Sometimes when I’m looking for a little direction, I’ll click on the ‘Laudate’ app on my phone, which contains the readings of the day. When I scan through, a phrase might pop out at me from a psalm or a gospel, or a whole reading might strike me in a new way, or some days I need just a single word.
Today’s gospel tells the story of when Jesus walked on the water to the disciples. They were setting out for Capernaum in a boat at night when they saw him, and they were afraid. We’ve all heard this one before. When I put myself in the sandals of the disciples, and let the timelessness of the story hit me, I read it in an entirely new light.
John 6:16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum.
It’s not a new idea to say that a body of water represents the wider physical and spiritual world, and our place in the boat and our labor represents our own singular journey. They say it was the Sea of Galilee, otherwise known as Lake Tiberias they were crossing, and according to my in-depth research (google), that body of water is approximately 13 miles by 8 miles.
It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
I totally know how this feels.
18 The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing.
Biblically, wind often represents the Holy Spirit, and it’s an interesting idea to think that our daily lives might be impacted in a chaotic way from a force we often think of as gentle. But I think it’s true, and certainly for me, that we sometimes need to be shaken up in order to see Jesus.
19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified.
Depending on where they started, three or four miles could represent the halfway point of an eight-mile voyage, the first third of a thirteen-mile trip, or anywhere in between. In our lives, no matter when we are confronted by the reality of the presence and power of God, it can be startling. But I find it interesting that while, in John’s version of the story, the churning seas don’t seem to frighten the disciples, seeing Jesus does. Maybe it’s because he’s doing something they don’t expect, or maybe they became accustomed to the chaos and danger that surrounded them. It’s true, in my life I sometimes choose the trouble I know over the grace I don’t. When things aren’t going well, it is scarily possible to misidentify the source of the difficulty. Hint: it’s not God.
20 But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’
I think there is something innate in us that does recognize the voice of God. We may not call it ‘God’, but when we hear that steady, soothing voice speaking to us deep within, we know it.
21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat,
If Jesus can do things like walk on water, he probably can calm the wind and waves (certainly he does do that), but at this moment, they just want Jesus to join them in their little boat. It’s so funny. I often want Jesus to come on board my chaotic, crazy life and continue to let me steer, while keeping me safe through all of my problematic choices and limited perspective. Wouldn’t it be better if I joined him on the water, where all things are possible, instead of attempting to contain him in my little, leaky boat?
and immediately the boat reached the land towards which they were going.
Something about the presence of Jesus fueled the rest of the trip for these troubled disciples in their wreck of a boat to get where they were going. The scripture says it happened ‘immediately’ and it sure wasn’t on their own power. Somehow I imagine Jesus just being like, ‘(sigh)… guys, you are not getting this. Let’s just fast-forward and we’ll come back to the idea that all things are possible in me. For now, let’s just get you where you need to be ‘kay?’ I sometimes wish he would do this in my life. There are lessons and perspectives that don’t seem to ever stick, and I need the mercy of an all-powerful God to give my boat a supernatural push across the water to get to where I’m going. He knows my need.
Each of us is piloting our own boat on the water today. Maybe we’re just starting out, somewhere in the middle, or sailing into shore. Perhaps the water today is choppy, wild and scary, or quiet and still. Wherever we are, however the water, there are miracles happening all around us, and an invitation to do the impossible. When we see it, how will we respond?