By Elizabeth Baumann
A Reading from the Gospel of John 6:16-27
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 got into a boat, and started across the lake to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The lake became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the lake and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the lake saw that there had been only one boat there. They also saw that Jesus had not got into the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum looking for Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Very truly, I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For it is on him that God the Father has set his seal.”
Like the feeding of the 5,000, we all know the story of Jesus walking on the water so well we tend to take it for granted. Perhaps it’s just me, but somehow I often forget John’s version. I jump easily to the version in which Peter comes out to meet Jesus only to “look down.” Peter isn’t even mentioned here — if you were expecting that story, this ending is abrupt.
Jesus comes to them walking over the water, and at first they’re frightened, but then he identifies himself (notice it’s the first but not the last time Jesus assures them he isn’t a ghost). Once they know who it is, they are “glad” to take him aboard, and, all of the sudden, they’re where they were going! No explanation — John moves on without even a comment.
How often do we find ourselves stuck rowing against the strong wind, and we pray — what? — help me get where I’m going, right? Just let this be over, or finished, or just plain easier. Maybe even just, “God, could you stop the wind, please?” But we get it backward.
In a few chapters Thomas will ask Jesus how to get where he’s going, and Jesus will tell him that he is himself the way, already right there, the Father revealed before them. It’s something Jesus had already shown them with this story. Yes, they needed to get to the other shore. And yes, the wind was making that difficult. But all they really needed was Jesus; once he showed up, they were where they needed to be. They took him aboard. It was enough, all by itself. So too, all we really need is to be with Jesus. Then, no matter how far off our “shore” is, we will be where we need to be.
Elizabeth Baumann is a seminary graduate, a priest’s wife, and the mother of two small daughters. A transplant from the West Coast, she now lives in “the middle of nowhere” in the Midwest with too many cats.
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Daily Devotional Cycle of Prayer
Today we pray for:
The Diocese of Kampala – The Church of the Province of Uganda
Jerusalem Peacebuilders, West Brattleboro, Vt.