“I AM” Walking On Water
In our last post from the book of John we left off with Jesus withdrawing into the mountains to escape the crowd of 5,000 who wanted to make him king by force, after he fed them. And around this time, Jesus tells his disciples to take a boat to Capernaum. So that’s what happens. Jesus heads to the mountain and the disciples jump into a boat and start to row across the Sea of Galilee toward Capernaum. I don’t know if you’ve ever rowed a boat before, but if you have you know it’s not the fastest form of travel. The disciples row, and row, and row. And while they’re rowing it gets dark. And Jesus still hasn’t come to them, though they were anticipating him.
There’s this place on the edge of the Sea of Galilee called the Arbel Cliffs where a drainage in the topography creates a venturi. Mount Arbel itself rises up 1,200 feet above the water. A venturi is a narrow place between two high points where the wind funnels through and increases in velocity, in the same way the current increases at narrow points in a river. When I used to fly hang gliders they were always warning us to watch out for venturis. They can be dangerous to aircraft and they can create problems for boats too. I don’t know if that was the cause but the disciples were encountering high winds and rough water. And they became afraid.
Finally, after rowing for three or four miles, they see Jesus walking out to them on the water. And in the dark, in the storm, with the wind, and the waves, they were distracted enough and frightened enough that they didn’t recognize him.
It’s at this moment Jesus says, “It’s me; don’t be afraid.”
It’s likely Jesus was simply trying to communicate his presence. But it’s worth noting that literally, what he said was not “It’s me,” or “It is I,” but the literal translation of what he said was “I am.” So Jesus said, “I am,” even as the Lord said to Moses, “I AM,” from the burning bush.
“I am,” he said, while walking on water. It may be that at that moment he was reminding them of his deity. (Keener)
Then, after Jesus greets them in this way, the disciples are glad to take him into the boat, and suddenly the boat is at the point on the shoreline where they were going. (John 6:16-21)
Am I Glad To Take In Jesus?
You can imagine how the disciples might have felt if they had departed for Capernaum, say, a little after noon. And there was gentle sun on the Sea of Galilee that day. And the wind was light, and in their favor. Or there was no wind at all, and the water was like glass. And they were gliding along toward their destination with the smell of spring in the air and nothing but the sound of their oars moving through the water in their ears.
But it wasn’t like that. It was just the opposite. It was dark, and stormy, and the water was rough, and the wind was howling in their ears. They were afraid. And at the end of the report of this incident in the gospel of John, verse 6:21 says, “Then they were glad to take him into the boat…” I imagine you can think of a time when you felt at least a little bit similar about someone’s arrival. You might have said the words, “Boy, am I glad to see you!” A mother or father of a seriously sick child might say those words to a paramedic who arrives on scene. Or a person lost in the woods might say those words to their rescuer.
The point is, as each of us row each of our respective boats, we typically don’t hope for Jesus when everything is smooth and calm. It’s when the storm comes that we look for him and hope for him. It’s when the storm comes that we become glad to take him into our boat. But that’s what we need, we need him in the boat with us. It was after he was in the boat that “immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” When Jesus is inside our life, that’s when we find ourselves where we’re supposed to be.
Last post on the gospel of John I was just doing the usual thing I do, writing about a couple of verses in the Bible. It started out routine enough but as I wrote I soon realized I wasn’t as glad to take Jesus in as I thought I was. I saw that I was holding onto my own agenda. And now as I write this post, I also realize he might send a storm my way to change my heart, to make me glad to take him in.
At the end of the last post from the book of John I prayed, “…please intervene in our lives and do whatever You know to be best, to cause us to love You so much that our own agendas fall away.”
Another way of expressing that prayer might be to say, “Intervene in our lives and do whatever You know to be best, to cause us to be glad to take You into our boats.
“Even if it means allowing a storm.”
References and Resources:
Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, InterVarsity Press, 1993
Image: Rowboat on Rough Sea via alfa-img (labeled for reuse on Google Images)