Chapter 31: Walking on Water, Healing the Sick

Down the Rabbit Hole

In one of the most memorable scenes in the Gospels, Jesus comes walking on water to his disciples. In Matthew 14:28, we read: "And Peter answered him, 'Lord, if it is you, command me to 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 took hold of him, saying to him, 'O you 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.'" Traditionally, this miracle is seen as yet another demonstration of Jesus' heavenly powers on earth. To what end? To have people believe in him out of fear or out of a desire to be saved? If that is the case, then this is a show of authority, of a master-servant relationship. That would be inconsistent with Jesus' life and words. Moreover, the ultimate aim of the disciple is a selfish one, namely to save himself or herself from hell fire or secure a place in a blissful paradise constantly filled with banquets, music and other imagined heavenly pleasures. If Jesus performed this miracle to gain the respect of his disciples, that would also be a show of insecurity. Could the son of God lack self-esteem? Any literal interpretation leads us down a path of inconsistencies and conflicts within the story; however, a metaphorical reading reveals a much more coherent meaning of the story. In symbolic language, water typically represents the subconscious mind and healing, and here Jesus is walking on top of it like the wind. He is depicted outwardly as having command of the natural elements, the water and the wind. Symbolically, he is one who has delved into his subconscious mind and knows how to tread it. He lives in accord with it and understands the importance of doing so. Psychological studies have been revealing to us the immense power of the subconscious mind. When Peter attempts to walk on the water, he doubts and begins to sink. That is to say, Peter did not truly understand Jesus' message of the need to make peace or live in accord with the subconscious mind. He was still ignorant of its power, which holds the secret to our fears and desires. Peter trusted only in dry land, which represents his surface consciousness. He had never taken the plunge into his own depths as Jesus had done. In response to Peter's inability to walk on the water, Jesus says: "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" In other words, Peter had not let his faith reach deeper and flourish into personal experience. Profound personal experience arises from coming into contact with that mysterious well that lies beneath the surface of our consciousness, which goes beyond concepts and intellect. In theory, Peter believed he could walk on the water. But in practice, he could not do so. Peter only knew and trusted in only that which can be seen, which is on the surface. The power of nature, of which Jesus had command, comes from the same energies that operate our physical bodies, divide cells and process our bodily fluids, all without our conscious attention. These energies operate at deeper levels. This whole episode points to the fact that Jesus had come to live in accord with these levels. He derives his power from them.

In Matthew 9:6, we find a disabled man who is brought to Jesus to be healed. First and foremost, Jesus forgives him of his sins and then proceeds to heal him of his physical disability. A few of the scribes claim that Jesus is blaspheming by forgiving sins. And here is the interesting answer that Jesus gives: "For which is easier to say, your sins are forgiven or to say, arise, and walk?” Jesus is saying that it is more difficult to heal the man’s heart of ignorance, the only true disability that counts, and to awaken him to the ever-present spirit of life than it is to heal him of his physical sickness. The supreme challenge that Jesus faces in the accounts given by the Gospels is the opening of people's eyes to the profound miracles of everyday life. What good is it if a man regains his ability to walk and yet is crippled in spirit? What good is it if a man regains his sight but remains blind to the beauty and majesty and joy of life? Jesus here is stressing the fact that the task of healing a physical infirmity is much easier than healing a sick and extinguished vision of life, through which an entire lifetime is endured. We see this also expressed in Mark 8:36: "What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul?" The difficulty in "forgiving sins" lies in the fact that the individual, "the sinner", must be willing to open his or her eyes. No amount of money, intellect, bargaining with God, prayer or charitable contributions can bring about this healing. The individual must be willing to open the door, which is found in the domain of the heart (experience), not the mind (intellect).

John 9:1, which was mentioned earlier, reads: "And as Jesus passed by, he saw a man who was blind from his birth. And his disciples asked him, saying, Master, who did sin, this man, or his parents, that he was born blind? Jesus answered, neither has this man sinned, nor his parents, but that the works of God should be made manifest in him." This passage provides a great insight into the mind of Jesus. Rather than lay blame on the blind man or his parents or any previous generations, as traditional Jewish teachers might have done, Jesus presents the situation as an opportunity for the manifestation of the kingdom of the Father, which is "spread upon the earth" and not seen by men. Through this passage, Jesus is saying that the world is pregnant with potentialities to reveal the kingdom of the Father; but we are the ones who must initiate a change in our own consciousness. The blind man is an instrument of God, a prophet in some respects because, through his blindness and vulnerability, compassion can awaken in others. And compassion can heal blindness of spirit or "sin." Jesus cared much for the downtrodden, the sick and the lonely, not only because he felt compassion for them but also because they were more susceptible to go past the world and see the kingdom of heaven through their suffering. They were also instruments of God. Whenever there is dilemma, there is potential for revelation. Whenever there is suffering, there is a potential for healing. The blind man, or anyone “imperfect” for that matter, is one of many gateways to the kingdom of the Father. This means that your awakening knocks at your door not only through the downtrodden and the helpless but also through your enemies and foes. In Matthew 5:43, Jesus says: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven." That is to say, revelation and awakening can come through friends and foes alike. They are all actors on the stage of life with a potential to awaken in you the mystery of the Father. In his book, The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, William Blake writes: "If the doors of perception were cleansed everything would appear to man as it is: infinite." That is to say, if we would only open our eyes to the potentialities around us and allow the spirit of life to transform our consciousness, we would be able to see the infinite in all things, to see the kingdom of the Father. Everything would be possible. In Luke 1:37, the angel Gabriel announces: "With God, all things are possible." Of course the physical miracle itself, of restoring the man's sight, is a metaphorical representation of restoring his inner sight, of opening his eyes to the spirit of life.

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