By BENEDICT AUGUSTINE
“He got into the boat with them and the wind died down.
They were completely astounded.
They had not understood the incident of the loaves.
On the contrary, their hearts were hardened.”
Jesus continues to surprise the disciples. Just a few days ago, he multiplied five loaves and two fish to feed a crowd of over five thousand people, having twelve baskets of leftovers after the meal. On this occasion, he walks on water—in a storm, no less—and enters the disciples’ boat teetering among the waves and calms the wind with his entry. Despite a the great feats, a tinge of melancholy appears afterward: instead of increasing their faith, the miracles seem to do the opposite.
Up to this point, the disciples had witnessed many miracles of Jesus and heard his teachings; calming the waters should not have surprised them. Because it surprised them, and surprises modern audiences, they fail to see the truth behind the miracles. Instead their hearts harden as they likely debate their own sanity as Jesus settles himself in the boat. The storm of confusion still assails their minds despite the actual storm disappearing around them. They focus on the spectacle, the effect, and lose sight of the source, the cause.
Rather, they should have recognized that Jesus was God Incarnate and had command over the elements should the world pose obstacles against him—and the world frequently does. This is true on a spiritual plane: even if a soul should isolate himself in middle of an endless sea of doubt, paranoia, and solipsism, Jesus will cross the waters, stop the storms, and tell that person to overcome their fears and accept Him. This is also true in a physical way: the gospel has found its way across vast oceans, deserts, and wild jungles to convert those ready to repent and receive Christ.
More than anyone, the disciples needed to learn this lesson, for they too would have to walk on water and tell their audiences to “take courage” and “not be afraid.” They would have to calm the winds of adversity blowing through the ages, especially in those first few centuries after the Church’s founding.
Moreover, they could not rely on the proliferation of miracles to spreadthe gospel. Miracles are always a means, never an end to conversion. Contrary to the false notion of atheists who idolize the god Science, Christianity does not spread because of miracles and gullible peasants believing in them. Christianity spreads because of the love Christians have for one another as well as for their persecutors. The miracles they perform manifest the love they have. The magnitude of Jesus’ miracles indicates just how much love He had for His fellow men.
For this reason, John’s letter preaches love, not miracles. The Christian responds to God’s gift of Jesus with love: “if God so loved us, we also must love one another.” Through Jesus, God first models love, which can then be imitated by all men with open hearts. Real love, the love “that remains in God and God in him,” obviously does not rest on the tumultuous waves of ephemeral feelings; it walks over the waves with ease. Real love does not suffer the buffeting of the winds; it calms those winds.
Christian love, embodied by Christ, preserved by His Church, nurtured by God’s children, outlasts the storms of politics, economics, culture, and other such factors that determine the fate of civilizations. It is the miracle that causes all other miracles.