34 Christ Risen, in the Gospel of Matthew
Paul tells us that Jesus was fully human and fully divine. (Rm 1: 4) However his disciples did not recognize his divinity while he was alive. “When Jesus rose from the dead .. His divinity became manifest,”1 the Church teaches.
The events, the memories of Jesus; were told and re-told by his followers for over thirty years. The evangelists then gathered, selected and shaped these according to the needs of their respective communities. Gospels are therefore not history. There is history behind them.
1. Sancta Mater Ecclesia: On the historical truth of the Gospels (1964) par 10
Our text today contains many references to Jesus’ divinity. It could only have been written
after the resurrection and addressed to a community that believed Jesus to be divine.
At the time of writing, Matthew’s Christian Community, was being ‘tossed on the waves’ of
religious persecution and by internal divisions. They had been expelled from the synagogues which meant that they had lost their businesses and jobs. Some favoured allowing pagans to become Christians and others were strongly against this. Matthew writes to strengthen their trust in Christ, Risen.
Let us read Mt 14: 24 – 33. The phrases in bold are a sample of how Matthew shows his
community and us; the Risen Christ alive, present to us and actively involved in our lives.
24 Meanwhile the boat, already a few miles offshore, was being tossed about by the waves, for the wind was against it. 25During the fourth watch of the night, he came towards them walking on the sea. 26When the disciples saw him walking on the sea they were terrified. “It is a ghost” they said, and they cried out in fear. 27At once (Jesus) spoke to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” 28Peter said to him in reply, “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.” 29He said, “Come.” Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water towards Jesus. 30But when he saw how (strong) the wind was he became frightened: and, beginning to sink. He cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” 32After they got into the boat, the wind died down. 33Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly,
you are the Son of God.”
Any member of the Matthew’s Early Christian Community would have been able to tell you that it is God who walks on the waves. “God .. treads upon the crests of the sea.” (Job 9: 8)
When Jesus appears to his disciples after his resurrection Luke tells us that they were startled and terrified and thought that they were seeing a ghost. (Lk 24: 37) Even this early in the story the people were beginning to realize that this story was about the risen Jesus among them.
The first words the writer puts on Jesus says lips are, “It is I.” He uses the name of God given in
Exodus 3: 14, YHWH. Peter continues addressing Jesus as “Lord” which is the Greek equivalent of the God’s Hebrew name. Even the most distressed Jewish Christians must have begun to understand Matthew’s teaching – The Risen Christ is here, present among us; aware of our troubles. Many must have often used Peter’s prayer, “Lord, save us!”
The father who pleaded with Jesus to cure his epileptic son probably had the same sentiments when he called out, “I do believe, help my unbelief.” (Mk 9: 24)
33 Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly, you are the Son of God.”
Both these statements tell us that this story is all about the community’s faith in the Risen
Christ. The gospel closes with, “When they saw him, they worshipped him, but some doubted.”
(28: 16) Fragile as they were, they were all sent out to “all nations.”
We are encouraged by the picture of Jesus reaching out and taking hold of Peter’s hand. I am sure that Jesus has often had cause to say to us, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Let us pray.
“Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in deep mire, where there is no foothold; I have come into deep waters, and the flood sweeps over me. I am weary with my crying; my throat is parched. My eyes grow dim with waiting for my God.” (Ps 60: 1 – 3)
And God answers, “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters I will be with you.” (Is 43: 1 – 2)
• Was tossed on the stormy waters of life;
• Experienced the calming influence of Christ Risen;
• Called, “Lord, save us;
• Proclaims, “You are the Son of God.”