“When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.” John 6:16-21
Matthew 14:23-35 and Mark 6:45-52 both flesh out this passage describing Jesus calming the storm on the Sea of Galilee. When I read this story in the other gospels, what strikes me is that Jesus very intentionally sent the disciples off across the lake without him. He wanted solitude to stay behind and pray. This meant that the disciples spent hours on a very rough lake fighting a storm without Jesus that subsided as soon as he was in the boat with them. At first glance this action frustrates me. Surely Jesus knew what they would face on the lake! Why did he send them out alone?
Just prior to this story Jesus miraculously feeds 5,000 men plus however many women and children were along to hear Jesus teach. He actively involved the disciples in this miracle asking them where they might get bread to feed this crowd. Scripture says clearly that he asked them to test them because he already knew what he was going to do.
There is something going on in these two stories beyond the surface miracles. Jesus is showing who he is and testing the disciples for faith. How much will they comprehend about him — how much will they believe? When he asks them “Where shall we buy bread for these people to eat?” Philip is incredulous saying that eight month’s wages wouldn’t be sufficient to give each person even one bite of bread. And so Jesus shows them that He is sufficient, providing enough for everyone to eat their fill, and then directing the disciples to collect the twelve baskets full of leftovers. What a powerful object lesson, but evidently not powerful enough. Later when the disciples find themselves in a storm tossed boat alone on the Sea of Galilee they don’t appeal to Jesus. In fact when he comes to them on the water they don’t even recognize him. But when they are finally willing to take him into the boat, they immediately reach the shore where they are heading.
How often I’m like this. I’m seeking provision – either for myself or someone I love, but there is no way on earth that I can see a way to get that which is needed. I’m in the middle of a storm and doing everything I know to make it through, but getting nowhere. And right there in the middle of this needy mess Jesus is asking me “Where shall we buy bread for you or yours to eat?” or telling me “It is I, don’t be afraid.” Jesus, the very Son of God, knows what he is going to do and he has the power to do it. How I need to learn to keep my eyes on the provider instead of the problem.