"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 three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. 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. The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus." (John 6:16-24)
From Mark’s gospel, we have a little more information than what John records. Specifically, we know that Jesus urges the disciples to go across the Sea of Galilee without Him. It is important to Jesus, having just cared for a very large crowd, to take some time to be alone. It is necessary for Jesus to step away from all the activity and pray. This was His pattern.
Somewhat reluctantly, the disciples head out in a boat to cross the large body of water on their way to Capernaum. The Sea of Galilee is known for its sudden storms. In the blink of an eye, they can roll in without warning. Nobody knew this more than the disciples. Many of them were fisherman, and this lake was very familiar to them.
The total distance of the trip was about 5 miles. However, the story tells us that the disciples had been rowing against a growing storm and they had only travelled 3 miles in about 6-7 hours. At this point in the account, they are literally in the middle of the lake and undoubtedly exhausted. Even for an experienced fisherman, this was a dangerous place to be.
It was about 3am and the night was very dark. The sea continues to grow angry and the disciples had been rowing for hours with very little progress. They were frightened for their lives, but they soon became terrified when the unimaginable occurred. Someone was coming toward them while walking on the water.
Jesus understood their fear and he answered their cry. “Don’t be afraid…I am.”
I am? I am what? What does Jesus intend to communicate with this announcement?
Well, to us, this is an interesting statement. “I am”. But throughout His ministry, Jesus explained this in many different ways. He says “I am the bread of Life”, “I am the light of the world”, “I am the door”, “I am the good shepherd”, “I am the way, the truth and the life”, “I am He”. On many occasions, in many different ways, Jesus declared His identity as Messiah and Savior. He is the God of all creation who came not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many. Make no mistake. Jesus proclaimed this truth very clearly and quite often.
From this account, we are reminded that He is God and we are not. Like the disciples, we live in a dangerous and desperate world. It is dark and the sea of sin that surrounds us threatens our soul. We can row as hard as we would like, but we will only become exhausted and frustrated with the lack of progress we are able to make on our own. Like he did with the disciples, Jesus appears in our life to make Himself known. If you are reading this devotional, you should know this is just one of many ways He has revealed Himself to you in order to explain, “This is who I am…”
In response we can either let Him in the boat and give Him the wheel so that by his power, you can make it to the other side. Or we can continue to navigate life on our own without Him. He has made Himself known – the choice of faith is ours. Who is directing the wind of the sails in your boat?