19th Sun A
The Commentaries Summarised
As a Church we are in a web of wisdom that comes to us both from tradition and contemporary writers. This section offers a summary of some commentaries on the Gospel. Also below is a list of the books and articles that have been consulted in compiling this Sunday's "Pray As You Can" and which could be used for further reading.
This Sunday's Commentary
This Gospel reading occurs between accounts of Jesus’ miracles – events in which he uses his power in the service of people - as he normally does: But this miracle – walking on water – breaks the mould: it serves no-one but rather is used to a reveal who Jesus is.
After the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus compels, even forces the disciples to go away, or rather to go on ahead of him to the other side. Well, they must have wondered how he was going to get there as they had the boat and it was late in the day. Then Jesus himself sends the crowd away. Now alone, he withdraws up the mountain to pray. The noun here could mean ‘hill’ or ‘mountain’. Given the stress on Jesus withdrawing for prayer, ‘mountain’ seems more likely as mountains were traditionally understood as a place where one met God. Later, in this Gospel, Jesus will be transfigured on a mountain.
After the disciples take to sea, a storm comes up such that they hardly make headway. The watch referred to indicates that it is just before dawn. After having struggled all night rowing against wind and waves, they see the extraordinary sight of Jesus walking on the water. Power over the water, the ability to walk on water were images used in a number of places in the Hebrew Testament to denote a power unique to God. When Jesus calls out to reassure the terrified disciples he uses a self-designation used by God in the books of Exodus and Isaiah, ‘It is I.’
Peter’s response is amazing. He desires to share in the manifestation of divine power. Some instinct within him leads him to understand that Jesus is not just showing off but rather is offering an important revelation. He steps out on the water and while focused on Jesus shares in this power but, once he feels the wind, he allows fear to overcome him and his faith falters. The verbs used to describe Jesus saving him suggest strong decisive power.
The response of the disciples as Jesus comes into the boat with Peter shows that they have understood what was being revealed: truly Jesus is the Son of God.