Another Dragon Boat Festival has passed, many people in Hong Kong seem not to care much about what it commemorates. Very few people actually pay attention to the origin or historic values of the Festival, Qu Yuan, or dragon boat races. And it has gotten to the point where international dragon boat races in the city have become an annual sports event. The event has even traveled across regions and internationalized. If anyone is interested in the story of Qu Yuan, you might have already known the conversation between Qu Yuan and the fisherman in the Records of the Grand Historian (or in Chinese: Shiji)—how he was disappointed with being unappreciated and marginalized by the ruling monarch at the time. Hence his well-known saying to criticize the feudal dynasty, “The whole world is muddy; I alone remain pure. All men are drunk; I alone stay sober.”
Not only does the Gospel document the identity and work of Jesus in the miracles, but it also indicates the meaningful reactions of the disciples.
As a Christian, I want to use this popular folktale of the Dragon Boat Festival that Qu Yuan threw himself into the river as a symbol, to contemplate our Christian faith. Miracles are an important symbol in the Bible that also have special meanings to Christians. Not only does the Gospel document the identity and work of Jesus in the miracles, but it also indicates the meaningful reactions of the disciples. We should try not to treat it as another historical story and disregard the real responses of these Christians in the Bible as they experienced miracles and challenges to their faith. That is, to see salvation right away without struggling and fear. On the contrary, we are only humans and have our own limitations. So when we encounter challenges to our faith, it is normal to feel weak and uncertain, doubtful and confused.
What was difficult was the courage required for the mental journey to the Lord Jesus.
Recently I participated in another one-day retreat in the sea where the pastor who led the retreat asked us to mimic Peter walking on water toward Jesus in Matthew 14:22-33. It was not the first time that I participated in the same retreat with the boat anchored in the middle of the ocean. Another time was a sunny day and the water was calm. The most difficult time was when we were met with strong wind and torrential rain, the gloomy sky made it impossible for us to see our surroundings or the shore in the distance. From the boat equipments to the weather, what we experienced would have been very different from what Peter and others on the boat had experienced. Not to mention we now have weather forecast, lifesaving equipments, emergency telephone, and more well-built boats with much stronger hulls… to protect us in case of danger and emergency. Therefore, it should not have been too challenging when we were asked to experience Peter’s struggle. When I was standing on the afterdeck looking ahead—although it was in daytime and the sea was calm—I felt uneasy. It was not that I was worried that I would drown or whether I could successfully stand on water; what was difficult was the courage required for the mental journey to the Lord Jesus. I was imagining all the while of the many things in the sea that I did not know or could not see. Therefore, I hesitated, tangled with fear and was unwilling to get out of the boat. Eventually, after praying and taking a deep breath, I cried out “Lord! Catch me!” as I set my foot into the water. This experience of going from anticipation to fear was made possible because I cried to him who I believed in.
Matthew chapter 14 is a real story that speaks about Jesus and also us.
In Matthew 14:28—it was a dark night, “It is I,” Jesus who walks on water said to his disciples. “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” Barbara Brown Taylor, an American Episopal priest and professor wrote about Peter’s story. “What if Peter had not sunk? What if he jumped out of the boat with perfect confidence, landed with both feet flat on the water and smiled across the waves at Jesus? What if the other disciples had followed suit, piling out of the boat after him? It would be a different story. It might even be a better story, but it would not be a story about us.” (The Seeds of Heaven) Taking the first step is indeed a challenge of faith, surrendering yourself to the Lord is not based on what is in front of us because it can change at any time, and is certainly not based on our abilities or experience because sinners cannot overcome temptation. Hebrews 2:18 Just as Dr. Sun Poling said, Matthew chapter 14 is a real story that speaks about Jesus and also us. It truthfully illustrates that Jesus is the Lord, just as it truthfully illustrates that we of little faith would cry out “Lord, save me!” Lastly, it tells us that Lord would reach out his hand and catch us, eventually help us climb into the boat.
Written by Cheui Yi (At Will)
Pg 148-150 (Translation) Righteousness: Reading the Gospel of Matthew, Sun Poling
The Construction of History, Si Chen