16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. 19 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they *saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. 20 But He *said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
Remember that just before this all happened, Jesus went away on His own into the mountain. The disciples were on their own, without their mentor, teacher, Lord. Suddenly they are isolated and caught amidst a storm. I’m sure we can all relate to a time in our lives, maybe it is right now, that we felt isolated, alone, and caught up in a storm.
I have heard the validity of this story contested. Some test the original language, trying to understand if the word used for Jesus walking on the water also could imply Jesus being in the water. Others have said that what they saw wasn’t actually Jesus, but His spirit. Even more so I have heard people state that it was a figment of their imagination, looking for hope, looking for a Savior in that desperate time and their minds conjured up something to comfort them and get them through. I mean, hallucination happens, right? I imagine Atheists think similarly about how Christians view God. The truth is, however, that it doesn’t really matter. We can take this story exactly as it is told, or we can try to explain away the validity of it. What remains is this: if you focus on Jesus and invite Him into your boat, the seas will calm and you will make it safely to your destination.
Reading this story, especially the simple statement Jesus made, I recollect a dark time in my childhood. Not many people have heard this story, but I suppose it’s time I “put it out there.” When I was a kid, I had done some things that led my parents to believe I was taking drugs. I was hanging out with the wrong crowd, I had a lighter hidden in my room that I stole from them, my grades were suffering, etc. Any concerned parent would of course suspect and fear the worst. It was my first (and only, from what I recall) period of “indefinite grounding.” I felt like nobody believed me. I felt like I was being treated as a criminal even though I was innocent of the charges. It got to a point where I literally, for the first time in my life, got on my knees and cried out to God. I felt so desolate and alone that it hurt. Amidst my sobbing on the side of my bed, my hair suddenly stood up on my body and I heard a voice, “I believe in you.” It was as if someone crept into my room, said that, and disappeared. I didn’t see anything, but I certainly felt and heard something. Now, was that just something my mind did for self preservation or was it really God? I believe it was, some may contend it wasn’t. Does it matter? Not really, because it was my focusing on God that brought me through. From that moment I was able to confidently “serve my sentence.”
I find verse 21 here the key. They were willing to receive Him into the boat. Notice nothing magical happened until they received Him. It’s one thing for Him to exist, even to tell us words of comfort; but, if we do not receive Him, then it doesn’t matter. Will you receive Him?
Being caught in the midst of the storms of this life, how often do we look for a savior? We try to find a way out. Sometimes we do it with our own might, dropping a shoulder and trying to plow through. Often times we try to numb ourselves to the storm through relationships, substances, false ignorance, etc. It amazes me how hard we will work just to prove ourselves, only to fail eventually. Who are we proving ourselves to? To others, to our own ego, to God Himself? In this story the disciples didn’t have to prove anything. In fact, they were frightened! All they had to do was receive Him, and the storm was no longer an issue. Take note that the wind and waves did not go away in this instance, but rather they arrived safely through it.
What storm are you in today and how are you trying to get through it?