The sight they beheld sent tremors through the tips of their toes to the tops of their heads.
Did their eyes deceive them? Visibility was poor on this dark, stormy, dangerous night.
Their boat was hurling, pitching, and rolling amongst the rough sea waves. Struggling to keep their boat in hand, their terror betrayed their lack of preparation. How could this be? The majority of these men were fishermen who had grown up with the Sea of Galilee. They knew its wiles and its waves. Yet, as they combatted each raucous, harsh, unrelenting swell, their strength and experience were not enough to save them.
Then, at the crest of their fears, a vision appeared.
Was it a man?
It couldn’t be.
Not walking on the water.
Not in the middle of these turbulent waves.
Not in a million years did the fisherman expect to see their friend, their confidant, their guide, their teacher, their Savior, Jesus advance with such sure, powerful, saving steps. In their direction. Not even after witnessing four different miracles by His word and hand, did they expect Jesus to come to their aid with a miracle. Their eyes deceived them.
So, in fear, did they start to row in the opposite direction?
Did their exhausted, powerless arms succumb to paralysis?
Did they scream in horror?
Did these big men break down and cry?
Did any one of them faint?
Or throw up??? (A perfectly instinctive response, I believe.)
These men were frightened by the approaching figure they failed to recognize. Any one of these fear responses was natural under the circumstances. Yet, why hadn’t they considered that the man who had performed four miracles was about to perform another – for them?
It was only when Jesus identified Himself that the men relaxed. A bit.
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.
New International Version, John 6:20 -21
These men who had walked with, talked with, and been guided by Jesus – for months – were unprepared to receive Him – in the middle of the sea and in the middle of their need.
These men who had observed Jesus come to the aid of so many, were completely unprepared to receive His help for themselves.
Had they considered Jesus to be a last resort?
Yet, when invited into the boat, Jesus somehow propelled the vulnerable men and their craft to shore and to safety – immediately.
Wow. Wow. Wow.
This is a very familiar story in the Gospels. Yet, I am pondering new insights.
Why hadn’t these fishermen, men called by Jesus to follow Him, called out for help – from Him?
Why hadn’t these fishermen, the men who had witnessed miracle upon miracle, believed Him for one more?
Why had they relied upon their physical and mental strength alone?
Why had they focused on the struggle of their circumstance and not on the powerful, saving grace of their Lord?
We see Peter still in the throes of a faith struggle as the story continues from Matthew’s retelling:
“Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
“Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
New International Version, Matthew 14: 28 – 33
I can’t help but thinking that Peter approached Jesus for something – the ability to walk on water – to test his own strength and power – to test Jesus Himself – rather than coming to Jesus because of Who He was – his Savior, his Lord, and his Friend. Because had Peter walked toward Jesus in complete trust, he would have lost sight of his fear and doubt. After all, only minutes before, Peter and all of the disciple crew had failed to recognize Jesus as He came near in the middle of the stormy, scary Galilee sea.
What about you and me?
What are our stormy, scary, tumultuous seas that we are crossing today?
Are we attempting to traverse in our own strength and abilities?
Have we considered calling out to Jesus for help?
Are we even prepared for His assistance and care?
Do we doubt Him for one miracle more?
I hope not.
I really, really hope not.
At the end of their sea-faring journey, the disciples recognized and declared Jesus to be the Son of God. It took a stormy sea crossing to help them get there.
What will it take for us?
Who do we declare Jesus to be?
Is He our help?
Is He our Savior?
Is He our Lord?
Will we come to Him because of who He is – rather than solely for what He can do for us?
Is Jesus our First or Last Resort – or something in between?
At the crest of our fears, will we call to Jesus?