As I said yesterday, John chapter six is one event that happens over the course of a couple of days. In verses sixteen through twenty-one, we hit an interlude that doesn’t quite seem to fit with the rest of the story.
“When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” (John 6:16-21)
This miracle is also told in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark, and in greater detail in Matthew. But for our purpose here, we’ll stick to John’s shorter account.
This is the night after Jesus fed the five thousand. They were fleeing the crowd because Jesus knew they intended to make him king. They decided to flee across the sea to Capernaum by the cover of night. So the disciples shoved off, rowing, but Jesus remained behind. First, this is one of those times when I wish I could have been a fly on a log listening to the conversation. They decide to leave to escape the crowd, but Jesus tells them at the last second he’ll catch up.
With what? We have the only boat! It’s not like the Son of God would go boat-jacking someone else’s boat. Obviously, Jesus convinced them to go ahead without him, and they trusted him.
Lesson one: when Jesus asks us to do something unreasonable, trust him enough to do it anyways. One of the problems we face with our faith is that we allow reason to rule and not trust. Don’t misunderstand me, the Christian faith is very reasonable, but it is not ruled by reason. Trusting Christ only becomes reasonable once you trust him enough to lay down reason.
So they shove off, row for a few miles, all the while the weather is getting worse by the minute. Winds that come down off the mountains surrounding the sea whip the water ferociously. It makes rowing alone difficult, and more difficult, rowing the boat in the right direction. They still have a few miles to go before reaching shore.
While trying to locate the shore in the dark, they see Jesus walking to them on the water. Matthew’s Gospel tells us that they first thought he was a ghost, so naturally they are frightened. Jesus calls out to them, tells them to fear not, and they welcome him into the boat, then suddenly all at once, they are arrived at the shore.
Why? What purpose did Jesus have for doing this? Why did the Holy Spirit instruct Jesus to meet them in the middle of the sea? Was it because they were in danger? Not apparently. Was it because he wanted to show them something cool? Jesus didn’t care about being cool. What makes this miracle noteworthy in John’s Gospel? How does it most clearly show us that Jesus is the Messiah?
Lesson two: what God reveals to you today is usually meant for your good in a future season. Maybe tomorrow. Maybe next month or next year. The provisions that God gives you today are meant to secure your future. God provides food for the birds today so they won’t be hungry tomorrow. If you’re a smart shopper, you buy next winter’s clothes in the Spring because the prices are lower. You don’t buy your wardrobe in the middle of January. This miracle, that had no apparent immediate purpose, prepared the hearts of the disciples for what was coming the next day. Because, as we will see, the next day Jesus is going to lose the majority of his following.
Trust Jesus, even when it seems unreasonable. Watch him work in your life, listen to him, and learn of him from the Word because what you learn today, what you witness today, and what you hear from him today will serve to strengthen you for a future season. Not everything needs to make sense immediately. Some things that God asks you to do won’t make sense until future circumstances align with what he’s telling you in the present. Trust him enough to be unreasonable today in the hope that reason and faith will make sense together in the future.