When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading. – John 6:16-21
This passage is a retelling of Jesus walking on water to reach the disciples struggling in the boat all alone. It sounds like they have been on the east side of the Sea of Galilee healing, feeding, and learning from Jesus.
They apparently left the shore without Jesus which I find somewhat odd. Perhaps Jesus told them to go on ahead and that part is not stated in this story. Whatever the reason the disciples are hard at work rowing against a headwind to cross the lake. They had rowed three or four miles which would have placed them about in the middle of the Sea of Galilee which was about 8 miles wide. Sounds like hard and discouraging work to me. It was dark and the “waters grew rough”. I am sure they were worried about the boat being swamped and drowning, and felt hopeless – like they were getting nowhere against the wind and waves.
This secular storm would have shaken any sailor, but the real squall here is a spiritual one. They are about to be awoken from their spiritual sleepiness by Jesus navigating this maelstrom with nothing more than His sandals and spirit. Jesus comes to them walking on the lake. He is the master of this watery place just as He is the master of the spiritual world that surrounds and permeates these men. This spiritual soul saturation is just as real to Jesus as the spray of water from the waves and wind is to these men. This event, and others like it, are providing a window between the secular and the spiritual.
The men are initially frightened by this confluence of Godly condensate and sea spray as Jesus appears from the darkness navigating what appears to these men to be very choppy waters. Jesus calls out to them “It is I; don’t be afraid.” There is in this seemingly simple statement salvation for those who choose to hear it amidst the secular storm. I think Jesus still calls out to us like this, although usually in a less tangible way.
Jesus shows up during life’s storms and squalls for people all the time in different ways. Rarely in my experience is this as dramatic as a savior strolling across the lake, but I have experienced His presence in ways that took my breath away. I am sure that rowing against these breaching waves was probably leaving these men a bit breathless, but not in the same way that the arrival of Jesus did.
Once they were able to conquer their fear and ”take him into the boat” they immediately reached the shore where they were heading. Interestingly, this account says nothing about Jesus calming the waves or storm. The act of inviting Jesus into the boat made all the difference. It resulted in their immediate arrival at the destination, which they were previously rowing so hard against wind and waves to reach.
The take home life lesson for me is that inviting Jesus into the boat will help us reach the destination we seek – even amidst darkness, waves, and wind, which from our perspective in the boat look really scary.
Prayer: God help us to keep a sharp lookout for You so we can invite You into our boat