“Early in the morning, Jesus came walking toward them on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear.” – Matthew 14:25-26
“They think you walk on water!”
That’s either commentary on your genuine awesomeness or meant to expose your flimflammery as a wannabe saint. Walking on water is synonymous with holiness and godliness, right?
Maybe not. According to this passage, walking on water is extremely disturbing behavior. Instead of high praise, “They think you walk on water” should mean “You scared the living tar out of them!”
Our modern brains get so stuck on the defiance of everyday physics in this passage, we miss the terrified response of the disciples. As experienced fisherfolk, the disciples already had a healthy fear of the sea. They knew its power to give life and take it away. Anyone who could walk over the sea like a conquering warrior was not someone to be trifled with. And he was heading straight for them! You would cry too.
Lo and behold, the sea-conqueror turned out to be Jesus. Jesus could have seized on this moment to intimidate the disciples into greater loyalty and obedience. But no. His first words are, “Relax, it’s just me.”
Tyrants and monsters thrive on fear and use it to their own advantage. Jesus had no use for fear whatsoever. Jesus conquers and dispels fear, even when he occasionally provokes it.
Lord, thank you for walking all over the thing that most terrifies. Let my mantra today be “Perfect love casts out fear” (1 John 4:18).
Matt Laney is the Senior Pastor of Virginia Highland Church UCC in Atlanta, GA and the author of Pride Wars, a fantasy series published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt for Young Readers. The first book, The Spinner Prince available now.