In this episode of the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus walks on the water to reach His Apostles and invites Peter to walk on the water as well. This episode directly follows the feeding of the 5000. In the past I have focused on Peter and his desire to walk on the water to meet Jesus. But this time I saw something a lot different.
The Apostles have been awake and “working” for quite some time. Over 5000 people had followed Jesus to a remote area where He taught them. It is getting late and the Apostles suggest that Jesus send the people away so they can get something to eat. Instead Jesus multiplies bread and fish, and everyone has something to eat. After they have eaten, the Apostles gather 12 baskets of leftovers.
Jesus tells the Apostles that He will dismiss the crowds; they are to get in the boat and proceed to Genneserat where He will meet them. (That is the next episode in Matthew’s Gospel – whether the event occurred in this way is not known.) After dismissing the crowds, Jesus ascends the mountain to pray.
For the sake of this reflection I am guessing at the times. The text says that it is evening when Jesus feeds the 5000 – let us say about 6 pm. Once the people are finished eating and begin to leave, perhaps it is 7 pm or later. The Apostles then leave and Jesus sends away the crowds. Jesus goes off to pray – again the Bible says it is evening. Jesus prays until early in the morning when He approaches the boat on the water. From the text it appears that Jesus knew that the Apostles were struggling on the water, as the wind was against them. Assuming it is now 3 or 4 am when Jesus approaches the boat on the water, the Apostles have been struggling for up to 9 hours and have not made the other shore as yet. And the Apostles have been awake and working by helping to feed the multitude and collect the leftovers, so it has been a very long and active day for them.
Why did Jesus wait so long to go to His Apostles? The time spent with His Father was restorative to Jesus; it was necessary to His mission. Though Jesus knew “God with Him” at all times, there was something special about these private times of prayer – more of a closeness without intrusions perhaps.
It occurred to me that we are more likely to seek God when we are exhausted, when we have done all that we can do and can do no more. Is that why Jesus waited to go to His Apostles? Jesus could have calmed the winds from His place of prayer; He didn’t need to walk on the water to do that.
Does God wait until we are most vulnerable and more likely to seek His help before He answers our prayers? Why would that be? I suppose He wants us to need Him and to recognize that we can do absolutely nothing without Him. Perhaps each time we seek God in prayer, we draw closer to Him, though He is always with us.