fourth episode of the Fooling with Scripture podcast (or find it on iTunes!), in which I talk about "Spooky Jesus" and the surprising, rather than spectacular, aspects of Jesus walking on water in Matthew 14:22-33.
This is one of my favorite stories in the New Testament, for many of the reasons I discuss in the podcast -- I love all of the surprising elements of the story. And I love Peter's reaction to Jesus as a model for a disciple's prayer: "Jesus, if that's you, call me out on the water."
Matthew is actually my favorite of the gospel narratives, largely for personal reasons. While I was studying abroad in Morocco, my chaplain and pastor, Karen, suggested we read through the whole of Matthew's gospel with an eye to its narrative elements, understanding it as a story. I stayed up all night to do it, and it was a powerful experience for me -- it was the first time I understood myself, not as held up against an abstract set of laws and moral guidelines, but rather as part of a story, a story which includes me but which is vastly prior to me and is much, much bigger than me.
My favorite commentary on Matthew's gospel is from a book that isn't actually about Matthew, or even about scripture specifically. David Bosch's Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission has a section on New Testament models of mission which includes a chapter on Matthew's gospel. It's been very helpful for me in understanding the text in its context and with its narrative purpose in view. Bosch also points out that Matthew is the only gospel writer to use the term ekklesia, which we translate as "church"; the story in this week's podcast is one of many in Matthew's gospel that is very open to interpretation as a model for church (or at least for ekklesia, which could also be translated as an "assembly" or a group that is called out to serve), which is how I ended my reflections this week.
I mention that Matthew is the first book in the New Testament, but it's not the oldest -- it's predated by the gospel of Mark and by Paul's letters. So by the time it's being written, there's already an ekklesia -- some sort of established community of Jesus-followers -- out of which the particular features of gospel emerge. On a surface level, Matthew's gospel is a story about Jesus; on a deeper level, its a story about this particular community; on an even deeper level, the story of Jesus and the story of community are united in a way that invites all of us, centuries later, into the story.
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