Walking on Water,
Painting by Yongsung Kim,
Painted in 1883,
Oil on canvas
© Yongsung Kim artist

Walking on Water,
Painting by Yongsung Kim,
Painted in 1883,
Oil on canvas
© Yongsung Kim artist

Gospel of 3 August 2021

Jesus was walking on the lake

Matthew 14:22-36

Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he would send the crowds away. After sending the crowds away he went up into the hills by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, while the boat, by now far out on the lake, was battling with a heavy sea, for there was a head-wind. In the fourth watch of the night he went towards them, walking on the lake, and when the disciples saw him walking on the lake they were terrified. 'It is a ghost' they said, and cried out in fear. But at once Jesus called out to them, saying, 'Courage! It is I! Do not be afraid.' It was Peter who answered. 'Lord,' he said 'if it is you, tell me to come to you across the water.' 'Come' said Jesus. Then Peter got out of the boat and started walking towards Jesus across the water, but as soon as he felt the force of the wind, he took fright and began to sink. 'Lord! Save me!' he cried. Jesus put out his hand at once and held him. 'Man of little faith,' he said 'why did you doubt?' And as they got into the boat the wind dropped. The men in the boat bowed down before him and said, 'Truly, you are the Son of God.'

Having made the crossing, they came to land at Gennesaret. When the local people recognised him they spread the news through the whole neighbourhood and took all that were sick to him, begging him just to let them touch the fringe of his cloak. And all those who touched it were completely cured.

Reflection on the Painting

This story of Jesus walking on water appealed very much to me as a young boy. As I think back on it, it was probably at a time that I was actually learning to swim. After learning how to swim, then the playfulness in the water burst to the fore: can I float? Or swim under water? How about jumping in with knees bent and arms folded? Can I stand upside down on the pool floor?… But someone in today's story could actually walk on top of the water… I remember thinking this was really mind-blowing!

I think children can indeed enter into the scenes of the Gospels in a more natural way than adults. As children love listening to stories, the Gospels can help them dream and nourish their desires. Today's painting by Korean Christian artist Yongsung Kim would have appealed to me as a child. In a work painted from a high perspective, Jesus' walking is seen from the vantage point of how God would have looked down upon today's scene, from above. Jesus looks small upon the vastness of the marbled-effect painted waters. Soon He would outstretch His hand to save Peter. 

Peter is, once again, our representative in the Gospel story. He impulsively gets out of the boat, wanting to get close to his friend Jesus. It was an act of love. But he sank. Just like the rest of us, he relied too much on himself and lost sight of where he was going. Jesus then reached out His hand. A human hand. Hands we also have, to reach out to others. 

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