Musings on Scripture

– and what isn’t always said

Tag: Son of God

Trinity 10A

Published / by Steven Secker / Leave a Comment

Matthew 14:22-36: Jesus Walks on the Water

22Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and go on ahead to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while He dismissed the crowds. 23After He had dismissed the crowds, He went up the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, He was there alone, 24but by this time the boat, battered by the waves, was far from the land, for the wind was against them. 25Early in the morning He came walking towards them on the lake. 26When the disciples saw Him walking on the lake, they were terrified, saying, ‘It is a ghost!’ They cried out in fear, 27but immediately Jesus spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is me; do not be afraid.’

28Peter answered him, ‘Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.’ 29He said, ‘Come.’ So Peter got out of the boat, started walking on the water, and came towards Jesus, 30but when he noticed the strong wind, he became frightened, and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’ 31Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’ 32When they got into the boat, the wind ceased, 33and those in the boat worshipped Him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God.’

34When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret. 35After the people of that place recognised Him, they sent word throughout the region and brought all who were sick to Him, 3636and begged Him that they might touch even the fringe of His cloak; and all who touched it were healed.How long, O Lord?

Text ©The New Revised Standard Version, alt, Used with permission.

Last week’s gospel told us the story of the feeding of the 5000, which was reportedly only the count of men, not of the women and children who made up the rest of the crowd. The disciples, having cleaned up twelve baskets full of remnants – but not having done anything with them – are told to get into a boat and head for the distant shore while Jesus makes sure the crowd dissipates. Having accomplished all He needed to do in that place Jesus makes time to be alone with God, and, like any introvert, to recharge His battery. Crowds can be tiring, and can make too much noise for God to be heard. Extroverts, please note! This was one of many occasions on which Jesus disappeared from view so He could spend time with God. Those who want to follow in Christ’s footsteps, as any good Christian should, need to take time out for God.

It was dark; it was windy; the waves were creating quite a spray; yet Jesus came walking on the water, in the middle of the lake, or Sea of Galilee. No wonder the disciples were terrified. I think I’d need some clean underwear too! Despite them having spent time with Jesus, learning His ways and His teachings, and getting a sense of who He really was, to see a human figure walking across the water would have appeared very much like seeing a ghost. I don’t know how effective it would have been, but Jesus continues towards them and tells them not to be afraid. They were already afraid before He spoke. Surely speaking to them would make them more afraid, not less. Most English translations take the Greek εγω ειμι (ego aimee) and give us “it is I” when good English grammar, as distinct from the Greek grammar, needs “it is me.”

εγω ειμι is The Great “I AM”, not only of the Hebrew Scriptures but also of Christ’s own discourse with the disciples, in which He said “I AM the bread of life”, “I AM the way”, “I AM the truth”, and more.

Peter was still unsure of what he was seeing, so blurted out for Jesus to call him across the water. With eyes firmly focussed on Christ, and having accepted the invitation to come to Him, Peter sets out to meet up with Jesus. While his focus is on Christ he succeeds in his efforts, but as soon as his concentration is taken up by what he is doing he begins to sink. Anything is possible with God, even walking on water, but once we lose sight of Him we fall for everything that can go wrong. What does that say to us when we don’t follow the teachings of Christ, or the example He set with the foot-washing, and the establishment of the Eucharist?

Peter, the one held up as a founding father of the Church, failed to keep his focus on God, and had to be rescued, again, and again. How many times was Peter rescued by Christ? Let’s just say “a lot”. In Matthew 8 Jesus was asleep in the stern of a boat when a storm raged, and after He was woken He rebuked the wind, and it stopped, so why did He not rebuke the wind this time, before He got to the boat? Doing so would have been just as effective for the disciples as calming the storm when He had reached them. Was their declaration that Jesus is the Son of God truly a revelation for them, or a response to seeing someone calm a storm as quickly and easily as Christ did for them? We may never know until we get a chance to ask in the next life.

I was trying to locate Gennesaret on a map of the region in the time of Christ, and to work out where the earlier gathering might have been, but there are different renditions of where the town might have been. That, of course, is the analyst in me wanting to get an accurate picture of where things happened, but what happened is far more important than where it happened. Jesus was recognised – despite His habit of disappearing His fame went before Him and He couldn’t escape being known. Not only that, but also people were so sure of His power to heal them that they only needed to touch the hem of His dress (robe) to be healed. Does that remind us of the woman who had been bleeding for twelve years (Matthew 9:20)? Even just her touch of His robe was picked up by Christ, who felt the healing power go from Him. Those who succeeded in touching Him or His robe were healed, such was their faith. We don’t have the luxury of having Christ visiting us in the same way, or do we? Those who walk as Christ can often heal just by their presence and people listening, and we won’t know if Christ is in the person next to us in the street, or in the supermarket, or at a sporting event – where they can be held – unless we are open to that possibility, and thinking of others rather than ourselves.

