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But they must learn to walk by faith and not by sight; He will not have them as the ivy, needing always an outward support, but as hardy forest-trees, which can brave a blast ; and this time He puts them forth into the danger alone, even as some loving mother-bird thrusts her fledglings from the nest, that they may find their own wings and learn to use them. And the happy issue of all shall awaken in them an abiding confidence in his ever-ready help; for as his walking on the sea must have been altogether unimagined and unimaginable by them, they may have easily despaired of that help reaching them ; but He, when He has tried them to the uttermost, ' in the fourth watch of the night,' the same morning watch in which He had wrought of old another deliverance, not really more significant, though on a mightier scale (Exod. xiv. 24), appears beside them; thus teaching them for all their after life, in all coming storms of temptation, that He is near them; that however He may not be seen always by their bodily eyes, however they may appear cut off from his assistance, yet is He indeed a very present help in the needful time of trouble; that heaviness may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.
Nor ought we, I think, to fail to recognize the symbolic character which this whole transaction wears. As that bark upon those stormy billows, such is oftentimes the Church, tossed to and fro on the waves of the troublesome world. It seems as though its Lord had forgotten it, so little is the way it makes; so baffled is it and tormented by opposing winds and waves. But his eye is on it still; He is in the mountain apart praying ; ever living, an ascended Saviour, to make intercession for his people. And when at length the extremity of the need has arrived, He is suddenly with it, and that in marvellous ways past finding out; and then all that before was so laborious is easy, and the toiling rowers are anon at the haven where they would be.'
1 Thus Bede: Labor discipulorum in remigando et contrarius eis
• And when the disciples saw Him walking on the sea they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit;' and they cried out for fear. It is often so. Let Him only come to his people in some unwonted manner, as He has not been used to come in time past, in the shape of some affliction, in the way of some cross, and they know Him not. Their Lord, and charged with blessings for them, He yet seems to them as some terrible phantom of the night; and they too cry out for fear.? The disciples on this occasion might perhaps have pleaded that there was that in his approach to their bark, which would not allow them to recognize Him for what He was. He • would have passed them by.'3 How could they suppose that this was their Lord, hastening to the help of his own? The circumstance perplexed them for a moment; it has perplexed others lastingly. Those who are on the watch to discover inner inconsistencies in the Gospels have asked, 'Why appear to pass them by and to escape them, when the only aim of his coming was to re-assure and to aid them ? when He so little really meant to do this, that no sooner was He recognized and detained by their cries, than He ascended into the
ventus labores sanctæ Ecclesiæ varios designat, quæ inter undas seculi adversantis et immundorum flatus spirituum ad quietem patriæ cælestis, quasi ad fidam litoris stationem, pervenire conatur. Ubi bene dicitur, quia navis erat in medio mari et ipse solus in terrâ ; quia nonnunquam Ecclesia tantis Gentilium pressuris non solum afflicta, sed et fædata est, ut, si fieri posset, Redemptor ipsius eam prorsus deseruisse ad tempus videretur. . . . Videt [ tamen ] Dominus laborantes in mari, quamvis ipse positus in terrâ ; quia etsi ad horam differre videatur auxilium tribulatis impendere, nihilominus eos, ne in tribulationibus deficiant, suæ respectu pietatis corroborat, et aliquando etiam manifesto adjutorio, victis adversitatibus, quasi calcatis sedatisque fluctuum voluminibus, liberat. Cf. Augustine, Serm. lxxv. So too Anselm (Hom. iii.): Nam quia insurgunt fluctus, potest ista navicula turbari, sed quia Christus orat, non potest mergi.
1 pávraoua (cf. Wisd. xvii. 14) = páoua VuktepIvóv (Job xx. 8).
? Bengel: T'urbati sunt. Sæpe Christum pro alio potius quam pro Christo habemus.
3 Calvin : Pii audito ejus nomine, quod illis est certum et divini amoris et suæ salutis pignus, quasi a morte in vitam excitati animos colligunt, et quasi serenum cælum hilares conspiciunt, quieti in terrâ resident, et omnium malorum victores ejus præsidium omnibus periculis opponunt.
ship where they were?' Doubtless this, as each other dealing of God with his servants, is hard to be understood of those to whom the entire life of faith is altogether strange. He will seem to pass them by, seem to forsake them; and so evoke their prayer and their cry, that He would not pass them by, that He would not forsake them. Not otherwise, walking with his two disciples to Emmaus, after his resurrection, · He made as though He would have gone further' (Luke xxiv. 28), thus drawing out from them the entreaty that He would abide. It is evermore thus; we have here no exceptional dealing, but one finding its analogies everywhere in the Scripture and in the Christian life. What part does Christ sustain here different from that which in the parable of the Unjust Judge (Luke xviii. 2), or the churlish Friend (Luke xi. 5), He ascribes to God? or different from that which He Himself sustained when He came not to the help of the sisters of Bethany in what seemed the utmost extremity of their need (John xi. 6)? And are not all the complaints of the faithful in the Psalms, that God hides his face, that He gives them into the hands of their enemies, that He is absent from them so long, confessions that He does so deal with his servants, that by delaying and seeming to pass them by, He quickens their faith, and calls out their prayers that He would come to them soon, and abide with them always ?
