Gospel of Matthew 14
At that time Prince Herod heard of the fame of Jesus, 2 And said to his attendants: “This must be John the Baptist; he must be risen from the dead, and that is why these miraculous powers are active in him.” 3 For Herod had arrested John, put him in chains, and shut him up in prison to please Herodias, the wife of Herod’s brother Philip. 4 For John had said to him: ‘You have no right to be living with her.’ 5 Yet, though Herod wanted to put him to death, he was afraid of the people, because they looked on John as a prophet.
6 But, when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before his guests, and so pleased Herod, 7 That he promised with an oath to give her whatever she asked. 8 Prompted by her mother, the girl said: ‘Give me here, on a dish, the head of John the Baptist.‘ 9 The king was distressed at this; yet, on account of his oath and of the guests at his table, he ordered it to be given her. 10 He sent and beheaded John in the prison; 11 And his head was brought on a dish and given to the girl, and she took it to her mother. 12 Then John’s disciples came, and took the body away, and buried it; and went and told Jesus.
13 When Jesus heard of it, he retired privately in a boat to a lonely spot. The people, however, heard of his going, and followed him in crowds from the towns on foot. 14 On getting out of the boat, Jesus saw a great crowd, and his heart was moved at the sight of them; and he cured all the sick among them. 15 In the evening the disciples came up to him, and said: “ This is a lonely spot, and the day is now far advanced; send the crowds away, that they may go to the villages, and buy themselves food.” 16 But Jesus said: “They need not go away, it is for you to give them something to eat.”
17 “We have nothing here,” they said, “except five loaves and two fishes.” 18 “Bring them here to me,” was his reply. 19 Jesus ordered the people to take their seats on the grass; and, taking the five loaves and the two fishes, he looked up to heaven, and said the blessing, and, after he had broken the loaves, gave them to his disciples; and they gave them to the crowds. 20 Everyone had sufficient to eat, and they picked up enough of the broken pieces that were left to fill twelve baskets. 21 The men who ate were about five thousand in number, without counting women and children.
22 Immediately afterwards Jesus made the disciples get into a boat and cross over in advance of him, while he dismissed the crowds. 23 After dismissing the crowds, he went up the hill by himself to pray; and, when evening fell, he was there alone. 24 The boat was by this time some miles from shore, laboring in the waves, for the wind was against her.
25 Three hours after midnight, however, Jesus came towards the disciples, walking on the water. 26 But, when they saw him walking on the water, they were terrified. “It is a ghost,” they exclaimed, and cried out for fear. 27 But Jesus at once spoke to them. “Be of good cheer,” he said, “It is I; do not be afraid.”
28 “Master,” Peter exclaimed, “if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water.”:29 And Jesus said: “Come.” So Peter got down from the boat, and walked on the water, and went towards Jesus; 30 But, when he felt the wind, he was frightened, and, beginning to sink, cried out: “Master! Save me!” 31 Instantly Jesus stretched out his hand, and caught hold of him. “O ye of little faith!” he said, “Why did you falter?” 32 When they had got into the boat, the wind dropped. 33 But the men in the boat threw themselves on their faces before him, and said: “You are indeed God’s Son.”
34 When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. 35 But the people of that place, recognizing Jesus, sent out into the whole country around, and brought to him all who were ill, 36 Begging him merely to let them touch the tassel of his cloak; and all who touched were made perfectly whole.
To read Chapter 19 of the Gospel of Matthew, please go to: Fish and Loaves
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But deliver us from evil…
(Overcoming Our Egos)
When pride is overcome, we cure a symptom of our separation from God not its root cause. We are like the frog born at the bottom of the well, who is unaware of the larger world that exists beyond the walls of his home. These walls are what psychologists have come to call the ego, and the well itself what Jesus (lacking our modern lingo) called the pit, where the fire (i.e. our desire) is never quenched.1 It is what some have called our “original sin”. Yet “sin” is the wrong word. For sins are connected to choices. And we did not choose to be placed in the well—although it is our choice whether or not we remain there.
The well is better described as our original condition. And Jesus’s entire ministry was about teaching others to overcome it. Asking us to abandon our egos though is a tough sell. Because while we know that egoism leads to pride, hate, violence, theft, adultery and every evil under the sun,2 we also believe that our egos define who we are. We think that if we lose our ego, we will lose our identity; and we are offended by those who suggest otherwise.
This offense that we take is registered in the Gospel of John during the story of the Last Supper—the last fellowship for Jesus before he crucifies his ego, abandons the well, and experiences full consciousness in Christ. At the dinner table, the disciples cry out against the “harsh doctrine” they are being taught.3 Their shock is not over the eating of the flesh and blood of the Son of Man (as those are just metaphors), but that in becoming “united” with Christ that they will lose their sense of self.
We, like the disciples, consider our egos as being solid and permanent. That is the devilish illusion. For if we look back upon our lives, we find that the person we identify as “me” changes as we grow. The middle–aged man or woman often looks with strange fascination toward the person they were at eighteen, just as the senior does toward their middle–aged self. Sometimes we cannot even believe the person we were yesterday!
These changes are all evidence of the Holy Spirit at work, as it pushes us to recognize the vast kingdom that exists outside the well in which we live. When we overcome the well, we don’t lose ourselves, but expand our realities of place and self to include joys and experiences that were beyond our imagination. We leave our ego identity behind to discover our soul’s identity,4 which is ever growing and limitless.
Our journey out of the well is symbolized by Jesus’s teaching of the cross, and the Gospel writers’ depiction of Jesus’s crucifixion and resurrection. Whether Jesus was actually crucified or not is a matter that can be left to personal belief. What is to be recognized is that even if Jesus were not crucified by the Romans, we would have had to do it ourselves for the sake of the gospel story. Because in order to understand the profound depth of Jesus’s renunciation of the ego, we need a crucifixion parable to guide us.
Parables are able to provoke that “aha” experience we get when…
The Lord’s Prayer. To continue reading, click on page 2 at the bottom.
- It would be better for you to enter the kingdom of God with only one eye, than to have both eyes and be thrown into the pit: 48 Where the worm dies not, and the fire is not quenched. – Mark 9:47-48 [↩]
- For it is from within, out of the hearts of men, that there come evil thoughts: unchastity, theft, murder, adultery, 22 Greed, wickedness, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, haughtiness, folly; 23 All these wicked things come from within, and do defile a man.” – Mark 7:21–23 [↩]
- On hearing it, many of his disciples said: “This is harsh doctrine! Who can bear to listen to it?” 61 But Jesus, aware that his disciples were murmuring about it, said to them: 62 “Does this offend you?” – John 6:60–62 [↩]
- He must become greater, and I less. 31 He who comes from above is above all others; but a child of earth is earthly, and his teaching is earthly, too. He who comes from heaven is above all others. – John 3:30–31 [↩]