Jesus Compels The Disciples To Get Into The Boat
Jesus sensed the people were planning to mount a revolution against Israel’s Roman occupiers and make Him king, so He withdrew farther up the mountain by Himself.
Since the Babylonians seized Judah in 586 B.C., the Jews have endured one foreign occupier after another in their land. As conquerors go, the Romans aren’t all that bad. They allow the Jews to worship God in His temple, and they appoint some of them to government positions. Of course, the Judeans still long to rule themselves and throw the Roman rulers out. Some think Jesus is just the man to lead that revolution. But political upheaval isn’t what He is teaching, and it isn’t why He has come to earth.
Later that evening the disciples walked down to the sea, boarded a boat, and set sail toward Capernaum. Twilight gave way to darkness. Jesus had not yet joined them. Suddenly, the waves rose and a fierce wind began to rock the boat. After rowing three or four miles through the stormy seas, they spotted Jesus approaching the boat walking mysteriously upon the deep waters that surrounded them. They panicked.
Jesus (to the disciples): I am the One. Don’t be afraid.
They welcomed Jesus aboard their small vessel; and when He stepped into the boat, the next thing they knew, they were ashore at their destination.
John 6:15-21 (VOICE)
Jesus compelled the disciples to get into the boat (Matt. 14:22; Mark 6:45) because He knew they were in danger. The crowd was now aroused and there was a movement to make Him King. Of course, some of the disciples would have rejoiced at the opportunity to become famous and powerful! Judas would have become treasurer of the kingdom, and perhaps Peter would have been named prime minister! But this was not in the plan of God, and Jesus broke up the meeting immediately. Certainly the Roman government would have stepped in had a movement begun.
Did Jesus know that a storm was coming?
Then why did He deliberately send His friends into danger?
Quite the opposite is true: He was rescuing them from greater danger, the danger of being swept along by a fanatical crowd. But there was another reason for that storm: the Lord has to balance our lives; otherwise we will become proud and then fall. The disciples had experienced great joy in being part of a thrilling miracle. Now they had to face a storm and learn to trust the Lord more. The feeding of the 5,000 was the lesson, but the storm was the examination after the lesson.
Christ’s miracle of walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; John 6:15-21) took place soon after feeding the 5,000. The next day He preached a sermon in the synagogue that turned there rejoicing into near total rejection—almost all but the twelve disciples left Him.
A representative of God must not trust in human praise nor withhold the truth to try to please people. Instead, as a true witness, he must preach God’s truth regardless of the world’s disapproval.
Later, Jesus told His disciples to set out in their boat for the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. At three hours after midnight, straining at the oars against the storm, they were still only halfway across the lake. In a contrary wind and tossed by the waves, the disciples did not realize that Jesus was fully aware of their difficulty. They were about to learn of His sympathy and willingness to come to their aid. He approached the distressed disciples in an entirely unexpected way, by walking on the turbulent sea as if it were stable as rock.
Sometimes we are caught in a storm because we have disobeyed the Lord. Jonah is a good example. But sometimes the storm comes because we have obeyed the Lord. When that happens, we can be sure that our Saviour will pray for us, come to us, and deliver us. In writing the account of this event years later, perhaps John saw in it a picture of Christ and His church. Christ is in heaven interceding for us, but we are in the midst of the storms of life, trying to reach the shore. One day, He will come for us and we shall reach the port safely, the storms all past.
As you read the Gospel records, note that the great crowds never impressed our Lord. He knew that their motives were not pure and that most of them followed Him in order to watch His miracles of healing. “Bread and circuses” was Rome’s formula for keeping the people happy, and people today are satisfied with that kind of diet. Give them food and entertainment and they are happy. Rome set aside ninety-three days each year for public games at government expense. It was cheaper to entertain the crowds than to fight them or jail them.
We must never be deceived by the “popularity” of Jesus Christ among certain kinds of people today. Very few want Him as Saviour and Lord. Many want Him only as Healer or Provider, or the One who rescues them from problems they have made for themselves. “Yet you refuse to come to me to receive this life.” (John 5:40).