John 6:16-21 is a familiar passage in the Bible where Jesus walks on the water. I have read it many times and heard many sermons on this passage, but when I read it this morning one verse really stood out: “Then they were willing to take him into the boat (verse 21, NIV).” I wonder why they hesitated to take Jesus into the boat?

Verse 16-17 tells us the disciples opted to cross the lake to Capernaum without Jesus. It was dark and, “A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough (18).” As fisherman, many of the disciples were in familiar water. Verse 19 tells us they had “rowed three or four miles” — a long time — but it doesn’t say they were “frightened” until “they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water.”

This is a decision point for the disciples. “Is what I’m seeing really Jesus, miraculously walking on the water?” I picture them saying, “We’ve been navigating these rough seas on our own without Jesus. After all, we’re experienced fisherman.” Jesus is showing them a different way to navigate rough waters. It’s a frightening thing to acknowledge him as the son of God — to accept him as the Messiah and let him into your boat.

Jesus knows our fears. He knows the difficulty we have in letting him into our boat to take control; to drop the oars and cease the straining against the storms of life without Jesus. The disciples took Jesus at his word and “they were willing to take him into the boat (21).” The rest of verse 21 tells us: “and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.”

I imagine the disciples were not sure exactly how they immediately reached their destination as soon as Jesus entered the boat. Yet I think they could see that as soon as they let Jesus into the boat, somehow they made it across the stormy sea; somehow, in some inexplicable way, Jesus led them to safe passage.

© 2019 CGThelen