Heather has supplied the notes this week.
We learn from Matthew’s account of the amazing miracle in yesterday’s passage that Jesus tells his disciples to row over to the other side of the lake ahead of him while he dismisses the crowd. Possibly Jesus wanted to get the disciples away from the nationalistic fervour which was growing among the crowd. He certainly didn’t want the disciples getting the wrong idea about his work and mission. But he also needed time on his own, with God.
So now the disciples are back in the boat, on familiar territory but on their own without Jesus and it is dark! Weather conditions were deteriorating rapidly and they were probably feeling a bit jittery, perhaps a bit overwhelmed by the miracle they had just witnessed and the feelings they had experienced a few hours ago as they had basked in the reflected glory of being involved in such a wonderful miracle. It was still early days for them in getting to know Jesus, who he was and what this kingdom of God was all about, but I’m sure they were already missing the presence of Jesus with them. Somehow, when he was present, there was a confidence that all would be well.
John describes their terror at seeing a figure walking towards them on the water and we can imagine their relief at hearing Jesus’ familiar voice say ‘It is I; don’t be afraid’.
This incident is described very matter-of-factly and John makes no mention of Peter walking on the water to Jesus (as Matthew does – ch14:28-31). This is a miracle for the disciples themselves, to help them understand more of who this man Jesus was – not just a human being like themselves. Humanly speaking, people don’t walk on water, any more than they turn water into wine, or make 5 loaves and 2 fish feed 5,000 plus people. John’s purpose in writing the gospel is to focus our attention on Jesus and demonstrate without any shadow of a doubt that Jesus is God come in the flesh – and if he is God, then we have a responsibility to respond to what he requires of us.
In the next few chapters we shall see the crowd and the Jewish leaders struggling with this because they have their minds solidly fixed on the wrong things and therefore they cannot see truth when it is before them. The disciples themselves were no doubt trying to process the same things while they were rowing across the lake, talking about all the things they had witnessed, but their minds were more open…and God was able to draw them into a growing realisation of who Jesus was.
Was Jesus intending this as some sort of ‘test’ for the disciples? Or was it just the way circumstances worked out and Jesus was able to use the opportunity to reveal himself to them in a different way? Certainly Jesus intended them to be where they were – they had obeyed his word to them. It was a lesson for them – and for us – that even when circumstances are less than favourable for us, Jesus always knows and is never far away – ‘with Jesus in the boat we can ‘smile’ at the storm’, because we know that He is Lord over every circumstance. It is a great thing for us to aim for, to be able to see every circumstance as an opportunity to grow our faith in Jesus and to trust Him to answer our prayers for Him to sort things out for us.
Today’s passage ends with the crowd pursuing their search for Jesus – which sounds a very right thing to do. They had followed him round for a while (6:2), but their motives were self-centred, as we shall see tomorrow. Jesus’s promise that ‘those who seek shall find’ (Matt 7:7) is an echo of God’s promise through Jeremiah centuries earlier, that ‘those who seek me will find me when they seek with all their heart’. (Jeremiah 29:13). God knows when we are genuine in wanting to know Him more, and He will always then take the initiative to draw us closer to Himself.