It should have been straightforward. After a busy day, a simple trip across a familiar stretch of water. But it all went very wrong. Suddenly their lives were in danger. Their little boat was battered, they were in real danger of drowning. In the midst of their panic things get worse - they see someone - or something, walking on the waves. The word translated here as ‘a ghost’ doesn’t quite convey the full meaning. The word is phantasma, a phantom, a spectre. It is the sign of something unknown, potentially very scary indeed. To the disciples, close to drowning, it was like a spirit calling them into a scary black hole.
Then they realise it is Jesus. It is their hero, literally rising above the danger, walking on the waves. In the battered boat there is the danger of death. Not surprisingly Peter wants to be where Jesus is, rising above it, safe from the waves, saved from death.
But of course, it doesn’t quite work. Peter sinks and must be rescued by Jesus.
But, like the disciples, we need to remember that even Jesus did not always walk above danger. Jesus too was to sink, sink into the depths of the grave before rising again.
To be human means taking a risk in the storms of life. Jesus descended to the dead in order to save those who will take hand, save them from the drowning of death. Being a friend of Jesus does not mean that we can rise above the tempest. Amid this pandemic we are as much in danger as everyone else.
To be saved means reaching out for Jesus and allowing him to raise us up.
All of this is illustrative of what we believe about our Baptism. We sink into the drowning waters of the font in order for Jesus to lift us up to eternal life.
Unlike some crazy North American deep-South fundamentalist Christians we do not believe God will act as some supernatural super-guard against this virus. We believe rather, that God is acting in those searching for a vaccine, using their God-given talents and skill to find a cure.
Reach out then for Jesus. He will raise you up - but not before you get a soaking.