The text of today appears immediately after the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand (14,13-21). For the first time in Matthew, the disciples are sent forth without Jesus. This is also the first time in the Gospel of Matthew that Jesus is depicted as praying. Many see the boat in which the disciples are is by as representing the church and here it is battered by the waves. Despite the seeming impossibility of Jesus being able to reach them, he comes to them in the darkest part of the night i.e. between 3.00 and 6.00 a.m. By walking on the water, Matthew is not portraying Jesus as defying the law of gravity, but subduing the chaos of the waters. Jesus does what only God can do (Job 9,8; 38,16; Ps 77,19 etc), and announces himself as “I am” which is reminiscent of the name God used to identify himself in Exodus 3,15. The second part of this pericope in which Peter asks Jesus to allow him to come to him is exclusive to Matthew. Peter addresses Jesus as believers do in Matthew by using the title “Lord”. The point that Matthew seems to be making is not only that Peter took his eyes off Jesus and so began to sink, but also that by leaving the boat, he indicated that he wanted proof of the presence of Jesus. Peter cries out with a prayer, “Lord, save me”, and Jesus reaches out and saves him. The gentle rebuke identifies Peter as a person of “little faith” which in Matthew is a mixture of courage on the one hand and anxiety on the other. It is a faith mixed with doubts. The conclusion to this episode in Matthew is that the disciples worship Jesus as Son of God. Jesus is then portrayed as the one who can make everyone whole.
The boat of our life is often swamped by waves. These can be marital discord, addictions, problems with children and parents, disagreements with neighbours and the like. When this happens, the Lord keeps coming to us, walking on the water, subduing the chaos and confusion of our lives and telling us that he continues to be Emmanu’el. If we continue to stay in the boat, he will lead us safely to the shore. If we decide to leave the boat and go to him, then we need to keep our fixed on him and not let the waves get us down.