him yet. Jesus taught them and strengthened their faith gradually, by degrees, and in the same way teaches us. Later, when their faith was stronger, and able to endure more, He allowed the Apostles to flounder in the waves an entire night without him, because they were ready for this greater test.

    "He Himself then went up thither with this object, but the disciples are tossed with the waves again, and undergo a storm, equal even to the former. But whereas before they had Him in the ship when this befell them, now they were alone by themselves. Thus gently and by degrees He excites and urges them on for the better, even to the bearing all nobly. Accordingly we see, that when they were first near that danger, He was present, though asleep, so as readily to give them relief; but now leading them to a greater degree of endurance, He doth not even this, but departs, and in mid sea permits the storm to arise, so that they might not so much as look for a hope of preservation from any quarter; and He lets them be tempest tossed all the night, thoroughly to awaken, as I suppose, their hardened heart." (Ibid.)



    "And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea." (Matt 14:25)

    What time is this? Does the time teach us something important about the spiritual life?






    ANSWER 3

    The night was divided into four "watches" of 3 hours each. The last watch was just before dawn, at the end of a long night. The long duration of the Apostles' all night struggles should teach us that we also must endure temptations a long time, with patience and faith. Our society teaches us to believe in "quick fixes" and to love comfort and an easy way of life, but none of these things are compatible with the Christian way of life.

    "And ye shall be hated of all men for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved." >(Mat 10:22)



    Why did Jesus constrain his apostles to get in a ship? Hint: This followed which event? How did the Jews view Jesus after this event?






    ANSWER 4

    Immediately previous to constraining His disciples to get into a ship, Jesus had fed a multitude with five loaves and two fishes. The Jews had a very carnal view of the Messiah. They expected Him to be a King who would crush all their enemies, such as the hated Romans. An army needs significant supplies, especially food, in order to wage a war. The miracle of the loaves gave them confidence that they could crush the Romans, and they desired to make Jesus their king. Jesus fled from them for this reason.

    "Then those men, when they had seen the miracle that Jesus did, said, This is of a truth that prophet that should come into the world. {15} When Jesus therefore perceived that they would come and take him by force, to make him a king, he departed again into a mountain himself alone. " (John 6:14-15)



    The boat the disciples were in is a wonderful image of what? Explain.






    ANSWER 5

    The Church has always used the image of the boat as a metaphor for the Church herself. When we are within the boat, we are safe, even though beset by waves. The sides of the boat are the rules and canons of the church, the disciples represent all Christians, and the stormy sea is our life.



    Why did Peter get out of the boat and come to Jesus? The reason is important, and has serious implications.






    ANSWER 6

    The Evangelist reports that: "And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. {29} And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus." (Mat 14:28-29)

    Peter, OF HIS OWN WILL, asked to leave the boat and come to Jesus. Jesus allowed him to do this, and the result was very instructive for us. We must strive to do things not of our own will, no matter how honorable our intentions, but always seek God's will. We must not take our ability to do something as God's permission and blessing.



    What happened to Peter as he walked on the water towards Christ? Why? Answer with more depth than just recounting the event. There is a deep meaning and lesson here.






    ANSWER 7

    Peter left the boat with holy zeal, and the best of intentions. Blessed Theophylact says that he asked because he had the most fervent love for Christ. After walking for a bit, a strange things happened:
    "But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me." (Mat 14:30)
    Peter began to look at his external circumstances, and he who was walking on the tempestuous and dangerous sea, feared the wind, a much lesser danger. He only began to sink when he became afraid of the wind. So it is with human nature. We sometimes fear lesser things because of the frailty of our nature, and lose our faith.



    Coming back to the metaphor the boat represents, evaluate Peter's action in this light. What made his action dangerous? How do we "step out of the boat" in our life?






    ANSWER 8

    The only way to be saved is to remain in the Ark, that is the Holy Church. The Christian life is much more than a set of beliefs; it is membership in the body of Christ, and a way of life. The Holy Spirit has clearly marked the path for us; we need only to follow it with faith. Anytime we choose our own way, rather than the way of life handed down to us, we venture out onto the waves of life without any protection. Alas, it seems that the major reason why people make little progress in the Christian life is because of their pride and self-will, which constantly whispers to them another way.



    What is the spiritual meaning of the miracle? Of course, this is an "open ended" question, and hard to answer. So is the question of how we are to live our life, moment by moment. Think a bit, and focus on one or more of these things:

    1. Jesus went up alone to a mountain to pray
    2. The disciples were in a boat which was beset by terrible waves and winds.
    3. Jesus came to the disciples in the fourth watch of the night.
    4. Peter faltered after he left the ship.






    ANSWER 9

    After a great miracle, Jesus retired to a mountain to pray. Is this not to teach us to seek after God with all our heart, and to rid ourselves of distractions? While Jesus was on the mountain, the disciples were beset by a great storm, during the night, when men are most afraid. The God-man was protecting them, although He was not with them in the boat. So it is with us, who are protected by God, although we do not always perceive His presence.

    The boat which protected the disciples from the waves represents the church, and the Christian way of life. If we remain in the boat, that is, if we live as the Holy Spirit has revealed through the mind of the church, we are protected from the stormy waves of this temporal life.

    The disciples battled the storm through the long night, and only near dawn did Jesus come to them. We must battle our passions throughout our whole life, and our full reward only comes at the end, after we have endured.

    "Meanwhile the ship which carries the disciples, that is, the Church, is tossed and shaken by the tempests of temptation; and the contrary wind, that is, the devil her adversary, rests not, and strives to hinder her from arriving at rest. But greater is "He who maketh intercession for us." For in this our tossing to and fro in which we toil, He giveth us confidence in coming to us, and strengthening us; only let us not in our trouble throw ourselves out of the ship, and cast ourselves into the sea. For though the ship be in trouble, still it is the ship. She alone carrieth the disciples, and receiveth Christ. There is danger, it is true, in the sea; but without her there is instant perishing. Keep thyself therefore in the ship, and pray to God. For when all counsels fail, when even the rudder is unserviceable, and the very spreading of the sails is rather dangerous than useful, when all human help and strength is gone, there remains only for the sailors the earnest cry of entreaty, and pouring out of prayer to God. He then who grants to sailors to reach the haven, shall He so forsake His own Church, as not to bring it on to rest?" (Blessed Augustine, Sermon 25 on the Gospels, Matthew 14:24,)



    Peter's experience walking on the water, feeling fear, and beginning to sink before being saved by Christ, foretold a future important experience. Which?






    ANSWER 10

    Peter's great zeal and love for the Lord prompted him to ask to leave the boat to join Him on the waves. This was actually a bad judgement on Peter's part, because his fledgling faith in the Lord could not withstand the wind, and he faltered. This event mystically foretells Peter's threefold denial of the Lord, after his firm promise that He would never deny him.

    Blessed Theophylact teaches that the Lord allowed Peter to fail so that he would not become puffed up, and also for the sake of the other disciples, who perhaps envied him.


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