- Jesus Walking on the Water
- John 6:16-21
- Lyndol Loyd May 3, 2020
Good morning Church! Until I was twenty-one years old, I had never flown in an airplane. The only trips I had ever taken were cross country treks in the back seat of my parents’ van.
But all of that changed when a friend of mine and I decided to fly to Kentucky to check out Asbury Theological Seminary to see if it was a place we thought God might want us to attend school. I have to be honest and tell you that I was more than a little bit nervous about flying, but at the same time, I was terribly excited.
Sitting in my seat on the airplane, I tried to keep telling myself that everything would turn out okay. I tried to believe that facing the flight with a positive attitude would make for a more pleasant journey.
But the real issue for me was the guy who was flying the plane.
- Was he the kind of person that I wanted to place my trust in?
- Did I want to place my destiny in his hands?
Every day you and I take another leg of our journey of life. Sometimes it’s an uncertain ride. We can try to psyche ourselves up for taking chances and believing everything will turn out okay. But the real question is, “Is there someone piloting this thing? Can his character and competence be trusted? Because if they’re not, I don’t want to take a chance.”
Our story, like that of all other humans, is a struggle between faith and fear. This morning we are going further into our series, “Jesus Stories”, as we take a look at different scenes from the life of Jesus as portrayed in the Gospel of John. So far, we have looked at Jesus’ encounter with the Woman at the Well and how Jesus spoke truth into her life. Then last week we looked at the miracle of the Feeding of the 5,000 and learned that nothing is too big for Jesus to handle, nothing is too small for Jesus to use, and that Jesus is the only one who can satisfy our souls.
Today we are engaging with the story of Jesus walking on the water. It is a story that is all about our very human struggle between faith and fear. Given the current situation we find ourselves in worldwide, I don’t know that there is a more practical life encounter of Jesus for us to study this morning. If you have your Bibles I encourage you to open them up and read along with us from John 6:16-21.
John 6:16-21 says, “That evening Jesus’ disciples went down to the shore to wait for him. 17 But as darkness fell and Jesus still hadn’t come back, they got into the boat and headed across the lake toward Capernaum. 18 Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough. 19 They had rowed three or four miles when suddenly they saw Jesus walking on the water toward the boat. They were terrified, 20 but he called out to them, ‘Don’t be afraid. I am here!’ 21 Then they were eager to let him in the boat, and immediately they arrived at their destination!”
The disciples must have been baffled by this turn of events. Why would Jesus walk away from a great opportunity to enlist a whole army of disciples if He was really serious about His new kingdom movement? After all, they just experienced the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 and the attempt to make Jesus king. But Jesus slips away to the hills alone. The disciples don’t get it. Jesus must have told the disciples to go on ahead without him, and apparently the disciples agree to meet Him later near Capernaum.
The disciples push their boat out to cross the sea, but shortly after, they find themselves in dire straits. Surely they didn’t see this storm coming or they would have stayed on the shore. For now, darkness, violent wind, and a heavy sea are suddenly about to overwhelm them. And Jesus is not with them.
What a picture of what our world is like:
- terrifying problems that defy any human solution
- the breakdown of our primary human relationships
- violence and anger becoming more the disorder of the day
- while a sense of hopelessness and despair seem to paralyze the human spirit.
- Everything seems out of control.
It is a “dark, stormy night at sea.” No one sees the storm coming, and there does not seem to be anyone in the boat who can save them from what feels absolutely terrifying.
Is this starting to feel familiar to anyone? Of course it does. I don’t think any of us saw COVID-19 coming at us even just a couple of months ago. We would have laughed at anyone who told us that we would all be following shelter in place orders and that we would be having conversations about how to reopen our city after a shutdown. But here’s the deal, we all know that storms don’t just come in the form of pandemics.
Life is full of unexpected storms:
- You suffer an unexpected hit to your finances. One day your 401K looks fat and happy, and the next day all of the gains you thought you had made are entirely wiped out.
- Even though you look like the picture of health, you suddenly find yourself diagnosed with an illness or disease that causes you to fear for your life.
- Your sweet, compliant child suddenly becomes a defiant, rebellious teenager, and you find yourself scratching your head, wondering what happened and how things could go so wrong.
It all happens so suddenly. Storms happen suddenly. Life comes at you fast, and you find yourself in need of rescue because it is clear that you cannot rescue yourself.
Amid the violent storm, they see a barely visible figure walking on the water toward their boat. How strange is that? They are completely alarmed because they think they are seeing a ghost or a spirit of some kind.
John writes in v. 19, “They were terrified.” They were probably thinking how much better off they would have been if they had stayed on the shore with the crowd. “Why on earth did we decide to get in this boat and head to the other side of the lake?”
But then they hear a strong, familiar voice, v. 20 “Don’t be afraid. I am here!” They realize it is Jesus, and they eagerly let Him into the boat with them.
Jesus is giving his disciples the powerful assurance of His presence. He will be to them all that “I am here!” can mean, however dark and stormy any night may become.
It is because of who He is that Jesus can give them the peace that overcomes their fear. When they welcome Jesus into the boat, they immediately come to the land where they were going.
Of course, this is just the kind of story that a fisherman like John would love to tell, and would always remember because it was a high adrenaline moment. Such events have a way of becoming seared in our mind’s eye.
I can’t help but think every time he thought about this event that he would almost feel that night over again.
- He’d see the grey silver of the moonlight in the back of his mind.
