By J.R. Miller
It was after the feeding of the five thousand. As we learn from John's account, the people were so excited by this miracle that they wished to take Jesus by force and make him king. To prevent this act, Jesus sent the multitude away and then went up into a mountain for prayer.
Before going into the mountain, however, He sent His disciples out upon the sea in the boat, to go before Him to the other side. The record says He "constrained" them. It ought to have been a comfort to them that night, in the midst of the storm, to remember that their going out upon the lake was not at their own suggestion--then they might have thought it a mistake--but that the Master had bidden them to go. They were in the way of obedience. When we are doing Christ's will--we are under Divine protection, and need fear no storm.
We must not expect that every voyage we take at Christ's bidding, shall be without storm. We may be pleasing God--and yet meet dangers. When we find obstacles in something we are doing under God's guidance, we may not conclude that we have made a mistake, and that these difficulties are indications that we ought not to have taken such a course. On the other hand, such troubles are not meant to discourage us--but to inspire us to stronger faith and greater endeavor.
"He went up into the mountain alone to pray." No doubt His prayer was partly for Himself. There had come to Him a temptation of earthly honor and power--and He sought relief in prayer. Then He prayed also for His disciples. Mark tells us that from this mountaintop, He saw them that night on the sea, distressed in rowing. Jesus always sees us when we are toiling in any tempest, any struggle, and speaks for us to His Father.
"In the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea." He did not come to them immediately; indeed, it was almost morning when He appeared. The boat in the wild storm, represents Christ's friends in this world in the storms of life. Sometimes we think we are forgotten, that Christ does not see us, or does not care. Here we have an illustration. From His mountaintop He sees His disciples in their struggles in the wild sea. He does not forget them. He watches that no wave shall engulf them. Then at the right time--He comes to them with help. So it is in all our experiences of danger and distress. He is interested in our earthly life. Some people tell us sneeringly that there is no one who cares, no one who thinks of us. But the picture here is the true one. Christ cares, watches, keeps His sleepless eye upon us, and keeps His omnipotent hand on all affairs so that no harm can come to us on the ocean or on the shore.
When He came--He came as no other friend could come. "He went unto them, walking on the sea." No human help could have possibly arrived to them that night in the wild sea. If their friends were standing on the shore, and saw their peril--they could not have done anything for them. So we may stand and look at our friends in their sorrow, and our hearts may break for them--but we can do nothing. We cannot get to them through the wild waves. But there is One who can reach them--Jesus can walk on the roughest billows, as if they were a crystal floor.
Sometimes Jesus alarms His friends by the way He comes to them. It was so that night. "When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were troubled." In their terror and superstition they thought it must be an apparition, and they were frightened. Yet it was their best friend, and He was coming to deliver and save them. They were terrified, because He came in such a strange way. It is the same with us often. He comes in the black cloud of trial, sickness, loss, bereavement, disappointment; and we think it is some new peril, when really it is our Savior! We should learn to see Christ in every providence, bright or painful. The sternest things of life carry in them Divine blessing and good--if only we have faith to receive them.
"Take courage! It is I. Do not be afraid." As soon as the disciples heard the voice of Jesus, they recognized Him, and their fear changed to joy. So it was with Mary at the sepulcher. He whom she took to be the gardener, was her own Master; she knew Him as soon as He spoke her name (John 20:15,16).
Then comes the story of Peter's venture and failure. Peter was always impulsive. As soon as he heard the voice of Jesus, and knew who it was that was walking on the waves--he was seized with a desire to rush to meet Him. "Bid me come unto You on the water," he cried. Jesus said, "Come!" and for a time Peter walked on the waves and did not sink. His faith was simple, and he was upheld by Divine power. But as soon he took his eye off his Lord and looked at the tossing waves--he instantly began to sink. That is the way most of us do. We go a step or two as if we were borne up on wings, while our faith is strong and our eye is fixed upon Jesus. But soon we begin to look at the dangers, and then our faith trembles and we begin to sink. If we could always keep our eye upon Christ, not thinking of the perils--our faith would not fail.
"Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him." In his fear and helplessness, Peter did the right thing--he turned to Jesus for help, crying, "Lord, save me!" Said an old Alpine guide to a tourist who was timid at some point of danger, "this hand never lost a man." Christ never lost a man out of His hand!
As soon as Jesus was in the boat with the disciples, the storm was over, the boat was at the land, and the tired rowers, after their long night of toil, dropped their oars, and all went on shore. So will it be at the end of life, if we have Christ with us. As the morning breaks--we will pass out of the storm into the quiet calm--and will find ourselves on the shore of eternal blessedness!