Going onto the boat, his pupils followed. Then there was a huge shaking of the sea, so that the boat was covered in waves, but Jesus was asleep.

So they came to him and roused him, saying, “Master, rescue us, we’re going to die!” And he said to them, “Why so fearful, you tiny-trusts? Then he rose and admonished the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. And the men were amazed saying, “What kind of man is this, whom even the winds and the sea obey?”

Matthew got the story from Mark, and he inserts it amongst narratives of teaching and healing to give the reader a vision of who is teaching and healing. According to the psalms it is Yahweh God who can command the sea, which is always used as an image of chaos. In Jesus, God confronts the chaos of unbelief and disease that afflicts his people. The miraculous is the sign that evil and suffering can be conquered. It is difficult to know whether Matthew considered these these stories as factual, or how his readers understood them. At the very least they are intended to say to readers, “Stay awake! This is a God- story! And you can be part of it.” Let the storm be any serious threat to believers. Let Jesus’ sleep be his death or absence. Let his awakening be his resurrection; and the word he speaks be spoken for his threatened followers of all times and places.

Is there a difference between this story of supernatural rescue and the many stories of healing? It is told in the same way, with brief details and language as of ordinary events. The reported amazement of witnesses is common to both. It seems that the author wants no separation of ordinary and miraculous in the ministry of Jesus or perhaps in the life of believers facing, as Jesus did, both religious and political opposition.

The Wikipedia article on magical realism emphasises that in its classic form it permits no separation in the narrative between the real and the magical. It notes that the magical dimension is often set against the normality of an oppressive regime, as a breach of its control. Garcia Marquez, one of the greatest exponents of magical realism said that he had to believe in the magical events in his story before he could narrate them adequately. All this has relevance to the Gospels.

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