Monday, July 1, 2013
“When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid.’ Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.”
This story of Jesus walking on water is one half of a whole narrative, John 6:1-21. The first story of the feeding of 5,000 (verses 1-15) is also included by the synoptic gospel writers: Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, and Luke 9:10-17. And then the passage we read earlier of Jesus walking on the water is found only in Matthew (14:13-21) and Mark (6:30-44).
For John, the main question is, “Who is Jesus?” thus making John’s primary theological issue a Christological one. So I’d propose that we see the answer to that question coming through the people who need Jesus. In verses 1-15, the crowd is who needs Jesus. In the story for today, it is the group of disciples who need Jesus.
Imagine being on a small boat in the middle of a large body of water with dark skies looming above your head. The water is choppy and the winds are high. And then imagine seeing someone walk on water. I’m pretty certain I’d be afraid, too! But for the disciples, Jesus’ simple statement “It is I” was a game-changer. Ego eimi. (These words occur again from the lips of Jesus in verses 35, 41, 48, and 51). Here in this passage, however, they stand alone. “It is I.”
Now imagine being in a pitch-black room and suddenly hearing the door open. Fear is still present if the identity of that person is not announced. But a simple “It’s me” suffices as voice recognition to calm the fear over who the door-opener is.
The disciples need Jesus. Their need came out of Jesus’ absence. And then, Jesus appears. I think the miracle happens through the presence of Jesus and his voice saying, “It’s me. Don’t be scared.” Sometimes all we need is a simple reassurance that Jesus is present. Ego eimi. That presence can get the boat to shore, can calm the grandest of fears. Jesus is active through miracle indeed, but also through simple presence. So, I encourage you to see who Jesus is in your life and the lives of your community. How has Jesus been present?
Prayer: God of holy presence, help me to see your activity and presence. Give me strength to walk humbly doing your work, knowing and trusting that your presence indeed gets the boat to shore and calms the grandest of fears. In Jesus’ name, Amen.