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.