Jesus had just won the popular vote of a crowd who misunderstood him and who wanted to force him to become their worldly King and powerful provider. Jesus diffused the situation by sending his disciples to the other side of the lake and by retreating by himself to a quiet place.
In John’s gospel we find Jesus compared/contrasted with Moses in a way that would have helped the Jewish people of his day understand Jesus’ greatness. There are links between the Old Testament with Moses feeding the people with manna and Jesus feeding the 5000 with fish and bread. Similarly, between Moses providing water from a rock and Jesus claim to provide living water. In today’s story there is a connection between Moses leading the people through the Red Sea on dry land and Jesus walking on water. Each of these miracles and teaching reveals how Jesus is greater than Moses.
Having done as Jesus commanded, the disciples are in a boat rowing hard but struggling to make headway against the stormy winds. Does this sound a bit like your life? You are doing what Jesus has asked, but you are struggling. Instead of the word rowing, put in the word praying, serving, praising, obeying or reading the bible. Are you doing these things, but even though you are doing what Jesus asked, it is still a struggle and you seem to be losing ground? Perhaps the winds of financial hardship are blowing on you. Maybe there are strong gusts blowing among family relationships. Perhaps your business or employment is an uphill struggle for you. Perhaps like the disciples you are wondering where Jesus is when you need him. Perhaps we relate to the writer of the Psalm whose soul was downcast and who said, “My tears have been my food day and night…’” (Psalm 42:3) At times we may speak of the dark night of the soul. At other times of a desert experience when we feel alone.
Jesus came to the disciples with words of comfort, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid.’ (John 6:20–21). Jesus brings peace. Jesus brings comfort. To the disciples on the mount of transfiguration, to Jairus whose little daughter was dying, and to the women at the tomb Jesus said do not be afraid. Perhaps most well-known he said to his disciples “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” (John 14:27). Jesus brings peace and calms troubled hearts. This story reminds us, Jesus knows what is best, Jesus cares for us, and Jesus is at work. It’s another story, but even if he is asleep in the boat while the storm rages, you are held in the love of the king of glory, you are empowered by the presence of the Holy Spirit.
There is song that says of the Lord,
Even when I don't see it, You're working
Even when I don't feel it, You're working
You never stop, You never stop working
At this moment in your life you may not see it, but Jesus is working; you may not feel it, but Jesus is working. The Psalmist wrote, “indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (Psalm 121:4)
Once the disciples knew it was Jesus, they were willing to take him into the boat. Walking on water, Jesus revealed his great power to help his disciples in their struggles. Have you allowed Jesus into your boat, into your life?
Consider Jesus’ refusal to be made king by the crowds and sit on an earthly throne, compared with his willingness to be a servant and hang on a cross so we can be forgiven.
Rev John Malcolm