We Can Trust Him!


“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 about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 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 (NIV).

“With Jesus in the boat…!” How often have you heard that message preached?

Why did John include this incident in his story? Remember that he was giving evidence that Jesus is the Son of God so that his readers would believe in Him. Every incident was a sign that His claims were true because His miracles authenticated who He claimed to be. Every sign pointed to some aspect of His person and work as the Messiah that gave clarity to what He came to do.

Mark added a detail to his account of this incident that makes it spring to life. “He was about to pass by them, but when they saw Him walking on the lake, they thought He was a ghost…” Mark 6:48c (NIV). If Jesus was walking on the water to go to them, why would He want to pass by them? It makes no sense unless there is something more to His intention than meets the eye.

We have to look for the use of this phrase somewhere else in Scripture to capture its meaning.

In Exodus 34, in response to Moses’ request, God was about to reveal His name to him. He had instructed him to bring another two stone tablets with him up the mountain because Moses had smashed the first two tablets in his anger against his people. While he had been up the mountain with God, they had got Aaron to make them a calf-god out of gold which they were worshipping with undignified frenzy when he returned.

God promised to hide him in a crevice in a rock and reveal His name to him. “Then the Lord came down in the cloud and stood there with him and proclaimed His name, the Lord.

“And He passed by in front of Moses, proclaiming, ‘The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness…’ ” Exodus 34:5, 6 (NIV).

Would His disciples have got the message? If they understood their Scriptures, they would surely have realized what Jesus was doing. He was making a very bold move to reproduce what He had done on Mount Sinai many centuries before, to reassure them that it was okay to trust Him because He was no phoney. A sign like that would have added to the weight of evidence they already had to convince them of His identity.

The outcome was equally startling. The moment He stepped into the boat, they arrived at their destination. We could, of course, argue that they were so taken up with watching Him walk on the rough water that they did not notice how near they were to the shore. That could be true but John made a point of reporting that His presence in the boat contributed to their speedy and safe arrival back at Capernaum.

“Passing by” seems to be a euphemism for revealing Himself to His people; God to Moses on the mountain and Jesus to His disciples on the lake. He was not abandoning them but alerting them to the deep truth He wanted them to be sure about. Just as it was God on the mountain reassuring Moses that, in spite of His people’s rebellion and failure to believe in Him, He was still the gracious and compassionate God who would forgive them and reinstate them as His covenant people, so also Jesus, on the lake, was reassuring His disciples that He was God; that He was with them and would graciously forgive and receive His people if they would put their trust in Him.

Their fear turned to relief when they realized who He was and they gladly assisted Him into the boat. The stormy lake lost its terror for them and, before they knew it, the boat scraped the shore and they were home, safe and sound after a very eventful day.

Jesus was slowly building a case for who He was. The disciples still wavered and doubted until the resurrection. From that moment on, nothing could shake their confidence in Him as their Lord and God.  With the same power of the Holy Spirit in them that had energized Him, they set out to turn the world upside down. But it took them a long time to get there.

We are also on a faith journey. Every incident in which Jesus is “passing by” strengthens and reassures us that He is who He said He is and we can trust Him.

Categories: Bible Study Tags: , , , ,

Luella Campbell

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