16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea,
17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.
19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened.
20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”
21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. ESV
What is the general theme of the passage?
It had been a labor intensive day organizing a massive crowd miraculously fed as Jesus spoke and taught. The day had excited the crowd. Jesus’s power must mean He was the King they’d been waiting for. It had surely exhausted the disciples and Jesus. Matthew and Mark both mention Jesus giving instructions to His disciples to cross the sea while He stays behind to dismiss the crowd before going off alone to pray. Their Master had given them instructions. I can imagine there was a debate there by the sea about waiting or going, because “Jesus had not yet come to them.” What was supposed to be a short journey to meet Jesus was soon to become an hour’s-long battle of tired men, trying to get to where they had been told to go, as they physically struggled to control their small boat being tossed around by the strong wind, waves and the tides.
What does it say about God (or Jesus or the Holy Spirit)?
Jesus does come to them in the midst of their struggle. He recognizes His presence is needed for both their emotional and physical assurance for a safe landing.
What does it say about people?
Fear is a natural response that makes it hard to recognize Jesus when situations are out of control.
Is there truth here for me?
Even a Jesus-directed journey is not a guarantee of an easy one. Struggle and fear are real but if you can recognize Jesus walking with you in the storm and accept His personal assurance “It is I; do not be afraid” He will give you the courage to “take him into the boat” and you will get to the “the land to which [you are] going.”
Exodus 19:1 On the third new moon after the people of Israel had gone forth out of the land of Egypt, on that day they came into the wilderness of Sinai. 2 And when they set out from Rephidim and came into the wilderness of Sinai, they encamped in the wilderness; and there Israel encamped before the mountain. 3 And Moses went up to God, and the Lord called to him out of the mountain, saying, “Thus you shall say to the house of Jacob, and tell the people of Israel: 4 You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles’ wings and brought you to myself. 5 Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine, 6 and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel.”
This is my poetic representation of God’s word using verbatim phrases from this portion of Exodus 19 with the goal of seeing the place God is creating for Jesus. I have the advantage of hindsight and knowing the reality of God’s desire is to make a place for Himself within the people of His own heart. Moses hoped the Instructions God gave him to give to the people he’d led to this mountain would become a convenient working arrangement between them, but God had something greater in mind. He intended those Ten Words to become the promise of direct priestly access.
The third new moon after
the land of Egypt,
they came into the wilderness of Sinai.
There Israel encamped before the mountain.
Moses went up to God.
The Lord called to him
saying, Thus you shall say –
You have seen what I did
how I bore you on eagles’ wings
and brought you to myself.
if you will obey my voice
and keep my covenant,
you shall be my own possession among all peoples
you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. RSV
It’s taken three months to get to this place of wilderness at the foot of the Mountain of God. “The word conventionally translated ‘wilderness’ is not a sandy desert, but grazing country, not settled by man.”a Some scholars believe God has brought Moses back to the same place of the burning bush where He first spoke audibly to Moses. Now Moses has heard the voice of God for a second time and been given the Ten Commands from God that are meant to offer tired, hungry, irritable and lost people a place of worship where they will finally have direct access to God within their memory, their mind and their heart. Come, Lord Jesus!
aEnduring Word commentary