Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid (Mark 6:45-52)

The news has been dominated this last week by the extraordinary weather we’ve been having.  Whilst we have escaped the worst of the weather, other parts of the UK have been hit by huge and very destructive tidal surges, which has resulted in extensive damage, and sadly the loss of a number of lives. 

Watching the waves pound against the shore can be extremely exhilarating, but if you’re out on the water, especially if you’re in a small boat, it’s not much fun.

In our Gospel reading the disciples found themselves in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, struggling against an adverse wind, as they tried to row across the lake. 

The location of the sea of Galilee, lying 680 feet below sea level, and surrounded on all sides by hills, means that the lake is subject to very changeable weather, where strong winds can whip across the lake with little warning.

The disciples had witnessed the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand, and in the evening, at the end of a long day, undoubtedly feeling tired and weary Jesus sent the disciples across the lake, whilst he went up the mountain by himself to pray. 

The evening gave way to the night and the disciples were caught in a strong wind, which made progress across the lake very difficult.  The gospel of John says that the sea had become rough, and they had only managed to row three or four miles across the eight mile wide lake by the time Jesus came towards them in early morning, which according to Matthew’s Gospel was shortly before dawn, during the fourth watch, sometime between 3am and 6am. This indicates that it could have taken the disciples up to nine hours, to travel just a few miles, which shows how difficult the conditions were that they were facing.   

There are times in all our lives when we can feel as if we have been rowing all night long in a storm that we’re in. It can feel like we’ve been struggling for a long time now with a situation that has been plaguing us.  When this happens, and when we look at the scene in front of us, it can look and feel as if we’re out in the middle of the sea with a long way still to go, and with a storm raging around us, threatening to overwhelm us.

But the Bible says Jesus came to them at the fourth watch, in the darkest hour, walking on the water.  The disciples seeing Jesus walking on the water, at first thought he was a ghost and cried out.  But Jesus spoke to them and said ‘Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid,’  and when he stepped into the boat the wind ceased. 

Although the disciples had lost sight of Jesus, he had not lost sight of them.  His concern for them overcame their lack of faith.  When you are faced by troubles and difficulties, which threaten to overwhelm you, or stop you in your tracks, remember that Christ knows your struggle and cares for you, and we need to take to heart his words, ‘Take heart, it is I; don’t be afraid.’

Jesus gave us the promise that I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:20)  We do not need to be afraid.  And just as the storm stopped as soon as Jesus stepped in the boat, so as soon as we invite him to step into the problems and situations we are facing, he will bring about change, and in him we will find the peace we are looking for.