17. Familiar Travelling

Short Meditations in John 6:  17. Familiar Travelling

Jn 6:17 where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum.  By now it was dark and Jesus had not yet joined them

Yesterday we considered the disciples setting off in a very ordinary way, without Jesus (as this present verse shows us), and we considered the fact that so much of the time, life is made up of mundane, very ordinary things and at such times we don’t stress about the apparent absence of Jesus.

In fact now, for some of the disciples at least (the fishermen), they move into an even more familiar routine, that of sailing across the lake. It is the end of the day and has just got dark but that is not troubling for fishermen.

The strange thing is that Jesus is not with them. What is even more interesting is why John includes this incident. Matthew tells us that Jesus had gone up on the mountain to pray and had told the disciples to go on ahead, to Capernaum as John notes here. Luke doesn’t mention this incident, Mark is more similar to John, but it is only Matthew who mentions Peter waking on the water in this story. John’s Gospel focuses on the works of Jesus: “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ.” (Jn 20:31) So by the time John writes, Peter is dead and telling about him will add nothing to Jesus’ glory, so John omits mention of him. This story is going to be all about Jesus’ glory being revealed in yet another way. Whether Jesus set it up to work out like this we don’t know but it is probable. They are going to see him walk on water. So what is this story and this part of it seeking to tell us, as we consider this verse?

Well, let’s go back to what we said earlier; the disciples, well some of them at least, are in very familiar circumstances. They are at home on the water; they know about the Sea of Galilee and its foibles, its tendency to whip up a storm at a moment’s notice. The lake and its behaviour is familiar territory!

That’s the danger we have with the Christian life sometimes, it seems familiar territory. We know about church, we know about the Bible, we know about prayer, we know about witnessing, we know about fellowship; these become ordinary and familiar, and we perhaps take them for granted. In fact, if we’re honest, we can get by with each of these things without faith, we can do them whether Jesus is there or not. That is the danger, we think we can do them without Jesus, and so we do, and they become ordinary. It needs Jesus to turn up in an unexpected way to shake us out of our complacency, to turn each of these things into something ‘other’. Are we happy with the ordinariness of these things or do we need to ask him to come afresh?

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