If you are like me, the sight of some beaches in recent weeks would have filled you with fear. I’m not the biggest fan of crowded beaches at the best of times! I looked at those pictures and longed for space away from people! Last week we heard how Jesus’ plan for space away from everyone was thwarted. Now, having enabled the disciples to feed the multitude, that need for time on his own took priority. He sent the disciples off in the boat back across the lake, and then dispersed the crowd. With everyone gone, Jesus climbed the hill and had time to pray and rest with his Father in heaven. If we take nothing else from today’s reading remember the importance to take time for yourself and to rest. It can be easy to become so focused on doing things for others or always being busy that we never take time to stop. It is not selfish. It is important. Jesus set the pattern, so we should follow.
But, for the disciples, suddenly they became very aware of Jesus’ absence. Maybe, having seen that great crowd fed, they felt invincible. Those among them who were fishermen may have pushed off from the shore with a renewed confidence as those left on the beach looked on in admiration. Maybe they believed then that they had sussed out this discipleship business. Whatever was to happen, they probably believed that they could certainly get themselves across the lake with all their experience. Yet that night a storm blew up that had their boat being buffeted about. Here they were, many of them in their comfort zone, unable to move forward or back as the wind and waves battered their vessel. And where was Jesus? He was still back where they had been. Just as Jesus was alone, so the disciples felt alone.
I wonder if this speaks to our experience in the past or today. It is not that Jesus is asleep in the boat, he is nowhere in sight as the wind and waves batter us. We do not have to be on some overseas adventure or trying something new to feel that we are in the midst of a storm. The storms of life can hit us right where we are. It might be in losing a job, in bereavement of a loved one, or watching them deteriorate physically or mentally, in economic anxiety, in the fear of others and the outside brought about by Covid-19, or something else. We can be left feeling alone. The highs of the recent past quickly becoming a distant memory.
If this does speak to your experience, or if you find yourself in a situation similar in the future, then hear the good news. For, despite being separated from them physically, Jesus perceived the troubles they were in and travelled to them in the midst of their storm. It was as the wind was still raging that they heard his voice saying, ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.’ This experience of meeting Jesus in the midst of our storm may come through a phone call from a friend, it may come whilst listening to music or walking in the park, it may be during a time of silence and stillness, or even through this resource! When you do meet him, listen to his words, take them into your heart. Do not be like Peter who allowed the sight of the waves to distract him from Jesus, but rather discover the peace that Jesus brings which passes all understanding. Amen.
Rev Nik Wooller 16/8/20