September 29 – John 6:16-21


Passage Intro

With Jesus having withdrawn from the crowds, the disciples decided to head back to Capernaum, a city they had stayed in before that offered some provisions and a place to stay, something they didn’t have on the other side of the Galilean Sea. Part way through their journey they encountered rough seas, and then soon something far more surprising: a figure, out in the gloom, striding on the waves. As you can imagine, they were terrified. This was the first century; they had no lights on the ship, and no flashlights to identify whatever unnatural thing was walking towards them across the seas. As Matthew 14 records, they thought it was a ghost and cried out in fear.

If we can get in the disciples heads in that moment perhaps we can hear Jesus’ words like they heard them. “It is I; do not be afraid.” What utter relief that must’ve been to hear those words, both dissipating the fear of some spectral creature and assuring them that Jesus had come to help them. And Jesus tells them the true source of their comfort when he says, “It is I.” Not just “you aren’t alone” or “it’s not a ghost,” but “It’s me, Jesus.”

I love that Jesus gets in the boat with them. He could’ve said, “I’ll meet you at Capernaum!” If you could walk on water, wouldn’t you keep doing it just for the heck of it? And if Jesus could walk on water, he could’ve teleported to Capernaum. This wasn’t because he needed a form of transportation, nor did he get in the boat because his feet were tired. Matthew 14 records that, after the disciples were beaten by the waves, Jesus “came to them.”

What a picture of the incarnation this whole story is! This is God, walking across the tempest waters, seeking after a beaten down and distressed people, crying out, “It is I; do not be afraid,” climbing in the boat to be with them, and stilling the storm. Jesus’ incarnation was a similar miraculous coming, and highlighted a similar desire: to be with us. This passage is about so much more than Jesus showing off his superpowers or us knowing Jesus can calm the “storms” of our lives. It shows us the direction the ears of our heart need to be pointed, towards the source of the only one who can quiet both the storm and our own fears.

Questions for Discussion

• Can someone read John 6:16-21 for us?

• What stood out to you from this section?

• This is such a quick little story, why do you think John included it in his Gospel?

• What do you think it was like for the disciples to experience this?

• What do you think Jesus’ statement here tells us about him?

• What’s a space or situation in your life where you need to hear this same exact thing from Jesus?

• Why do you think Jesus got in the boat with the disciples? What could that mean for you?