A few days ago I was watching drops form on the inside of a window. Moisture condenses on the cold glass and forms drops, given shape by the ratio of surface tension to gravity. At a certain point the drop drops and runs down the surface at a speed determined by gravity and the contact between the drop and the glass. There are some remarkable physical laws at work in condensation, the formation of drops and the timing and qualities of their dropping.
Water is one of the most amazing things. Good old H2O. Solid, liquid, gas. The capacity to aggregate into drops, into rivers, lakes and seas. The capacity to dissolve minerals into it and then to be absorbed into plants and animals. The motion of waves. There are some remarkable physical laws at work in all this. A lot of them have been figured out and given mathematical expression. Whether a body floats on water or sinks has to do with the ratio of body mass to surface area and the surface tension of the water, the level of salinity of the water. A cormorant or a human can decide whether to spread out and float or position itself or himself or herself in such a way as to slide through the surface of the water. There are laws of physics at work in these things.
Today Jesus messes with these laws. Did he dematerialize so that his body would not slide through the surface of the water? Did he cause the surface tension of the water to suddenly strengthen to support his weight? Did he momentarily increase the salinity of this fresh water lake to an extreme degree? Did he cause the water under his feet to freeze momentarily to support his weight? We just don’t know, do we?
These are not the gospel’s concerns. The writer means to communicate that the Lord of the Universe is the Lord of the Universe. The story doesn’t even say why Jesus walked across the lake, other than to get to the other side. They’re straining against the oars, but, oddly, he meant to pass them by.
The men at the oars are more than surprised; they are terrified. They’re probably not thinking of the laws of physics and their mathematical expression, but they know that something about the way the universe is supposed to work isn’t working. It’s hard to know what to make of this miracle. Did he do it to show off? As a joke? We just don’t know, do we? It says he intended to pass them by. Odd, isn’t it?
We can ask him some day what he meant. In the meantime, we can ponder the wonder of water on windows in winter. Wow. And the wonder of creatures who can ponder the wonder of water on windows in winter. The wonder of creatures 13 billion years in the making—made in love, and, as John tells us, for the casting out of all fear and for the perfection of love. Double wow.
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