Matthew’s presentation of the occurrence of Jesus walking on the water (Mt. 14:22-33) is not about showing Jesus as someone with magical or superhuman powers but rather about showing Jesus as the one who can do what God alone does.
Matthew, fully conversant with the Hebrew Scriptures, knows the connections and they are alluded to in his telling of this miracle. In the ninth chapter of the Book of Job (9:8), we hear that it is God “who alone stretched out the heavens and trampled the waves of the sea.” Here we find Jesus walking calmly on the water, trampling the waves of the sea. In Psalm 144:7 we hear the cry of the creature before the Creator, “Stretch forth thy hand from on high, rescue me and deliver me from the many waters.” Here, Peter having taken some steps in faith becomes fearful, he begins to sink and he cries out, “Lord, save me!” We are then told that Jesus immediately “stretched out his hand,” took hold of him and lifted Peter to safety. God alone is the one who can stretch forth his hand and rescue us from the waters that threaten to drown us!
There is a third connection, I believe, and it is from the first reading (1 Kings 19:9a, 11-13a). Elijah, the prophet, is told to go outside because God is passing by. There is a strong and heavy wind but God is not in the wind. There is an earthquake but God is not in the earthquake. There is a burning fire full of fury but God is not in the fire. Finally, after all this, there is a tiny whispering sound and the prophet hides his face because he knows that now God is passing by. In the Gospel, the wind is rolling and the waves are crashing but God is not found in this tumult and chaos rather, quietly and calmly Jesus walks on the water. Christ (who does that which only God can do) neither fears nor needs the tumult and power of the forces of the world to make his presence known because he is the Lord of Life and all creation bows before him. The “tiny, whispering sound” which underlies all things and all creation is the full grandeur of God!
Our lives and the tumult of our world can get chaotic and overwhelming. God is not in the strong wind because God is more than the wind. God is not in the waters that threaten, that can overwhelm us, because God tramples on the waters.
Matthew, in his Gospel, is making use of this occurrence of Jesus walking on the water, to say something utterly unique about Jesus. Jesus is not just another mystic or guru and neither is he a person with magical or superhuman powers because none of these figures would be able to trample the waters because none of them would be more than the waters. Jesus does what only God can do. Jesus is beyond the tempests of life and creation precisely because he is the Lord and Author of Life! And the Author of Life is also the Lord of Mercy! Jesus, who does what only God can do, tramples on the waves of the sea and he stretches out his hand to save us even as the waves threaten to overwhelm. “Lord, save me!” is the only authentic cry of the creature before the Creator and Savior.