Lent 1 A

Published / by Steven Secker / Leave a Comment

Matthew 4:1-11

1Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2He fasted for forty days and forty nights, and afterwards He was famished. 3The tempter came and said to Him, ‘If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread;’ 4but He answered, ‘It is written, “One does not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.” ’

5Then the devil took Him to the holy city and placed him on the pinnacle of the temple, 6saying to him, ‘If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down; for it is written,
“He will command His angels concerning you”, and “On their hands they will bear You up,
so that You will not dash Your foot against a stone.” ’
7Jesus said to him, ‘Again it is written, “Do not put the Lord your God to the test.” ’

8Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendour; 9and he said to Him, ‘All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.’ 10Jesus said to him, ‘Away with you, Satan! for it is written “Worship the Lord your God, and serve only him.” ’
11Then the devil left Him, and suddenly angels came and waited on Him.

Text ©The New Revised Standard Version, alt, Used with permission.

Oh dear! How many times have we heard a passage of scripture being quoted in support of some ideal, ignoring other passages which either contradict the ideal, or support an alternative to it? Leviticus 20:13 tells us that a man having a sexual relationship with another man should be put to death because his actions are detestable, but Genesis 1:27 tells us that God created male and female in His (i.e. God’s) image. Since we are all created in God’s image homosexual people can’t be detestable to God, however much the relationship might be considered undesirable for the continuation of the human species which God has created. The Epiphany 4 passage from Matthew spoke of “an eye for an eye”, which is still practised in some countries, but must be abhorrent to a loving God who is willing to forgive, and forgive, and forgive. Here we have the devil trying to coax Jesus into his errant ways and attacking the relationship Jesus had with God by quoting passages of scripture which were to his suiting, and ignoring others which weren’t. I note the beginning of the words attributed to the devil: “IF you are the Son of God”. Anyone for an insult?

Whenever I see images of the devil I am struck by how unrealistic they seem to be. If the devil really appeared to us with horns and carrying a pitch-fork would we ever be tempted? Of course not! We’re far more likely to willingly go down the track the devil wants us to take, and move away frm God, if we feel we can trust him; and that trust only comes with being happy to be with him, or one of his entourage. It might be the willing person who wants to help run the children’s group, or the person who invites you to play games at the casino, or many others. Keep watch! Be vigilant! How much our society has slid when we have to be constantly doubting the motives of people around us!

The devil was trying to get Jesus to take the easy way out of His hunger after days in the wilderness, but Jesus was wise to his motives, and appreciated the work which goes into producing food. It’s not magic! When the disciples came back to the Samaritan well (John 4:32) Jesus told them He had food which they didn’t know about – food from His relationship with God. He didn’t need to turn stones to bread. He didn’t need to break His relationship with His Father. Go run up a shutter, Satan: it didn’t work. Christ 1, Satan 0.

It might sound disrespectful to the scriptures, but when I think of the devil taking Jesus from a location in the wilderness to the pinnacle of the temple I have images of Superman or Dr Who travel. Of course it’s not. That’s just my 21st century mind picking up on aspects of the story which appear unrealistic, and it’s a distraction from the essence of these verses. These days Scripture is often discredited because we put a 21st century spin on, in this case, a 1st century text, and we let the distraction get in the way of our appreciation of, and understanding of, the message being portrayed. Here Satan quotes Psalm 91:12 as if it should be taken literally in such hypothetical situations. How often do we do the same, especially when it suits us? Again, Jesus is wise to the move and quotes Deuteronomy 6:16, which counters Satan’s reference. Can we respond in such a way? As a follower of Christ should I be able to respond that way? Christ 2, Satan 0!

Then Satan takes Jesus to a high mountain and shows off all the world, offering to give Him all of it in exchange for worship. Hey, hang on a moment, Satan. You don’t own the world, though you seem to have a foothold in many places, so you can’t offer to give it to Him anyway. Do we offer things to others when we have no right to make such an offer? That’s one way in which we can get caught up with actions which are not in keeping with God’s will, or the benefits which following God will provide for all of us. How often do we succumb to offers, or temptations, which are in our personal best interest, but which are detrimental for others? Temptations aren’t just about being faced with a dilemma as to which of a number of options to take; temptations are about testing, in this case our faith and our relationship with God. There’s no doubt about who wins here. Christ 3, Satan 0. The Trinity wins, and Satan goes, but he is wily and uses his own followers to try to tempt us.

If you want a reflection on the Genesis passage set for Lent 1 then go to