Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.
When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
When reading the Bible it is always a good idea to put yourself in the story because then you begin to see things that you simply won’t see with a cursory reading. And when you see these things, you find yourself asking questions, and figuring out the answers to these questions — sometimes very difficult — is what results in wonderful insights about the word of God.
Consider today’s story. It follows from yesterday’s where we saw Jesus preaching to thousands of people for hours — literally. When it got late, the apostles told Jesus it was time he stopped talking; the people had to eat. What followed was the miracle of the multiplication of fish and loaves that led to everybody being fed. Then we come to the story we just read. He made the apostles get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side while he spent some time praying.
Now we come to something very strange. Let me read it out to you: “When EVENING came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the MORNING, walking on the sea.” Don’t you find it weird that Jesus would just stand there on the shore watching them struggling and doing nothing until morning?
And, then, when you think about some more, it seems like when we struggle, Jesus appears to do the very same thing. He just watches us struggle and does nothing. Doesn’t he care? What kind of a person is he? Let me offer an explanation that I hope will make some sense. When my children were growing up, and were starting to walk, I would hold their hands and help them. Like all parents do. Then, I would stand at a distance, unseen by the child, watching him (or her) try to walk on his own.
Now think about how the child feels? He would undoubtedly feel helpless as he got to his feet, all wobbly and shaky, and certainly very afraid. He would wonder where I was: didn’t I care? Of course I did, but if he was to learn to walk, letting him do this independently was part of the process. Should he fall and cry, I’d immediately be by his side. This is how we learn to walk in faith too.
Do reflect upon this today. It will help us understand God’s seeming indifference at times.