When evening came, Jesus’ disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going. The next day the crowd that had stayed on the other side of the sea 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. Then some boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 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.
When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 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. 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.” John 6:16-27
I have spent a good deal of time in rough seas. Whether standing on the shore watching as the waves crash and the water roils, or on board a vessel, usually a small craft, trying to get back in to port. There is a very small amount of time between exhilaration and terror. When warm familiar waters become angry and fierce, it can be overwhelming to the sailor and the observer. Even more so, in the dark, having to navigate or walk by moonlight, if available, is terrifying and dangerous. Sometimes in life, as well, our familiar daily routines can become treacherous seas. We can feel at any moment we will be swamped and perish.
The disciples set out in a boat to take a simple crossing which becomes rather deadly. They panic, as all humans do. In the midst of the panic and fear, Jesus comes and tells them not to be afraid. Easy to say, much harder to do. The boat gets to the other side safely and they remember then his words. For us, it is so hard, in the midst of our roughest seas to hear Jesus tell us not to be afraid. And still, he is saying it today, to us. God promises that we will see ourselves safely to the other side, whether we panic or not. We are never alone no matter how fragile and tiny the boat.
Today I ask God to help me hear the promise, "It is I: do not be afraid!" Help us all to remember that despite the small size of our vessel, and how panicked we feel, God is with us in our worst storms and our darkest nights.