Do Not Be Afraid!
This Sunday’s Gospel reading (John 6:15-21) is one of the most wonderful stories in the Fourth Gospel.
Jesus has just multiplied the five loaves to feed a hungry crowd. This extraordinary event has impressed many people, and the evangelist tells us that they seek to make him their king.
However, the Lord Jesus does not want to receive the glory of men any more than He would receive it from the devil (Luke 4: 6-8).
He sets himself apart from the crowd and retires to the mountain all alone to pray. Then the evening came, and the disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. Jesus is not with them when, suddenly, the storm rises. The disciples struggle to row to try and get out of it. Suddenly, they see Jesus approaching them, walking on the sea. They were terrified, but Jesus reassures them: "It is I; do not be afraid."
John, who was in the boat, tells us that they wanted to take Jesus into the boat, and “immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.”
Here is just the kind of story that a fisherman like John would have loved and remembered. This story could be read as a beautiful story that ends well. But we would have missed the point because this story has good news to announce us.
In a hymn written by St. Mesrob Mashdots (361-440) based on this experience on the Sea of Galilee, we sing: “The sea of my life ever tosses me about. The enemy rises up against me like violent waves. Good Captain, be a refuge for my soul.”
The storms come to each of us in this life. We cannot avoid the storms that life brings. We can avoid the storms that we bring on ourselves. Storms such as disease, crippling accidents, death of loved ones, family problems, financial problems, emotional problems and spiritual problems reach us and our own efforts to get out of it are in vain.
But the good news is, that the Lord never abandons us, and even if we do not realize it, he watches us. Up on the hill Jesus had been watching the disciples. He had not forgotten. He was not too busy with God to think of them. John suddenly realized that all the time they had pulled at the oars Jesus' loving look was on them. He intercedes for us, then in His grace, He approaches, encourages us "It's me, do not be afraid." What a comfort when in the midst of trial we hear the sweet voice of the Lord Jesus Christ, who guides us to safely into harbor.
Jesus comes down from the hillside to enable the disciples make the last pull that would reach safety. He does not watch us with serene detachment; when strength is failing he comes with strength for the last effort which leads to victory. It is the wonder of the Christian life that there is nothing that we are left to do alone.
“Lord, help!” they cried in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He calmed the storm to a whisper and stilled the waves. What a blessing was that stillness as he brought them safely into harbor! (Psalms 107: 28-30 NLT)