History can be true in ways which are timeless; and sometimes it can be helpful to see a miracle as a window through which we can glimpse something of the love of God in Christ.
And so, the story of how Jesus appeared to his disciples, walking towards them over the water when their own strength was nearly gone, can help us think about the ways in which Jesus comes to meet us today. You see, we’re all like the disciples in the boat. They’d seen a lot of him; they’d listened to his teaching and prayed his special prayer. They’d followed him, probably at some personal cost, and they’d tried to put his teaching into practise. But now they were stuck. They were struggling to make headway; their boat was in great danger, and there was nothing they could do.
Do you ever feel this describes life for you? You may be good at what you have to do. You may be a committed Christian, a disciple of Jesus and things are going along nicely. And then the bottom drops out of your world.
It seems that despite your prayers and your best efforts the situation just gets worse and worse.
Someone whom you love very much becomes desperately ill, and you’re powerless to help. All you can do is watch them as they suffer, and ask yourself time after time, “Why must it be like this?”
Or perhaps you lose your job, and maybe your home, through no fault of your own, and you struggle, you really struggle to make ends meet. Such misfortune can bring us to the very end of our tether, and sometimes it can break us.
At these times, Jesus may seem to be a pale and distant figure, unrelated to us and our problems. We can all understand this from our own experience, and isn’t this exactly the circumstance which the disciples were facing as they were struggling to keep their little boat upright in a very heavy storm?
If we’re honest, do we have the faith to trust Jesus in desperate situations?
Do we have the spiritual energy to be bothered? Do we even care? Or are we so consumed with our own blackness that any thoughts about Jesus are quickly dissolved in our anger at the way in which we feel he’s let us down?
But, despite our feelings, we need to keep our eyes on him. Especially at times like these, because if we don’t then we shan’t see when he begins to do the impossible.
Peter saw Jesus in the middle of the storm. Our Lord came to him when his own efforts were nearly all spent. Peter recognised him and responded to the invitation to trust, but then he looked away and saw the waves. He took his eyes off Jesus and at that moment he began to sink.
And, you know, it’s just the same for us. There are times when we seem to be in the middle of a raging storm. Times when we’re exhausted and tempted to give up. But at those times, we really need to look up from the waves and the disaster all around us and listen once more to Jesus as he says:
“ Trust me; why have all this doubt?”
There are many times when Jesus asks us to do what may seem impossible. How can we even begin to do the task for which he’s called us? How can we possibly give up that sin which really has us in its grip?
How can we possibly breathe the same air as that awful man or woman who seems intent on being rude and placing obstacles in our path? How on earth could we expect to develop a serious prayer life when we’re surrounded by so much frantic trouble?
Well, if like Peter we continue to look at the waves then, yes, we’ll sink. We’ll sink because we’ll really believe that the situation is truly impossible and that God has left us alone. But this isn’t so. What we’ve been called to do is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, and our ears open for his encouragement, even if it contains a rebuke. And our wills and hearts must be ready to do what he says. Even if it seems crazy at the time.
Remember the story of the feeding of the 5000.
The disciples must have thought that the distribution of such a small amount of food to so many people was crazy. But they did as Jesus asked and there was more than enough.
And we should never forget that he may choose to speak to us in unexpected ways. Perhaps even through that person whom we can’t stand.
Perhaps this is why we need to ask Jesus to open our eyes and our ears to his presence for us, not just in a beautiful church when we’re involved with what we might think are holy things. But also in the dirty, messy experiences of everyday life. In the encounters with ordinary men and women. In the strained relationships; in the muck and the mire and the lies and the deceit. Jesus is there in the middle of our shame. He’s there for us and he’s holding out his hand.
All we need to do is to look up, smile, and take it.