And now, as one by that cry of distress arrested and detained, He at once scatters and rebukes their fears : “Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. How often has He to speak this word of encouragement even to his own ; almost always when they are brought suddenly or in any unusual way face to face with Him; thus see Gen. xv. I; xxi. 17; xxvi. 24; Judg. vi. 23; Matt. xxviii. 5; Luke ii. 10;
Augustine (De Cons. Evang. ii. 47): Quomodo ergo eos volebat præterire, quos paventes ita confirmat, nisi quia illa voluntas prætereun li ad eliciendum illum clamorem valebat, cui subveniri oportebat? Corn. a Lapide : Volebat præterire eos, quasi eos non curans, nec ad eos pertinens, sed alio pergens, ut in eis metum et clamorem excitaret.
Rev. i. 17). And now follows that characteristic rejoinder of Peter, which, with its consequences, St. Matthew alone records: “Lord, if it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water.' That if'must not be interpreted as implying a doubt whether it was the Lord or not. A Thomas, indeed, may have required to have Jesus with him in the ship, ere he would fully believe that it was no phantom, but his very Lord; but Peter's fault would be of another kind. His words mean rather: Since it is Thou, command me to come unto Thee;' for he feels rightly that Christ's command must go before his coming. And, doubtless, it was the promptness and forwardness of love which made him ask for this command, which made him desire to be where his Lord was (John xxi. 7). Perhaps, too, he would compensate for that exclamation of terror in which he had joined with the rest, by an heroic act of
and affiance. And yet there was a fault in all this, as the issue proved, such as made the whole incident a rehearsal of the greater presumption and the more serious fall in store for the too confident disciple (Matt. xxvi. 33, 70). In that · Bid me,' the fault lay. He will outdo and outdare the other disciples; will signalize himself by a mightier testimony of faith than any of them would venture to render. It is but in another shape, ' Although all shall be offended, yet will not I.'
Let us observe, and with reverence admire, the wisdom and love of the Lord's answer. Another, with enough of spiritual insight to detect the fault which lurked in Peter's proposal, might yet by a clumsier treatment have marred all, and lost for him the lessons it so much behoved him to receive. Had the Lord, for example, commanded bim to remain where he was, He would at once have checked the outbreaks of his fervent spirit, which, when purified from the carnal that clung to them, were to carry him so far, and caused him to miss the instruction which through his partial failure he obtained. But with more gracious and discriminating wisdom the great Master of souls; who yet, knowing
what the event must prove, pledges not Himself for the issue of his coming. Peter had said, “Bid me;' there is no "I bid,' in the Lord's reply. Peter had said, 'come unto Thee;' the “unto Me' disappears from the Lord's answer; which is only • Come;' Come,' that is, 'if thou wilt; make the experiment, if thou desirest.' It is a merely permissive • Come;' like Joab's Run’ to Ahimaaz (2 Sam. xviii. 22). In that • Come' an assurance was, indeed, involved that Peter should not be wholly swallowed up by the waves, but no pledge for the successful issue of the feat ; which all would in very faithfulness have been involved, had the Lord's words been the entire echo of his disciple’s. What the issue should be, depended upon Peter himself, whether he should keep the beginning of his confidence firm unto the end. And He who knew what was in man, knew that he would not; that this was not the pure courage of faith; that what of carnal overboldness there was in it would infallibly be exchanged, when the stress of the trial came, for fear and unbelief.
It was even so. • When Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus.' This for a while; so long as he looked to his Lord and to Him only, he also was able to walk upon the unsteady surface of the sea, to tread upon the waters, which for him also were not waves. But when he took counsel of flesh and blood, when he saw something else besides Jesus, then, because he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid, and beginning to sink,” he cried, saying, Lord, save me.' He who had thought to make a show before all the other disciples of a courage which transcended theirs, must now in the presence of them all confess his terror, and reveal the weakness, as he had thought to display the strength, of his faith. In this moment of peril his swimmer's art (John xxi. 7) profits him nothing ; for there is no mingling in this way of nature and of grace. He who has entered the wonder-world of grace must not suppose that he may withdraw from it at any moment that he will, and
Karanovristobal=Buditeobar, Luke v. 7 ; 1 Tim. vi. 9.