This week in the Gospel reading at Mass we heard of Jesus walking on water. This is one of the better-known passages in the Gospels, but you might not know that for Matthew’s audience this passage would have had a deep Scriptural significance.
Cale Clarke, host of The Faith Explained, drew on several passages in the Old Testament to show how this particular act of walking on water held deep significance for the Jewish people in Jesus’ time.
Cale explained, “This is something that the Scriptures say: that only a divine being could possibly walk on water. Let’s take a look at some verses that really back this up.”
There are a couple of instances in the Book of Job, and Cale pointed out the first one saying, “In Job 9:8, here’s what it says. It’s talking about God, ‘Who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea.'”
“That’s very, very appropriate here,” Cale pointed out. “Trampling the waves of the sea is something only God could do.”
In another example, he shared, “In Psalm 77:19 we read these words, ‘Your way was through the sea, your path through the great waters. Yet your footprints were unseen.”
Cale also told listeners about Antiochus IV Epiphanes, who thought he was a divine manifestation and played a role in the book of Maccabees. Cale said, “Here he is again in 2 Maccabees 5:21, and it says, “Antiochus carried off 1,800 talents from the Temple and hurried away to Antioch, thinking in his arrogance that he could sail on the land and walk on the sea.'”
“He thinks he’s a divine manifestation and thinks he can walk on the sea. But, of course, only God can do such a thing in reality,” Cale explained.
There are many instances in Scripture in which God acts through the prophets to perform miracles, bending the laws of nature that his will may be done. We see this with Moses, Elijah, and Elisha for example. But these Scriptures from the Old Testament indicate that not only was Jesus’ walking on water miraculous, but that it specifically indicated his divinity.
But Jesus gets even more explicit about his divinity when he speaks to the disciples. Cale told listeners, “It says that they all saw him and were terrified, but immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I. Have no fear.'”
Cale pointed out, “He said, ‘This is I,’ which can be translated as ‘I am.’ And of course this reminds us of God’s self-identification to Moses in the burning bush. So you get the picture here. This is very deliberate on Jesus’ part, implying his divinity.