In Scripture, the sea often symbolizes primeval chaos. This doesn’t mean God was writing a book and he needed a good analogy, so he looked around and picked out the sea. It means he created the sea as stormy and chaotic so that when Jesus walks on the water it creates a deeply symbolic historical record of Christ miraculously treading down chaos and evil, ruling over every aspect of his creation.
Many in contemporary biblical scholarship miss this point. Conservatives defend a mere historical narrative and liberals propound a mere literary symbolism. Neither gives God the proper glory as the Author of Scripture and history, who fills the pages of both with overflowing significance. The problem with allegorical interpretations of Scripture is not that they transgress the grammatico-historical method of exegesis – it is that allegories are often too literal to apprehend the semiotics inspired by an infinitely wise, meticulously sovereign God.
Like Peter walking on the water, our hermeneutics will drown in this sea of historical symbolism if we take our eyes off of Christ – focusing on mere history or mere symbol – but if he takes hold of our hermeneutics, as he did Peter’s hand, then we will worship while reading every page saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matt 14:33)