When evening came, Jesus’ disciples went down to the lake. They got into a boat and were crossing the lake to Capernaum. It was already getting dark and Jesus hadn’t come to them yet. The water was getting rough because a strong wind was blowing. When the wind had driven them out for about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the water. He was approaching the boat and they were afraid. He said to them, “I Am. Don’t be afraid.” Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and just then the boat reached the land where they had been heading.
The next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the lake realized that only one boat had been there. They knew Jesus hadn’t gone with his disciples, but that the disciples had gone alone. Some boats came from Tiberius, near the place where they had eaten the bread over which the Lord had given thanks. When the crowd saw that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and came to Capernaum looking for Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
Jesus replied, “I assure you that you are looking for me not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate all the food you wanted. Don’t work for the food that doesn’t last but for the food that endures for [aiōnion] life, which the Human One will give you. God the Father has confirmed him as his agent to give life.”
Last week, the mini-series “The Bible,” started airing on television. The episode ended with with the Exodus, the great story of G_d rescuing the people of Israel out of slavery from the Egyptians. In the classic story, G_d’s people were caught between the Red (or Reed) Sea and the approaching Egyptian army. With a great burst of wind from G_d, the sea parted, congealed like great walls, and the Hebrews were able to pass on to the other side. The Egyptian army tried to follow them, but the walls of water fell, and the army was wiped out.
While the television show didn’t portray the wilderness wanderings, yesterday’s story about Jesus feeding the multitude is parallelled by the feeding of the nation of Israel during their wandering through the wilderness when G_d provided them with “bread from heaven” or “manna.”
Also, throughout the Jewish Scriptures, water was often pictured as chaos, something wild and untamed. Certainly, they wrote poems and songs about G_d creating water, but they weren’t too keen about it. Even seasoned fishermen like Peter and John knew full well that, at a moments notice, a squall could appear and put an end to one’s fishing career.
We need all of that in mind when we read today’s story. The disciples are caught up in a storm on the lake. They can’t go forward and they can’t turn back. They’re trapped. Suddenly, they see something on the water. “Great! Now we have ghosts chasing us! It just keeps getting better and better!”
But then, just like the story of the Exodus, the great “I Am” appears. He climbs into the boat, the storms subside, and they instantly find themselves on the other side of the lake.
There are so many directions one can go with this story. John’s direction is obvious to me. He’s telling his story in such a way that shows Jesus acting out the Exodus story in a very powerful way. In his story, Jesus represents the new leader, the new Moses, and the embodiment of YHWH, Israel’s G_d. He’s leading G_d’s people on a new exodus. But he spins the old story on it’s head. Jesus is indeed taking the people to a “promised land,” but, as we’ve noted previously, this isn’t about “going to heaven,” but bringing heaven to earth. The rescue operation is to be found in all corners of the earth and it’s for everyone, not just the nation of Israel, and creation itself.
But one could also make out this story as meditation, and that, too, on multiple layers. On one layer, it could be seen as meditation in the midst of a chaotic day. When the storm rages (and, personally, we’re finding ourselves in a doozy right now), we can rest in the One who walks on the water; the One who calms the storm; the One who leads us to the other side of the chaos.
In another way, the way of silent meditation, or Centering Prayer, the storm could be the distractions of the mind, the monkey mind of Buddhism, and Jesus could be seen as the deep inner voice, the still small quietness within. The mind rages but the stillness is ever present. We acknowledge the storms but let them pass. We choose the silence in the lap of G_d’s presence over the distractions of the mind.
In the Love of the Three in One,
Br. Jack+, LC