Immediately after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.Mark 6:45-52
When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
Today’s supplementary texts: 2 Kings 2:1-15; Ephesians 4:1-7,11-16
“Do not be afraid,” Jesus tells his disciples, as he walks over the water and calms the waves. But of course, they are afraid. They were afraid of the sea, and we can understand that well in Japan. How much more afraid should they be of someone who can tame the sea. As afraid as Moses when God spoke those same words, “I am,” from the flaming bush, or when God “passed him by” on Mount Sinai. As afraid as Elisha, when Elijah was lifted up by the wind of God. “The power that yields to no power of nature,” as Kant put it, is truly terrifying.
Yet fear of God, said Solomon, is the beginning of Wisdom. God is a vast ocean of love so wide that we can never see beyond the horizon, and so deep that we can never reach the seabed. And while love offers comfort, certainly it is a fearful thing. The unknowability of its depths is what makes Love so terrifying. Did the Buddha not say, he who has a thousand loves has a thousand sufferings? Yes, and we Christians embrace all thousand of them, we swim among them, even at risk of drowning; because we, like Saint Augustine, know that our hearts are restless until they their rest in God. When we fear God, we are at rest, because we need fear nothing in this world.