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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. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 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, NIV) 

I love watching mothers and children when I'm at the mall. The children take small steps away from their mothers and then look back at them. If the mother smiles or waves her hand to go further, the child ventures away without crying or running back.

I once saw a mother hide from her child, thinking she was playing. The child cried and screamed from the top of her lungs because she believed her mother had left her. Research suggests that children without a secure base of connection with a mother had relationship problems that could last for years. Secure children can handle not seeing a parent when he or she has a strong and secure connection in the midst of uncertainty. 

The disciples went to the lake without any insecurities or uncertainty about getting to Capernaum. The conditions were always calm and pleasant on their many trips with and without Jesus. When they got in the boats, they had clear expectations things would progress as it had in previous voyages. They were in control of the situations since previous experiences gave them good benchmarks of success. 

We travel through life expecting our routines and activities will always go as planned—rising from our beds for work, picking up our children from school at expected times, and going to church. We believe our control over things is certain and constant. We believe we have enough knowledge and skills to overcome any challenge that comes up. However, what happens when our toolbox doesn’t have the right tools to meet the new challenge? How will we act in conditions of losing control? What kind of person do we become when we can’t see Jesus? Does fear turn us into crying children when we can't see our parent? 

John mentioned four conditions that brought fear and trepidation to the once-strong disciples of Christ. Maybe, in the midst of darkness, things got scary for them? Imagine Peter looking back and forth listening for sounds he was not familiar hearing on the lake. Imagine James praying anxiously that no one would fall out of the boat.

The wind tossed the boat to and fro like a toy in a child’s bathtub. The lake’s waves beat up against the boat, making it feel as though it might break apart at any moment. Imagine John cuddling closer against Matthew and Bartholomew in the boat. Imagine Philip and Andrew grabbing onto anything that felt secure and solid. There was chaos inside the vessel and inside every disciple whose theory of control completely fell apart. They didn’t know how to deal with uncertainty, with the loss of control. 

Without Jesus’s presence, the darkness felt darker to the disciples. Without Jesus in the boat, the wind was experienced with hurricane force. Without Jesus joining them from the shore, the waves felt harder and more fierce. The conditions on the lake disintegrated the fragile faith of the men who were with Jesus before the trip to Capernaum. Without Jesus in the boat, the disciples’ panic was the typical response since their inner faith crumbled despite previous miracles. 

In the midst of troubled waters and troubled minds, Jesus chose a different way of showing up to his frightened followers. The Master doesn’t approach the boat of scared guys with a rebuke, but in a spirit of gentleness. Jesus walked towards them (rather than running with his face contorted with deep disappointment).

Instead of wasting time getting another boat, Jesus chose the fastest means of transportation to get to his disciples—his feet. The first words out of the Master’s mouth weren’t a sermon on faith nor an exposition on miracles. Connecting his presence with his words, Jesus identified himself as their secure base over the chaotic waves, the slamming force of wind, and melted hearts of frightened men with the words...“It is I, do not be afraid.” He was their secure base in the midst of uncontrollable circumstances and contexts. 

What was the rest of the trip like to the other side of shore? John doesn’t tell us, but imagine the disciples telling Jesus about their fears and laughing afterwards how Jesus made an entrance they would never forget. Maybe Andrew and Philip teased Peter for being the first disciples to call out for Jesus. Maybe John was so close to the Master that Jesus nudged him away for space. Maybe Judas smiled while listening to the stories. Maybe Jesus doesn’t say a word, but soaks in a moment that creation obeyed him without any backtalk or questioning. Maybe Jesus enjoyed not rowing because he was understood by them as the “Lord (who) delivers them in times of trouble” (Psalm 41:1). 

As the people made their way across the lake, maybe the weather forecast called for warm and sunny temps in the low 70s with no wind. Perfect conditions for another round of Jesus miracles. The disciples never forgot the night things turned dangerous without having Jesus in the boat. They possibly reminisced how Jesus showed up walking on the water like it was solid ground. They never forgot the fewest words Jesus had ever spoken to them and meant the world to them in restoring their faith in the Master. 

I think about an old sacred song from my childhood when things get out of control and I need something to keep me grounded to know the presence of the Lord has never left me. 

Trouble in my way

I have to cry sometimes

Mm, trouble in my way

I have to cry sometimes

I lay awake at night

But that's alright, yeah

'Cause I know Jesus (Jesus, He will fix it)

'Cause I know Jesus (ooh, Jesus He will fix it)

'Cause I know Jesus (ooh, Jesus He will fix it)

Afterwhile, afterwhile

(by Shontelle Norman-Beatty) 


What a beautiful reminder that, even though we don't have it altogether, we have One who does, and doesn't condemn us for our fear.  Thank you!

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