Lessons learned on the lake

(Based on Mark 6:45-52)

“Just whose idea was this anyway?”

John sat back for a moment, raising the oars out of the water as another large wave crashed against the boat.

“Just keep rowing,” snapped Peter. “Every time you stop for a breather, the wind pushes us back towards where we came from!”

“I still can’t figure out why Jesus didn’t come with us,” James piped up, pushing hair out of his eyes as the wind gusted around them. “I thought he was supposed to be coming to Bethsaida too?”

“Well, none of us are going to get to Bethsaida unless this stupid gale lets up,” Peter grumbled. He raised his voice again. “John, pull a bit harder, won’t you? We’re going absolutely nowhere with your pitiful rowing! I don’t want to be stuck in the middle of this lake, in the pitch black all night, you know!”

“You couldn’t do any better,” John fired back, a look of thunder on his face.

Nobody spoke for a while as they strained to keep their boat moving towards their destination, fighting their tiredness, yet with their heads full of all that had happened the previous day. They still couldn’t quite comprehend it all. There had been no food available to feed the crowd – well, apart from those few loaves and fishes, that is. And yet, after Jesus had got them organized and blessed that young boy’s picnic, everyone – yes, more than five thousand of them – had eaten. Not only that, but everyone had also been full, and there had even been enough left over to feed a small army. What did it all mean?

The first glimmers of dawn appeared. It had been a long night. And still the wind buffeted their boat.

“What is that?” James’ voice was tense, urgent. They looked out across the lake towards where he was pointing. Fear gripped each of them immediately. Someone – or something – was moving across the surface of the water in their direction. Andrew clutched the edge of the boat. “I think it’s a ghost,” he whispered, his eyes wide with terror.

“Keep rowing”, Peter shouted. “Come on! Quickly!” By now, they could make out the silhouette of a person – and it was walking on the water. Was it going to pass by them, or would it come straight for them? With wails and shouts of distress, the disciples tried to maneuver the boat away from the approaching figure.

Then, above the howling of the wind, it called out to them.

“Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

A mixture of relief and bewilderment surged through each of them. They knew that voice. It was Jesus! But…how?

Before they knew it, he had climbed into the boat. The wind died down immediately. The surface of the lake immediately became still. And so did their hearts.

As they edged closer towards Bethsaida, Jesus explained a little more to them. After sending them out on the lake, and dismissing the crowd, he had found a quiet place on the mountainside to pray. He had been praying for them, of course. As he prayed, he had seen their struggle on the lake as they battled the elements. He hadn’t come out to them immediately. But he was with them now. And they still had so much more to learn…

Don’t we all?

Like those disciples, we can miss so much. And yet, we can be encouraged by the reality that Jesus prays for us.

His desire is that we should grow in our relationship with him, and that, as we face storms in our own lives, we would not be blown off course.

He sees our struggles. He understands what we are facing. He has compassion for us.

And he intervenes at the right time – and, although this may not be immediate, there is always purpose in his timing.

We must take some responsibility too, though.

We must be ready to encounter him in unexpected ways and in unexpected places, just as the disciples did that night.

We must call out and invite him into the struggles, mess, and brokenness of our lives. Only he can bring order and peace.

As we do so, we can be confident that his words to those disciples are also for us:

“Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

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