walking on the waters | John 6.19-20
When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” John 6.19-20 | ESV
Having rowed hard more than half the night they had barely gotten half-way across the lake, the hard rowing chasing all thought of Jesus from their minds. But then they saw it. Him. Who or what was it? No, it’s Jesus. Walking. Walking on the water. Their eyes riveted on him as he walked closer, not too far from the boat, now. And these experienced fishermen were terrified.
Jesus called out to the quavering, trembling men, “Oy! It’s me! Calm down!” MAV (Mike’s Amplified Version)
Paint, Edersheim. Paint…
When Jesus constrained the disciples to enter the boat, and to go before him to the other side, they must have thought that his purpose was to join them by land since there as no other boat there, save that in which they crossed the lake.
And possibly such had been his intention, till he saw their difficulty, if not danger, from the contrary wind. This must have determined him to come to their help. And so this miracle also was not a mere display of power, but, being caused by their need, had a moral object…
We can almost picture to ourselves the weird scene.
The Christ is on that hill-top on solitary converse with his Father – praying after that miraculous breaking of bread: fully realizing all that it implied to him of self-surrender, of suffering, and of giving himself as the Food of the World, and all that it implied to us of blessing and nourishment; praying also – with that scene fresh on his mind, of their seeking to make him, even by force, their King – that the carnal might become spiritual reality (as in symbol it would be with the Breaking of Bread).
Then, as he arises from his knees, knowing that, alas, it could not and would not be so to the many, he looks out over the lake after that little company, which embodied and represented all there yet was of his church, all that would really feed on the Bread from heaven, and own him as their true King. Without presumption, we may venture to say, that there must have been indescribable sorrow and longing in his heart, as his gaze was bent back across the track which the little boat would follow.
As we would view it, it seems all-symbolical: the night, the moonlight, the little boat, the contrary wind, and then also the lonely Saviour after prayer looking across to where the boatmen vainly labor to gain the other shore. As in the clear moonlight just that piece of water stands out, almost like burnished silver, with all else in shadows around, the sail-less mast is now rocking to and fro, without moving forward.
They are in difficulty, in danger: and the Saviour cannot pursue his journey on foot by land; He must come to their help, though it be across the water.
It is needful, and therefore it shall be upon the water, and so the storm and unsuccessful toil shall not prevent their reaching the shore, but shall also be to them for teaching concerning him and his great power, and concerning his great deliverance; such teaching as, in another aspect of it, had been given them in symbol in the miraculous supply of food, with all that it implied (and not to them only but to us also) of precious comfort and assurance, and as will forever keep the church from being overwhelmed by fear in the stormy night on the Lake of Galilee, when the labour of our oars cannot make way for us.
Where in your life do you currently feel stuck “laboring in vain at the oars”? How might you sense Jesus’ presence on the waters of your struggles coming near you? How will you respond to his approach?
Lord, teach me through the waves and words of this story to trust you, to look for you, in the midst of a long night of weary, pointless rowing; to see you walking upon trials that would drench me, drown me, down me – and even though I cry out in fear and disbelief, give me grace to see you still coming towards me, reaching. Amen.