The miracle of increase

The miracle of increase

Jesus walketh on the Sea. Peter.

(The Gospel History, Section 63)

And after he had taken leave of them he went up into the mountain apart to pray: and when even was come, he was there alone. But his disciples were going over the sea, unto Capernaum: and it was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come unto them. And the sea was rising, by reason of a great wind that blew: and the boat was now in the midst of the sea, distressed by the waves, for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night, when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, seeing them distressed in rowing, he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and he would have passed by them. But when they beheld Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the boat, they were afraid, and supposed that it was an apparition, and cried out for fear, for they all saw him and were troubled. But Jesus straightway spake unto them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee upon the waters. And he said, Come. And Peter went down from the boat, and walked upon the waters, to come to Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and took hold of him, and saith unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? They were willing therefore to receive him into the boat; and when they were gone up into the boat, the wind ceased. And they that were in the boat worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God. And they were sore amazed in themselves, for they understood not concerning the loaves, but their heart was hardened. And straightway the boat was at the land whither they were going.

And when they had crossed over, they came to the land, unto Gennesaret, and moored to the shore. And when they were come out of the boat, straightway the men of that place knew him.

The miracle of increase

(The Saviour of the World, Vol IV, Book I, Poem VI)

Walking on the Sea, by Giotto

That miracle of increase—what the steps,
And at what moment did the change take place?
Did broken fragments multiply the while—
The instant’s space—they passed through Jesus’ hands?
The Disciples’ baskets—were they straightway filled
Direct from the hands of the Lord? Or, grew the store
In the act of giving, each portion leaving more
Than itself to fill its place? Idle, we ask;
Who tells us how the goodly grain is built,—
The seed, the blade, the ear, full corn in ear—
That man knows th’ processes of miracles,
How thousands may be fed, how tempests, stilled!
Such mysteries, they yield all to one key
Had we the wit to know it, grace to use:
Life feeds upon the living—all we know!
“In Him was life”—our sum of knowledge, see;
No further oracle’s vouchsafed to men
For all their restless searching, arrogant boasts:
That secret place where life doth hide itself
And thence flows forth to animate the worlds—
Rejecting Christ, The Life, what hope have we
That any find it for us? Alternative,
There’s none for us: ’tis Christ, or blank dismay!

As General spies weak point in his defence,
So Christ took His disciples, constraining them,
By force of that strong word they knew t’obey,
Despite their protestations—sure, not they
Would leave Him all alone to deal with this
Tumultuous multitude!—and, straight, they go,
Take boat as they are bid for further side;
And Christ, alone, took leave of all the folk,
Dispersed them to their homes, constrained by that
Authority in Him which some knew to name.

And was the Christ alone? Two years had passed
Since in the wilderness one came and said,—
“The Kingdoms shall be thine and all their praise
Wilt thou but bow to me!” Two strenuous years,
The Lord had carried water in a sieve,
Had urged great boulder up a mountainous slope;
The inconstant people slipped away from Him;
Fast as He raised them, fell to lower depth:
Is any toil like his who high ideal
Urges incessant on unwilling souls?
What if, once more, the Tempter came and mocked;—
“Two years gone by—no Kingdom yet to show!”
What if he urged, “Nay, try my readier plan,—
Let them make King of Thee, and all the gifts
Which Thou wouldst give to men shall flow from Thee!”
What if stress of temptation drove our Lord,
That He clomb up the mountain there to pray!—
And peace attends His prayer, and careful love.

The Lord gazed from His height; quick flash revealed
The Disciples toiling on uneasy sea—
Sight piteous out of the dark, their boat a toy,
A plaything of strong waves, tempestuous winds:
The men distressed with rowing make no way;
In the fourth watch of the night, there were they still!
“Anon, the Lord was with us, safe were we
’Mid all the turmoil of wild heavens, great seas!
Alone, we perish, late so full of hope!”
What greater strait might be—alone, in the night,
Peril of death about them, without hope?
But what is this adds horror to their dread—
Better to drown than demons see abroad
Walking the midnight sea! Spectre abhorred,
They’d heard how such appeared to men foredoomed,
And terror froze their hands to idle oars!

The Shape draws near—a likeness grows on them;
More awful fear appals: then,—Is it He,
The Spirit of their Master? He is dead,
And they, indeed, left orphaned, desolate!—
They cried aloud in terror; worse than all,
This apparition unendurable!
A tender voice bids all their fears subside—
They hear through the tempest’s raging, “It is I;
Be of good cheer poor troubled hearts, nor fear!”
Too much the joy for Peter, sudden induced
On anguish of his terror:—Lost he his wits,
And cried, “Lord, bid me come if it be Thou!”
Hazards of faith are welcome to the Lord,
If so be, He must reckless zeal instruct
Which counts not the cost. “Come,” saith Christ, and he came,
Stepped from the boat with eye fixed on the Lord,
And steady walked the waters: then, distract,
He saw the heaving sea; “I perish, Lord,
Save Thou!” Immediately the Lord stretched hand,
Took hold of the sinking saint, and spake reproof,—
“O thou of little faith, wherefor didst doubt?”
They in the boat knew all their fears subside;
That dear familiar voice quick calmed their soul;—
How awful the surroundings, here was Christ,
And willingness took the place of shrinking dread:
Glad, they in the boat received Him; subsided straight
The fury of the storm: those weary leagues
Their sore-tired arms must row were over-past,
In the haven where they would be, were they now!
Once more they worshipped Him;—“By this we know
Of a truth, our Lord, Thou art the Son of God!”
The Lord, too, was He weary? What confidence,
The loaves, had they produced in hardened hearts
Which had no faith in Him when terror urged?

St. Matthew xiv. 23-34.
St. Mark vi. 46-54.
St. John vi. 16-21.

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