Always watching. John 6.16-21
Never far off ~ Jesus. John #26
Thinking they were going to get some downtime, the disciples were instead drawn into a miracle -– a young boy’s lunch turned into sustenance for thousands of hungry folks on a hillside, who had come seeking more of Jesus. When the day was o’er, Jesus and the disciples were tired. The disciples headed back to their boat, while Jesus took the time to retreat once again to the solitude of the mountain to be alone with his Father.
Here's John’s reporting of that night: “When evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. Darkness had already set in, but Jesus had not yet come to them. Then a high wind arose, and the sea began to churn. After they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea. He was coming near the boat, and they were afraid.
But He said to them, “It is I. Don’t be afraid!” Then they were willing to take Him on board, and at once the boat was at the shore where they were heading.” John 6.16-21
John’s account of Jesus walking on the water is short, but needs to be unpacked a little more. Some may think, ‘Come on, the men are on a lake—how big a storm can it be? Why even mention churning seas?’ Fact is, the Sea of Galilee is very large, and sits close to 700 feet below sea level; it is about 150 feet deep—and surrounded by hills. These physical features are conditions for the perfect storm, particularly when you take into account the first-century fishing boat. Here's the thing--I have been on the Sea of Galilee four times in the last three-plus years. Three of those times, the water was like glass. But one time ... it was windy, there were whitecaps and that was during the day--I can only imagine the Galilee at night in a squall!
And how do we know anything about the boat, particularly the boat that Jesus and the disciples might have used on the Sea of Galilee? Once again, archaeology, friend of the Bible, lends us most important details! In the winter of 1986 (following some drought years), two young men were walking near the shore and noticed the outline of a boat which was subsequently very tediously excavated. Because of its construction design and two pottery vessels found nearby, archaeologists judged the boat to be from the Roman period; carbon tests indeed confirmed the boat to have originated from between 100 BCE to 70 CE. The size of the boat—approximately 8 feet across by 26 feet long—large enough to carry 15 people,* small enough to be greatly affected by a tumultuous storm. How about that?!
So the disciples were in the midst of a stormy night’s crossing on the tempestuous Sea of Galilee, exhaustingly trying to row safely to shore, and wondering where the Lord was . . . just why he wasn’t there with them. Where was Jesus when they needed him?
Do you find yourself in a storm and wonder where God is? Where was he when the disciples were caught in the storm?
Not far off, and not unaware, because in due time, Jesus came. He came quite unexpectedly to his disciples that night, walking right across the tops of the waves they were battling. As soon as they heard his voice, they calmed down, and so did the storm.
Jesus knew what his men were up against; he knew they were in a storm . . . that they were worn out and worried, too. In one act, he showed them his power over nature, over that which he had created—by walking on water! In the same act, he showed them his power over the storm that assailed them, and he showed his faithfulness by showing up when they were looking for him. (Are you in a storm? Read this paragraph again and personalize it—Jesus knows what you are up against, that you are in a storm …)
When God’s children look for him, he shows up.
When God’s children look to him, he quiets storms.
Whether in the storm or quiet, he is never far off . . . and he is always watching. “Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you” ~ he promises you.
• - Sources for the boat details– Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs – www.mfa.gov, 21 March 2000, “The Roman Boat from the Sea of Galilee”
• “The Top Ten Archaeological Discoveries for Excavating Jesus”, by John Dominic Crossan and Jonathan L. Reed, https://secure.agoramedia.com/jesus/popup/sample_top10.asp