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He treads the waves.
Alexander Maclaren on the depth of meaning behind Jesus walking on the deeps.
The scene where Peter joins Jesus in walking on the Sea of Galilee is, without a doubt, one of the more tremendous vignettes in the Synoptic Gospels, let alone the entire Bible. Winds and rain are pelting the little skiff that the disciples find themselves in and, on top of everything else, a shadowy phantom is marching right for them. The scene is tense, evoking all kinds of emotions and conjuring all kinds of mental pictures to go along with it. Perhaps the most striking part of the whole event, though, is just the fact that the disciples’ ghost, a.k.a. Jesus Christ, is quite literally walking on the raging sea as though it were his sidewalk. The very Word of the Father that brought all of creation out of nothing is in the flesh marching on the deep as its Master and Maker. “He alone stretches out the heavens,” God’s penultimate sufferer croons, “and treads on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8 CSB).
The scene in Matthew 14 is, essentially, a graphic fulfillment of a prophecy Job didn’t know he uttered. But as Peter and the other petrified disciples stare silently at the specter approaching them, little did they know that it was their Savior, the Christ of God, striding upon the sea, unaffected by its roar and rage. It is, to use Rev. Alexander Maclaren’s explanation, a “revelation of divine power.” This moment on the stormy Sea of Galilee is nothing less than a demonstration of who Jesus is — namely, Yahweh enfleshed. Maclaren writes:
He comes across the waves. Their restless and yielding crests are smoothed and made solid by the touch of His foot. ‘He walketh on the sea as on a pavement’ (Job 9:8 LXX). It is a revelation of divine power. It is one of the very few miracles affecting Christ’s own person, and may perhaps be regarded as being, like the Transfiguration, a casual gleam of latent glory breaking through the body of His humiliation, and so, in some sense, prophetic. But it is also symbolic. He ever uses tumults and unrest as a means of advancing His purposes. The stormy sea is the recognised Old Testament emblem of antagonism to the divine rule; and just as He walked on the billows, so does He reach His end by the very opposition to it, ‘girding Himself’ with the wrath of men, and making it to praise Him. In this sense, too, His ‘paths are in the great waters.’ In another aspect, we have here the symbol of Christ’s using our difficulties and trials as the means of His loving approach to us. He comes, giving a deeper and more blessed sense of His presence by means of our sorrows, than in calm sunny weather. It is generally over a stormy sea that He comes to us, and golden treasures are thrown on our shores after a tempest. (7:1.301–2)
The one who approached the agonized and afflicted apostles in that little boat that rocked and reeled was none other than their Lord and Savior, their King and Redeemer. And the good news is that he’s the same one who approaches you in your storms and sorrows, too. The one who treads on the waves is the same one who can utilize our darkest of hours to showcase his goodness and glory. That’s what he did for disciples and that’s what he, by grace, continues to do for you and me as well.
Grace and peace to you, my friends.
Alexander Maclaren, Expositions of Holy Scripture, Vols. 1–17 (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1944).