Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray. When evening came, the boat was out on the lake, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the lake. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened. When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the market-places, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
What a day! Jesus needed time and space for himself with God, even before he met up with the disciples again. Having dismissed the crowds, he went up the mountain to pray. As darkness came, he looked out over the water and saw that the disciples were making heavy weather rowing – experienced fishermen though they were. They were so tired and the storm was against them. Jesus could see they were in difficulties and went to them, walking on the water! Far from being comforted, the disciples were petrified, thinking it was a ghost – for no one walks on water, it’s an impossibility – isn’t it?
However we choose to interpret that part of the story, Jesus came to the disciples; he calmed them down by his word of encouragement and by getting into the boat with them so they could see it was really him. Jesus didn’t leave the disciples to struggle on their own, he came to them, he got right alongside them. That gives us the assurance that we are never alone, he is with us when we are struggling, seemingly on our own. Jesus comes with those same words of comfort, “take heart, it is I, do not be afraid.” Like the disciples, we may not understand it, but our heart tells us it is true.
When they arrived at the other shore, the crowds met him, bringing all who needed his help. There was nowhere for him to escape. They found him wherever he went. The amazing this is that he must have been completely shattered – far busier than any normal person’s day – and yet he never turned anyone away. Jesus met them at their point of need, bringing his healing and love and that is true for us today.
Lord Jesus, help us to see you when we are afraid. Help us to hear your voice calling to us when our faith is weak. Help us to feel you sitting alongside us when we feel alone. We cannot begin to understand your greatness and your power. Your purposes are beyond our imagination, but we know that you are with us. Jesus, come now and give us your peace. Amen
The Rev’d Sue Henderson – retired URC minister, member of United Church Bradford on Avon