It must have been quite a sight to see Jesus walking across the lake that night. If I had been one of the disciples, I think I would have been terrified, too! It’s hard to know their state of mind after the extraordinary day they’d had, watching Jesus feed thousands of people – elated? Exhilarated? Perhaps just a tad freaked out? Mark (probably briefed by Peter, as we described yesterday) records that ‘they had not understood about the loaves.’ (v52) In other words, they were most likely confused, overwhelmed even.
And here they are, in the middle of the night, battling with the wind that had suddenly whipped up. They were ‘straining at the oars’ (v48) – and then, exhausted and sleep-deprived, they see a ghost! Actually, not a ghost – Jesus. Walking on the water. Wait… what?
Why does Jesus meet them like this? On one level, we don’t know for sure. The implication is that they were in a moderate amount of danger – this is, to some degree, a parallel story to the storm they encountered at the end of Mark chapter 4. This time, Jesus is not in the boat, and so he comes to meet them, to encourage them, to calm their fears. And the miraculous method was another way of pointing them towards who he was – even if they didn’t get it yet.
We may feel at the moment that the wind is against us, too – that we are straining at oars of life. If that’s you, then Jesus meets you today – he passes by, gets into your boat and says ‘Take courage! It is I.’ Perhaps you’re feeling defeated – take courage. Perhaps you’re losing hope – take courage. Perhaps you’re not sure what or how to pray – take courage.
What Jesus offers us is not a right answer or a helpful technique but his very self. ‘It is I.’ He comes to en-courage (literally awaken courage in) us, to take away our fears, just as he did for the disciples on the lake. May this Jesus draw close to you, and, at the end of this week, give you renewed hope today.