The Rev. Canon Kelly Brown Douglas
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.
The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus answered, “Very truly I tell you, you are looking for me, not because you saw the signs I performed but because you ate the loaves and had your fill. Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. For on him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Today we read the all too familiar story of Jesus walking on water. As dramatic and miraculous an event as this is—one that has commanded the attention of many a preacher—the real astonishment of the story is found not in Jesus’ walk, but in the disciples’ words, “Rabbi, when did you get here?” These words say it all.
Jesus goes before us. He already has traveled the path we have traveled and so is there always to meet us, so to help us through. For instance, it was because He suffered the pain and hurt, humiliation, and death of crucifixion, that the enslaved could sing “Nobody knows de trouble I’ve seen/Nobody knows but Jesus/Nobody know de trouble I’ve seen/Glory, Hallelu!”
The enslaved knew that Jesus knew their pain and suffering, as they struggled to survive and be free from the crucifying realities of slavery. And so, they never gave up in their fight for life and freedom because they had faith that the One who went ahead of them was walking alongside of them in that struggle. Their struggle was a sign of their faith.
And, so should be for us. Faith is not about the drama of Jesus walking on the water. Rather, it is about the assurance of Jesus going ahead of us, so to walk with us through the crucifying realities of this world into a new world where pain and suffering, injustice and inequity are no more. Let, therefore, our continued struggle for the life to which God has promised us all be a sign of our faith in the One who promises. Let this be our Lenten walk.
Give us the steadfastness of Faith oh God, to walk with You as You walk with us toward that new heaven and new earth where strife and struggle no more and where all can enjoy the abundant life of joy and freedom that you promise.