Get Out of the Boat – Blog 11

John 6:16-58 SNL Sunday 2 December 2012

As before the writer is Derek McKelvey, not John, even though it is written as if he wrote it.

Well, as I said, the lure of a bed in Capernaum was better than a cold night out in the hills. So we headed for the boat, only to find it surrounded by the crowd looking for Jesus. They counted us on board and wanted to know where He was. But because He was not there they let us go.

 We might have been better staying on the mountain for in no time the wind got up and the Lake was a frightening place – but nothing the storm could throw at us was as scary as what happened next. We were about three[1] miles from shore, and there walking across the lake – through the waves was Jesus – at least we weren’t sure – it looked like him – but out on the lake – it must be a ghost surely?

And then He spoke “ ‘I am’[2] Don’t be afraid!”. We were stunned but gladly brought him into the boat and the storm calmed and we were there at Capernaum.[3] It is still a night I can remember so well, how he looked, what I felt, how I understood and yet didn’t understand at all. In one evening I knew him in a new way yet I knew less since there was so much more to know.[4]

What we found out after was the consternation of the crowds who camped out waiting for him at the harbor and who knew he hadn’t left yet he wasn’t there. They hijacked the first boat to arrive and followed us – but they got no answer, no more miracles, no more free food – simply “this is the work of God that you believe in him whom he has sent.’ We needed to hear that too – but maybe we had more reason to believe and ‘Get out of the boat!’

[1] 20 or 30 stades is the original. A stade is 606 feet therefore many translate with furlongs (660feet). But the point is they were in the middle of the lake and in the middle of the night. Mark says it was in the midnight to 3am watch. Presumably the storm hampered their journey as they were rowing.

[2] The Greek egw eimi can be ‘I am” indicating a theophany – a claim to be ‘I am’ as in Exodus 3 or simply ‘It’s me’ an ordinary way of letting people know who it is. However almost without exception when God appears in scripture he begins with ‘Don’t be afraid’ and several other times in John the ‘I am’ formula is used as a claim of divinity, notably with the Samaritan woman in 4:26 and in 8:58 where the reaction of the hearers confirms it.

[3] Are there three miracles here? The walking on the water, the calming of the storm, and the translation of the Boat from the middle of the lake to Capernaum. Or is the third simply that when he came into the boat it seemed no time till they were there, so stunned were they by the events of the night

[4] What is surprising is that Jesus invitation to Peter to walk to him and his attempts to do so are not told by John. He may have felt they diverted attention from the main thrust of the story.