“Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” (John 6:15-21).
What is your initial attitude towards Jesus? Is it casualness? Familiarity? Reverence? In today’s text we witness two different attitudes by two different people groups. The first is from the crowd Jesus miraculously fed (John 6:1-14) and the others are His twelve disciples.
Following the miraculous feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14), Jesus withdrew from the crowd. He did not do this because He did not care for them or that He lacked compassion for them, but rather because He knew that they were about to forcibly and physically try and make Him their king. As we will see later in the text of John 6, the type of king the crowd wanted was an earthly king who would eliminate their earthly problems, like hunger, rather than a heavenly king who would ultimately eliminate their sin by dying on a cross.
The crowd did not reverence Jesus as God as much as they reverenced their own ideas and attitudes of what Messiah should be like and what He should do on their behalf. I wonder if much of this erroneous attitude toward Jesus remains in our own day and age. I believe it does. Many want Jesus on their terms and not as He is. This will certainly be the case later on in John 6.
The second people group are the disciples. When evening arrived, they got into a boat and began making a trip across the Sea of Galilee from the northeast coast to the City of Capernaum, which is located on the western shore. Typically on this body of water, a strong wind arose and the sea became rough.
As one commentator explains, “Initially, the disciples set out to cross the sea independently of Jesus. Our Lord had withdrawn to the mountain, and the disciples set out by boat for Capernaum before Jesus returned to them (vv. 15–17). Geographically, the Sea of Galilee sits about six hundred feet below sea level, and the movement of air over the sea commonly results in violent and terrifying storms. Apparently, this is what happened when the disciples were rowing across the body of water, for a strong storm made the sea rough (v. 18). We should not quickly pass over this detail, for even the most seasoned seafarer could run into trouble when a storm broke out over the sea.”
No matter how frightening rowing their boat during a storm was, the disciple’s greater fear was when they saw Jesus walking on the rough water toward them. Matthew’s account of this event includes Peter’s desire to join the Lord by also walking on the water (Matthew 14:22-33).
Jesus said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Dr. R.C. Sproul comments that, “Our Lord told them not to fear. “It is I,” Jesus said, which translates the phrase ego eimi , the Greek version of God’s covenantal name I am. As we will see, this phrase appears frequently on the lips of Jesus in John’s gospel, and it is a particularly strong hint at our Lord’s deity. Jesus did things that only God can do and made claims that only God can make. This has applications for how we understand the true identity of Jesus.”
When Jesus told His disciples to not be afraid, He was not saying do not worship or reverence Me. In fact, Matthew’s account of this event concludes with the disciple’s reverential worship of Jesus (Matthew 14:33).
It should also be noted that instantly after Jesus got into the boat, that He and the disciples were immediately at Capernaum. Jesus is Lord over time, space and the law of gravity. However, Jesus’ greater ministry was soon set to begin.
In John 15:14-15, Jesus calls His disciples His friends. That is a good thing. However, as Dr. Sproul concludes, “We dare not forget that Jesus is no ordinary friend. He is the sovereign Lord and Creator of the universe, and although He loves us intimately and walks with us, we must nevertheless remember that we must also bow to Him as Lord.”
Soli deo Gloria!