The Storm at Sea

There are precursors of this story in the Old Testament.

Psalm
107:23 They that go down to the sea in ships, that do business in great waters;
107:24 These see the works of the LORD, and his wonders in the deep.
107:25 For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof.
107:26 They mount up to the heaven, they go down again to the depths: their soul is melted because of trouble.
107:27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit’s end.
107:28 Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses.
107:29 He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still.
107:30 Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven.

The Psalmist has invited a literal as well as a psychological understanding of the scene; it’s one of the many times in the psalm where terrible things happen, and they cry unto the Lord, and things work out. This is certaily worth comparing with the story in John.

And then Crystal has already referred us to Job’s great verse:
Job 9:8: God “treads upon the crests of the sea.”

When Jesus chose to walk on the water at that moment, I can imagine that he was thoroughly familiar with both of those O.T. passages.

It’s certainly worth while to look at the synoptic versions of the story. As Marjorie indicated Luke has Jesus in the boat, the storm terrifies the disciples until they awaken Jesus.

Mark (ch 4) gives a similar account.

In Matthew (ch 8) the waves have covered the boat, they awaken Jesus, he upbraids them for their little faith, and quiets the waves. But the passage that most closely resembles John’s (ch 14) has Jesus walking on the water. (They thought it was a spirit, but aren’t we all spirits; presumably a spirit would have no problem walking on the water.)

Intrepid, impulsive Peter asks for and receives permission to walk to him. Permission granted, and Peter walks– until his fears get the best of him and he sinks (certainly a parable of my life).

All of these stories represent an effort of Jesus to raise the consciousness (faith) of his slow disciples (there and here).

John Sanford is an episcopal priest/Jungian analyst. He wrote
“Mystical Christianity – A Psychological Commentary on the Gospel of John (1993). In his treatment of the dark sea journey he included a discussion of scholars who “appear to be bothered by the irrational” and literalists, who “sacrifice intellectual scrutiny….that aborts the possibility of seeing more deeply into the meaning of Scripture.” (That seems to be a hot topic among our group.) Sanford preferred what he called the ‘symbolic’ approach.

That judgment in fact seemed to be at the center of his discussion of the passage. He called it a numinous experience and a necessity for the development of a spiritual consciousness, as well as for psychological healing, but avoided and resisted by conventional practioners of both disciplines.

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6 responses

  1. It is facinating how images repeat themselves through scripture in analogous ways — as if the langauge of scripture was not words but images, mythemes, and waht Jung called archetypes.I had not caught the Psalm analogy and only seen Jonah. But likely the author of Jonah heard the psalm in worship.

  2. I agree with John Stanford about the notion of “Numinous Experience.” For me this means to open myself to this mystical possibility – not as in taking word for word the miracle story, but to be open to the deeper meaning beyond, as in not limited to, my rational thought. I have learned that rational thought sometimes imprisons us, keeps us from truly seeing and feeling and knowing the beloved Christ within.

  3. No question about it: rational thought is a spiritual bane,what Blake called the ‘mind-forg’d manacles’. It tends to imprison us in a purely materialistic dimension.

  4. “as if the langauge of scripture was not words but images, mythemes, and waht Jung called archetypes.”Can we say that images are to words as music is to notes?

  5. Can we say that images are to words as music is to notes?Okay Larry. So where shall we take this?Each reading of scripture (or perhaps of anything) is not so much a mecahnical thing but a performance art. Scripture is not the Word. It is the score by which we create a fresh performance. And tehs pirit of God, the Word made flesh, is in the performance mor than the score.Can we go there? And what happens to religion and spirituality and faith when we do?

  6. David said:”And what happens to religion and spirituality and faith when we do?”Well, nothing, David; nothing to my religion, spirituality and faith. Think for a moment, where would the music be without the words?I recall Fox saying that scripture is not the Word. Christ is the word, and to me it’s at least as much Christ within as any ‘historical’ record of what Jesus may have said and done.Re performance. Blake said, If a man is not an artist, he’s no Christian. And virtually all of his art was in essence a commentary on the Bible, closed of course to those with mind-forg’d manacles.BTW have you read Northrup Fryes’ magnum opus, “The Bible and Literature”? I find it sensational: all about the types and antitypes making O.T. and N.T. two parts of a whole. Not easy to read (for me), but very nurturing.In fact I believe Frye’s introduction to Blake affected my attitude toward scripture more than any other writing.Finally you probably recall my father’s great sermon on the canon– a library of books. He invited his congregation to add any books to it that they find as (or more) meaningful. It’s all experiential for me. I’m in God’s hands, and he continues to do wonderful things.

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