- He’d feel the oars against his hand.
- He’d visualize the flapping of the sail in the wind.
- He’d hear the sound of the surging water beating against the boat.
- And most of all, he’d never forget the astonishing appearance of Jesus and the sound of his voice calling out across the waves.
When we take in John’s account of this event from the life of Jesus, there are many great takeaways for us to grab ahold of:
It seems clear to me that John wants us to understand that Jesus watches. Up on the hill, Jesus had been watching the disciples. Have you ever thought about that? He hadn’t forgotten about them. He wasn’t too busy with God the Father to think of them.
No, you read John’s account, and you get the very clear impression that John has a moment of realization, an “Aha!” moment, that Jesus has been watching them all along.
When we are in the middle of the storm, Jesus watches. He is on the scene, and He sees what it is that we are dealing with. Some of you feel like you are in the midst of a terrifying storm. Know this, in the same way that Jesus was watching the disciples in the midst of their storm, Jesus is also watching you in the midst of your storm.
Psalm 33:18 says, “But the Lord watches over those who fear him, those who rely on his unfailing love.” The whole of scripture speaks to this truth over and over again.
I think about the lyrics to one of my favorite old hymns, His Eye Is on the Sparrow, which says, “Why should I be discouraged? Why should the shadows come? Why should my heart be lonely and long for Heaven and home, when Jesus is my portion, my constant friend is He. His eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me. Yes, his eye is on the sparrow and I know he watches me.” Then the song continues on, “I sing because I’m happy. I sing because I’m free. For his eye is on the sparrow and I know He watches me.”
If you find yourself in a storm right now, I hope you will find comfort in the fact that Jesus watches over you. He sees you, and He knows your need of Him.
Jesus didn’t simply watch the disciples, He comes to them. Jesus gets up, comes down from the hillside, and He enables the disciples to make the last push to make it to a place of safety.
Jesus doesn’t watch people with some sort of serene detachment; when our strength is failing us, when we are struggling, Jesus comes with the strength for the effort we need to make it safely to shore.
I don’t know about you, but I find this incredibly comforting as well. Far too many people have an incorrect image of God as being far off, removed and distant from us when the truth is that God is watching us and concerned about the details of our lives.
Think back to the Christmas story and the birth of Jesus. Thousands of years before Jesus was born, the prophet Isaiah says in 7:14, “All right then, the Lord himself will give you the sign. Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God is with us’).”
Then in Matthew 1:23 the angel comes to Joseph and says the very same thing, “Look! The virgin will conceive a child! She will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel, which means ‘God is with us.’”
In the New Testament gospels, Jesus’ followers experienced the presence of God with them in the person of Jesus. Jesus was God in human form, walking, talking, and eating with them. I don’t know about you, but I have often wondered what it would be like to have spent time with Jesus like that.
In reality, we have an even more intimate relationship with God now. While Jesus walked side-by-side with the disciples, we have the Holy Spirit living within us. For those who believe in Jesus, God is with us every moment of every day.
In John 14:16-17 Jesus said, “I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever — the Spirit of truth.” Jesus promised that the Father would give us another advocate, the Holy Spirit. This advocate would, like Jesus, be God.
Jesus said that this advocate would be with us forever. The Holy Spirit will be our constant companion. The Holy Spirit is God, who has come to be with us.
God coming to be with us has a special meaning to those who have surrendered ourselves by asking Jesus to be the leader of our lives. God, in the person of the Holy Spirit, is with us in a very personal and intimate way. The God of all creation lives within you. He lives in me. He comforts us in challenging times. He teaches us His ways, and He enables us to serve by giving us spiritual gifts.
One of the very best things I can think of about living as a follower of Jesus is that there isn’t anything we are left to do alone because Jesus came to be with us.
Jesus watches. Jesus comes. Most importantly, Jesus helps. One of the things I love about John’s gospel account of Jesus walking on the water is when it says in v. 21 ”Then they were eager to let him in the boat…” When they knew who He was, they wanted Jesus in the boat. They invite Him to get in with them. They are in distress, and they know full well from past experiences that Jesus is the one who can help them. Of course they want Him in the boat. There is no question amongst them that Jesus is the one who can help them with their need.
Helping is what Jesus is all about. They have seen Jesus heal people who have been sick. They have seen Jesus turn the lives of troubled people completely around. Maybe most importantly, they have witnessed first hand the difference that Jesus has made in them. They understand that Jesus is there to help them in their distress.
Jesus loves you every bit as much as He loved those first disciples. Just as much as He desired to help them, He desires to help you right now. What is it that you need help with?
- Do you find yourself in the midst of a financial need?
- Are you experiencing relational brokenness with a spouse, a child, a parent, or a friend?
- Are you at a loss for how to proceed?
- Do you need to experience healing- physically, emotionally, or spiritually?
Jesus is the one who can help you. Read the Bible, and you will see that Jesus is the one to turn to when you need help the most.
This encounter from the life of Jesus models for us the character of God. Think about it. God the Father watched from heaven and saw humanity’s need. His heart was filled with a love for people that is greater than any of us could ever possibly imagine.
What does God the Father do? He decides to send Jesus, His one and only Son, to save us for eternity and make it possible for us to have a life free from the impact of sin. He has Jesus come to us. Why does He send Jesus? Because He is the one who can help us with our greatest problem – sin.
Jesus watches. Jesus comes. Jesus helps. Amen.