Back in the Boat

AgnusDay Mt 14v22-1

Back in the Boat. There are many commentaries and sermons on the web that proclaim “get out of the boat!” One, somewhat cleverly, referred to the great danger that Christians are just at Sunday worship and become “boat potatoes” never taking faith outside the walls of the church. I did not find any that talked about being “back in the boat.” As mentioned a few days ago, we should be mindful that each Sunday we sit in the “nave” of the church, a word whose origins come from the Latin navis which means “boat” or “ship.” We have already considered a range of reason why Peter would have gotten out of the boat and stepped in to the chaos of the storm. It is that vein that people encourage “boat potatoes” to go over the sides, into the storm, where people need to be rescued.

True. But then those rescued are brought back to the boat. The boat, the community of believers, the church – is the safe haven – even in the midst of the storm. There is certainly the question of “rescue operations” when one needs to go over the side into the waves and winds of chaos, but if one does not return to the boat, drowning is the likely end. Perhaps the longer view question is about the boat.

A question any community should ask is whether they are still tied up at dock. Or have they cast off into the deep, ready for rescue, but along with the full engaged gifts of the community. The “ship” of our faith was never intended to stay tied up to the dock. Ultimately, we end up back in the boat.

At last – back in the boat. Back in the community we see the only genuine response possible: “Those who were in the boat did him homage, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (v.32) It is the response in every generation from a grateful church that experiences the impossible presence of Christ with it in its mission.

This confession comes as part of a longer discourse about Jesus’ identity that begins in 13:54. In vv. 54-58 Jesus is in his hometown and they understand him to be “the carpenter’s son.” Ch. 14 begins with Herod wondering if Jesus is John the Baptist raised from the dead. Matthew 14:33 reveals the answer to “who is Jesus” – He is the Son of God. And it shows the response of the true disciple: worship Jesus with the community of believers.

….A small thing to consider

Why did the disciples cross the lake (v.22)? To get to the other side – not always a joking matter. What’s on the other side of the lake? What’s so important on the other side, that Jesus, literally, “immediately” (eutheos) “forces” (anagkazo) the disciples to get into the boat and head that direction? When disciples first cross the lake through a storm, they land on the Gentile/unclean side (Mt 8:23-34). With this boat trip, Jesus had sent them to “the other side” (14:22, see also 16:5), was that meant to be the Gentile side? In Mark, Jesus had sent the disciples to Bethsaida (Mk 6:45), which is in Gentile side of the Jordan, but they don’t make it. They end up in Gennesaret (Mk 6:53; Mt 14:34) which is on the Jewish side of Lake Galilee. Can storms at sea (and “little faith”) keep disciples from reaching the destinations where Jesus has sent them? It is a question we can all ask of ourselves and our communities of faith.

This issue of “other” and “clean/unclean” is the issue Jesus takes up in Mt 15


  • K. Beale and D. A. Carson, Commentary on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI; Nottingham, UK: Baker Academic; Apollos, 2007)
  • Eugene Boring, The Gospel of Matthew in The New Interpreter’s Bible, VIII (Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press, 1994) 327-330
  • Warren Carter, Matthew and the Margins: A Sociopolitical and Religious Reading (Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Book, 2000) 308-12
  • T. France, The Gospel of Matthew in the New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing, 2007) 565-72
  • T. France, Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary in the Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, Vol. 1, ed. Leon Morris (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1989) 240-43
  • Daniel J. Harrington, The Gospel of Matthew, vol. 1 of Sacra Pagina, ed. Daniel J. Harrington (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1991) 223-28
  • Daniel J. Harrington, “Matthew” in The Collegeville Bible Commentary, eds. Diane Bergant and Robert J. Karris (Collegeville, Minn.: Liturgical Press, 1989) 883
  • Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of Matthew: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdman’s Publishing, 2009) 385-90
  • John P. Meier, Matthew, New Testament Message 3 (Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 1990) 163-66
  • Turner and D.L. Bock, Matthew and Mark in the Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, vol. 11 (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005) 203-4


  • Gerhard Kittel, Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey William Bromiley, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans, 1995)
  • Horst Robert Balz and Gerhard Schneider, Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Eerdmans, 1990)

Scripture – The New American Bible © 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C.


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