19th Ordinary, A Matt 14:22-33 Notes

Notes on the Gospel text for this Sunday.

What I’m thinking about:


In Space

  1. Mountain – links to “texts” of Moses, Elijah – presence of God (Jesus in prayer there)
  2. In the boat – symbol of the church?  They are there at Jesus’ command, and yet not kept from danger there.
  3. Sea: the quintessential place of danger: from Poseidon and Neptune, to the Canaanite god of the “sea” or yam, to the ancient view of the universe in which the earth was a flat disk sitting precariously suspended just above the waters of chaos in which the chaos monstor(s) lived (hungrily).  Jesus specifically treads the “sea” (not “lake”) – i.e. on evil
  4. “other side” – but not much is made of it, and in this story, they don’t arrive there yet
  5. on the water – that’s where Peter steps and sinks; this is outside the “boat” – Peter engages the struggle over evil that Jesus is demonstrating by willingness to go out of the boat

In Time

  1. Evening, darkening –  time of mysteries – both numinous (Jesus on the Mountain in the dark) and Dangerous (disciples in the boat when it was late)
  2. early morning when Jesus arrived – similar to the time of resurrection and appearances


  1. Jesus – prayer, communion
  2. Disciples: obediently in the boat, struggle w. storm
  3. Nature: waves battered them; wind against them
  4. Jesus waling on “sea” (Yam) – evil
  5. Peter: asking to join Jesus out of the boat, steps on water, “notices” (becomes aware of) the wind, sinks, cries out “Lord save me” – taking Caesar’s title for Jesus
  6. Terror in disciples’ at the “ghost”
  7. worship of Jesus as Son of God

Key phrases

  1. alone, by himself – Jesus
  2. immediately
  3. storm triad: battered by the waves,  far from the land,  the wind was against them
  4. Jesus’ triad: take courage, it is I (I am), fear not
  5. Peter: “Lord”
  6. Peter “save me”
  7. Jesus: “little faith”
  8. Jesus: “why did you doubt?”
  9. disciples: “you are the Son of God”

Emotion: fear, terror -> ? (worship)


  • Presence / absence / presence of God (for Jesus and for disciples)
  • obedience and suffering, fear, danger,
  • engagement of evil – Jesus’ victory, Peter’s provisional attempts and failures
  • overwhelming evil; long odds against successful encounter (in or out of the boat, for disciples)
  • Peter – as representative of the Jerusalem church, shown in obedience and doubt, faith and failure of faith
  • ultimate success: the presence of God in the saving hand of Jesus


  • Tom Long’s Matthew commentary (WJK) is excellent here.
  • The Social Science Commentary on the Synopitic Gospels (Malina nd Rohrbaugh, Fortress, 2003) is full of insight – espec. on “altered states of consciousness” (visions, dream states, and the Western bias against them).

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