After a full day of feeding thousands, Jesus walked down to the lakefront with his disciples. Their boat was waiting for them. Daylight was fading and clouds were skittering across the twilight sky.
It would have made sense for them to camp out until morning. But Jesus had bigger plans. They were already worn out from the day, but they did what Jesus said. Each man took his place while Jesus watched from the shore.
I see Peter taking charge, and then offering a hand to Jesus as he stood solitary.
In my mind, I see Jesus say, “No thanks, Peter. You go on ahead. I need a bit of time to myself. I’ll catch up with you on the other side.”
This would have made no sense to Peter. There wasn’t another boat. But he was tired. And he probably wasn’t too worried about Jesus at this point.
Being on the water was his thing. And it was good to be doing “his thing.” So much of this following Jesus was not “his thing.” He was glad to be out on the water, to feel the spray, to row.
Jesus turned and walked away from the men as they pushed off. He went up on the mountain by himself to pray. Maybe to pick up where he’d left off earlier in the day, before he fed 5000. Maybe to think about John and talk to his Father about it. Maybe to pray about what was next and how to handle the crowds.
But as he walked and prayed and had time by himself, the wind picked up. A storm was brewing. The skittering clouds began to spit rain. Jesus saw it all. He saw them watching the weather, adjusting the sails, battening down.
As the clouds opened up and the torrent was unleashed, he watched. He watched as lighting split the sky and the wind began to howl through the rigging. He saw the scene unfold as fear gripped his men. With all their might, they rowed. Jesus watched. And he waited.
Nine hours, he waited. And then, he came to them.
Why didn’t he come to them at the first hint of storm? Why did he send them out there in the first place? Why did he watch them row?
Do you ever look at your life and ask God these questions? Where are you, God? Why did you do this to me? To my family? Don’t you see me struggling?
I think one of the hardest things for us to accept is that God often watches and waits. He doesn’t rescue right away. He lets us make “painful headway.” And sometimes he doesn’t rescue at all, not in the way we would like.
We want to get to the next scene now. We want to see Jesus coming to them on the water. To hear him say,
“Take courage. It is I.”
We want to see him call to Peter, and stretch out his hand when Peter shifts his eyes back to the wind and waves. We want to see the storm die down and land on the other shore. We want cause to worship and say, “Truly you are exactly who I thought you were.”
But it may be that now is the time for painful headway, the time for rowing, rather than walking on water.
Can you trust him in the rowing?
He saw they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. Mark 6:48