“Immediately, he made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up to the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from land, for the wind was against them. And early in the morning he came toward them on the sea. But the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he noticed the strong wind, he became afraid and beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ When they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’”
~Matthew 14.22-33, New Revised Standard Version
This is a familiar story; the passage employed to discuss a faithless Peter and a fearless Christ who reveals to the disciples his ability to influence not only humanity but nature. It is not a matter of persuasive speech or charisma but Jesus has power. In Matthew 8.23-27, when Jesus stills the storm, the disciples ask in amazement, “What sort of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” But, Jesus is no ordinary man. He is Emmanuel, that is God with us. He was in the wind that swept over the water in the beginning of creation (Genesis 1.2). He is the Word made flesh who told the water to gather in one place (Genesis 1.9). This Jesus is a part of the Trinity, which includes a God who can push the waters aside so that the children of Israel can walk to safety while fleeing the Egyptians (Genesis 14). This is not his first encounter with water.
I can’t swim and am afraid of deep water. Child’s play that almost led to my drowning as a child is responsible for the distance that has been created between me and all bodies of water. I try to make a joke of it, telling persons that I don’t get into any water that I can’t empty (i.e. bathtub). But, I am encouraged to know that my fears are not his fears. Jesus didn’t need to learn how to swim. He didn’t even have to hold his breath. This demonstration of power was and remains one of the greatest displays of his ability, greater than any feat accomplished in the Olympics and worthy not of medals but my praise and adoration.
This week, I have been listening to the music of a new artist Mali Music and the song that has been a source of encouragement is titled “Walk On Water.” But, this morning I had the thought that I could walk on race. This is not Christ’s first encounter with humanity or its flesh. He made it. Surely, he can control it and can get around the social constructs that we have created. The flesh’s response changes in his presence and its meanings, its abilities are changed when he touches it– just like the water. Water was no longer wet and permeable. Likewise, I believe that when Christ touches us that the power that race has over us will be abolished, that we will see ourselves as we truly are. We need only keep our eyes on him.