In today’s reading, we find the disciples in a boat going across the Sea of Galilee, while Jesus has retreated to a mountain alone after feeding the five thousand. The disciples are pretty far out into the sea when the weather starts to get rough, and then they see Jesus, walking on the water towards them on the boat. They are frightened, but listen when he tells them to not be afraid, and they let him into the boat. Then “immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.”
The next day, the crowds who were fed found him and sought him out, but Jesus responds to them in a way that zones in on their motivations (verse 26): “Jesus answered them, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.’”
For me, the first realization of this passage comes from this reorientation. Jesus isn’t Lord because of his ability to meet our needs; he is Lord because God is the God of the universe, who has control over the wind and the waves. He can feed thousands, suddenly bring boats to the shore, and perform miraculous healings – and sometimes he does those things, and it is right to thank and praise him then. And sometimes he doesn’t do those things, and we don’t know why. But even then he is worth worshiping and fearing because he is divine, and we are quite deeply not.
The second thing I see in this story is that the disciples didn’t even think Jesus was coming on this trip – he was off retreating on a mountain – but when he shows up in his breathtaking walking-on-water divinity, the (correct) actions they take are 1) trusting his words and 2) letting him into the boat.
I imagine that getting in a boat to cross a few miles of sea is something the disciples have done a good number of times before, with or without Jesus physically present. I think of the times in my life when I assume I can rely on myself and my experience to get by – studying for an exam I think I’ve got in the bag, biking a familiar route, or seeing a patient with an ailment I’ve seen a hundred times before. But we’re the ones missing out when we rely on our own instincts, even in the mundane. The truth is we don’t know when the wind and the waves will come up, even if we think we’ve seen it all before. And all the while God is standing at the ready, all-powerful and all-knowing and ready to step into our boat. We may not think we’re in desperate need of him, but we will never be better off without asking him in.
My prayer for all of us is that we have eyes open to see Christ’s glorious divinity throughout the world and our lives, especially when we don’t expect him or don’t think we need him. And in those moments may we open our eyes to his divinity and find ourselves willing to take him into the boat.
Andrea lives in beautiful downtown Silver Spring, Maryland. She is (still) very excited that the Caps won the Stanley Cup.