Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Drowning or Not


I'm taking a course on the Gospel of Matthew, which is not a requirement, and writing an exegesis paper for it, which is about the last thing in the world I need to be doing right now.

The passage I chose as my topic is the one in which Jesus walks on the water toward the disciples who are cowering in their storm-tossed boat, and Peter decides to jump out and walk toward Jesus. The reality of walking on turbulent water (or, I suppose, any water at all) freaks him out and he starts to sink. Jesus, of course, rescues him.

I chose it because it's one of those passages that both sides in the Biblical debate seize upon:

"Look - he can walk on water! Isn't it obvious that he is the Son of God?"

"Look - they are trying to convince us that he walked on water. Isn't it obvious that the Bible is one gigantic and elaborate fairy tale?"

So ~ I figured it would be a good story to know something about. It would be good to read commentaries written hundreds of years ago and to look at the Greek (OK, just the tiniest bit of the Greek) and to think a little about the Dead Sea Scrolls and Buddhist and Greek stories about divine beings who walk on water. It would be fun in an I-love-textual-criticism kind of way.

But you know, in the end, it really isn't much about water or walking thereon. It's more about this, as one of the more recent commentaries (that would be Luz) says:

"[A]lone and unsupported in the water, [Peter] grows beyond himself and thus experiences both his own failure and the Lord’s support. It deals with the possibility of exceeding one’s own human limitations in faith in the midst of deep despair, fear, misfortune, suffering, and guilt."

And therefore ~ as it turns out ~ this is exactly the course and exactly the paper and exactly the passage I need to be working on right now.

11 comments:

Joan Calvin said...

I was at Austin last week. A prof there exegeted the story using landscape. She talked about rowing into a headwind, it being cold, the headwind making the waves wash into the boat, the diciples getting wet and being miserable and everyone wanting out. Peter is the leader and he gets out of the boat and leaves the others behind. But Jesus puts him back in the boat. She also talked about the boat being a symbol of the church. Thought it was interesting. I am always amazed at how many ways there are to read the scripture.
M

Gannet Girl said...

Well, I'm more interested in survival than leadership these days. But I agree -- there are a zillion ways to read it.

karengberger said...

Isn't it amazing, how exactly what you don't need can become exactly what you need?
So glad that you see it this way, & glad that it is a blessing to you. You are in my thoughts.

Rev SS said...

Thanking God for this course, paper, and Luz' commentary.

mompriest said...

wow....takes on a whole new depth...

David said...

Sounds like something from Merton to me... no idea where I'm going, don't see the road ahead, where will it end? How wonderful when God moves amidst the chaos of our choices and decisions to show us the Way, and its purpose. Blessings!

RevDrKate said...

possibility in the midst....prayers for that for sure.

Carol said...

Powerful in both its interpretation and timing in your life.

Ruth Hull Chatlien said...

I really like that interpretation, and I'm glad it's speaking to you.

Magdalene6127 said...

Isn't it strange how that happens?

Blessings.

Jodie said...

For me the story has always been about Jesus castigating Peter after he rescued him. At what point had Peter doubted? He walked on water, for Christ's sake!!!

(and what does it mean, to "see" the wind)

Awesome literature.