I can imagine that the disciples were so wrapped up in themselves that they didn’t notice the wind picking up and them not moving.
Maybe after a while, one of them might mention, “It seems as though it is taking a long time to get to the other side of the lake.” Then one of them might finally notice they aren’t moving because the wind is too strong and working against them.
At first, they might scoff — after all, these are experienced fishermen who have crossed this lake hundreds of times. But as so often happens, just when you think you are on top, you find yourself amid a storm that makes you wonder if you will ever make it out. In the fourth watch Jesus comes to us.
The Greek text states Jesus came to them during the “fourth watch of the night,” walking on the water.
The Romans divided the night into quarters beginning at 6 p.m., which makes the fourth watch from 3 to 6 a.m. To me, the “fourth watch” is in the middle of the night. At that time is when all my problems loom larger than life and sleep evades me as I toss back and forth in my bed, as if I am tossing in the sea of despair. I imagine many of you know exactly what I mean.
What is the wind stirring up in your life? What keeps you awake during the fourth watch? Is it the storm of broken relationships? Is it the rough sea of credit card bills that are bigger than paychecks? Maybe it is the storm of job loss, or burdens of anger and hurt from your past.
Maybe it is the storm of worries for your children or your mate. Maybe the winds that keep you awake are the loss of a loved one and the loneliness that never seems to end. Your storm may be the challenges that seem bigger than your strength.
We are much like the disciples that evening. They were alone and afraid in the darkness of the night, adrift on a bottomless sea — and then Jesus came.
Let that thought sink in for a moment: Everything was wrong … and then Jesus came.
These four words divide all time and eternity. With these words God draws a line in the sand of every soul.
The lepers gathered on the side of the road. They had been cast out by their families, abandoned by their friends. They cried out in their pain … and then Jesus came.
The blind man staggered down the road, groping in his world of darkness, begging for a morsel to sustain his life … and then Jesus came.
A man with a mental illness raged out of control, agonizing in his tortured mind … and then Jesus came.
The woman taken in adultery cringed on the ground, hiding her face. The people in the crowd picked up stones to put her to death … and then Jesus came.
The disciples gathered in the upper room, hiding behind locked doors for fear of the Jews … and then Jesus came.
Do you understand? The story of your life is being told. Oh, perhaps the details are not the same, but the essentials are there. It’s the story of your life, your struggle, your hurt, your fear, your anxiety and your pain. It’s all there.
Jesus will come to you, no matter where you are, no matter how wide the sea. Whether you are adrift in a storm, locked in your worst fear, or walking in the valley of the shadow of some great loss. Jesus will come to you.
Today Jesus walks on the sea of your greatest pain, your deepest need, with His hand out stretched. He beckons you.
Will you step out of the boat? Will you test the ocean of His love? Will you take His hand?
If so, you too will discover how Jesus will come to you. Amen.
The Rev. David Wise is pastor of Otterbein United Methodist Church in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members. Send comments to [email protected].