Only that which is empty can be filled

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Only that which is empty can be filled

Scene One:
Christ’s disciples were being tossed about by the waves as they sailed their boat into a strong headwind. When dawn broke, Jesus, who had been on the shore, approached them by walking across the surface of the lake.

The terrified disciples cried out, “A ghost!”

Christ spoke to them, “Don’t be afraid.”

Peter replied, “Lord, if it is really you, then ask me to come to you across the water.”

Christ told him to come, so Peter got out of the boat and started to walk across the lake. He became afraid when he saw the strong winds, however, so he began to sink into the water.

Jesus grabbed Peter’s hand and said, “Oh, ye of little faith. Why did you doubt?”

Scene Two:
Large crowds had gathered to hear Christ speak, though it was a remote place and there was nothing to eat. His disciples only had five loaves of bread and two fish among them, but Jesus told them to share it with all those assembled. After everyone had eaten their fill, there were still twelve baskets left over; not counting women and children, it is said that a total of five-thousand men were fed.

Christ also performed many other miracles. There are stories in the Bible of him healing the dying son of a nobleman and changing water into wine at a marriage feast. Christ also brought a man who had died back to life and he himself was resurrected after three days in the tomb.

Even among Christians there are various arguments debating the validity of these miracles. Some people claim that Christ’s miracles are definitive proof that he was the son of God — naturally, the son of Almighty God would be able to perform miracles such as these! This argument is controversial, however, as the New Testament was written after Christ had already died, so others claim the miracles were fictional tales that were added later. Still other people believe that the story of Christ’s resurrection was not referring to his physical body rising from the tomb but was instead a metaphorical expression of his soul’s resurrection. The debate is endless, and opinions seem to be split by personal belief and sect. This dispute has always been there throughout the two-thousand year history of Christianity, it is still there today and always will be.

I wonder why people are so hung up on whether these stories are true or not. It’s not particularly important whether it’s possible for a few loaves of bread and a couple of fishes to feed a few thousand people. It’s also not relevant who created these stories or why they did so — one should instead simply examine Peter the moment he sank into the water. The Peter who walked on top of the water and the one who sank into the water were different — the difference between them was fear. The Peter who walked on top of the water had no fear, whereas the one who sank in the water was afraid; in the Bible it says that as soon as Peter saw the rough winds, he felt afraid and began to sink into the water.

It’s not hard to find the root of fear, as it often arises in our daily lives. Without doubt, the origin of fear is this self-centered ego, the very ego that comes bursting out whenever one senses the perils of existence.

The moment Peter walked on the water, however, he had no concept of self whatsoever. Christ had surely also let go of all sense of self within him. Peter suddenly felt afraid when he saw the strong winds — he thought he might die — so he was again caught by this ego that he had previously surrendered.

That’s when Jesus told him, “Oh, ye of little faith. Why did you doubt?”

The ego always reasserts itself at the moment one’s faith begins to weaken. Whenever we hold onto our sense of self, our faith invariably becomes weaker — we grow further away from the very spirit, life and equanimity of Christ. That’s why I’m not really interested in whether this miracle is true or not — I can only contemplate the message contained within. The story of the loaves and fishes is the same — the key point is the tranquility of Jesus’ mind when he broke the bread with his two hands.

The greatest miracle Jesus showed us was not turning water into wine, nor was it walking barefoot on water — it was the equanimity that naturally arises when attachment to the ego is seen as empty.

There’s no greater miracle in the world than this.

*The author is a JoongAng Ilbo writer on religious affairs.

Baek Sung-ho
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