This Gospel story about Jesus coming to his disciples in the midst of a terrible storm is a parable telling us that the Lord will come to us in our death struggles.
The lake here was actually a wide place in the River Jordan, and through the Bible the crossing of the Jordan to the Promised Land was a metaphor for passing through death. The idea was picked up in the spirituals where death was the only way to freedom from slavery. They sang, “Show me that stream called the River Jordan, that’s the old stream what I longs to cross.” And, “Deep river, my home is over Jordan.”
In Chapter Three of the Book of Joshua, the Israelites, after forty years of wandering, had come to cross over into the Promised Land. However, the Jordan was in flood, and as a final test of their faith, God ordered them to follow the Ark of the Covenant into the flood.
When the feet of the priests carrying the Ark stepped into the river, the waters backed up, allowing the great column of people to follow the Ark down into the bottom of the riverbed. There the priests halted, letting the people pass up and out.
For our passage over to the Promised Land, it will not be the Ark, but Our Lord himself who will take up his position halfway through the river of death.
Back to today’s Gospel, Jesus, walking to the Apostles over the water was his way of showing that death has no hold on him. Peter’s walking on the water demonstrated what faith can do for us. His sinking shows what happens when we lose faith.
When my time comes I hope I can hang on to what Paul wrote in Chapter Fifteen of First Corinthians.
“Death is swallowed up in victory. O Death, where is your victory. O Death, where is your sting? “