Then Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was many furlongs distant from the land, beaten by the waves; for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, saying, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out for fear. But immediately he spoke to them, saying, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.” And Peter answered him, “Lord, if it is you, bid me come to you on the water.” He said, “Come.” So Peter got out of the boat and walked on the water and came to Jesus; but when he saw the wind, he was afraid, and beginning to sink he cried out, “Lord, save me.” Jesus immediately reached out his hand and caught him, saying to him, “O man of little faith, why did you doubt?” And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased. And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:22-34)
Origen (d. 254AD) was perhaps the greatest Christian biblical scholar of the 3rd Century. Although he commented on the literal meaning of biblical texts, he is most famous for digging deeper into the texts to look for the meanings which God had hidden in the Scriptures but wanted humans to seek out in order to know the truth. He relied on allegorical interpretations or typological ones – looking to discover those deeper meanings of the biblical text. He applied his methodology not only to the Old Testament but also to the New. Here is an example of his thinking as he digs into the above Gospel lesson and sees in the Gospel lesson far more than a miracle for it is a teaching to guide all disciples:
‘Then he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds’ (Matthew 14:22). For the crowd could not go across to the other side, . . . instead this was for the disciples of Jesus to do: I mean to go across to the other side and go beyond the material things and ‘the things that are seen’ as ‘transient,’ and come to ‘the things that are unseen and eternal‘ (2 Corinthians 4:18). . . .
Except that the disciples were unable to go before Jesus to the other side; for when they had come as far as the middle of the sea and the boat was in distress because ‘the wind was against them,’ they were afraid; and then, ‘in the fourth watch of the night, [Jesus] came to them‘ (Matthew 14:24-25). . . . But what is the boat into which Jesus forced the disciples to embark? Is it perhaps the conflict of temptations and trials into which one is forced by the WORD, and to which one goes unwillingly, as it were, all because the Savior wishes his disciples to get some training in this boat as it gets buffeted by the waves and the contrary wind? . . . For it is not possible to get to the other side without enduring the temptations of waves and contrary wind. (SPIRIT AND FIRE, p 118)
In this case he sees the lesson about the disciples being tossed about at night on the sea as teaching us about getting through the temptations and trials of life. Christ the Word of God pushes His disciples to get into the boat and go out onto the sea which He knows will become stormy. Christ doesn’t spare His disciples such trials and temptations, something we wish He did. Rather, He uses these trials and temptations to help strengthen their faith and trust in God. The stormy boat ride was a means to help prepare them for the trials they would endure when they went into all the world to proclaim the Gospel.