16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 17 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. 18 A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” 21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
22 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. 23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 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.
(John 6:16-24 NIV)
Jesus has just fed the masses and then retreated to the local mountains for solitude and prayer. Matthew’s account of this event records a few more details that John omits. The first detail is that Jesus ordered His disciples leave to go to the other side by boat. The second detail is Peter walking on water.
John records that the disciples’ destination was Capernaum, Jesus’ home base. The disciples were rowing into the wind and not making much progress. It was dark and windy; the disciples could see their destination but likely could not tell how far away they were or how far they had traveled thus far.
Put yourself in the boat with the disciples for a moment. You are battling the waves and wind; it’s dark, and you’ve been up all night trying to get to the other shore. Most likely the consensus in the boat is something like “If Jesus were here, we wouldn’t be in this mess” or “Where’s Jesus? We need another pair of hands rowing this boat.”
Then Jesus appears out of nowhere walking on the water. What would your response be? Most likely you and I would react with fear, just like the disciples.
Jesus reassures His disciples by speaking to them. The disciples recognize Jesus’ voice and are greatly relieved. They did not see a ghost – it is Jesus. We see Jesus’ words in verse 20; in the Greek text, Jesus speaks only four words: “I am, no fear.”
The “I am” is an apt description of God – not “I was” or “I will be”. God is self-existent; He needs no one or nothing else to exist. He has always been, will always be, and is present now. When Moses asked God, “Whom shall I say sent me?”, God replied, “I AM…” (Exodus 3:14).
John records that when Jesus got into the boat, the wind died down, and suddenly they arrived at the other shore. Was this another miracle, or with the dawn rising and the wind calmed, they finally realized that they were much closer to the other shore than they thought? Either way, John recognizes Jesus’ help in getting to their destination.
John also records that part of the masses (the ones that had stayed on the hillside overnight) searching for Jesus the next morning. After all, they were hungry again! Who was going to make breakfast for them?
John records that the crowd found themselves on the wrong side of the lake with no boats. Some boats arrived from Tiberias; the crowds chartered the ships to take them to Capernaum to search for Jesus.
Why do we seek out Jesus? For our comfort and convenience, or to have fellowship and community with Him, just to be with Him? Do we come to Him in a spirit of thankfulness and gratitude, or with our laundry list of needs and demands?
We can trust Jesus with our past, our present, and our future.
“I am, no fear.”