Saturday of the 2nd Week of Easter
Psalm 33:22; John 6:16-21
The term “perfect storm” dates back at least to the 19th century. We don’t know exactly what it meant then, but my guess is that we all know from personal experience what it means now: Life is going along fine; then, all of a sudden and from every direction, we have nothing but trouble, if not outright disaster.
John certainly captured the essence of that in today’s gospel passage. The Apostles are in the midst of their own perfect storm, literally: in a boat, in the dark, out at sea, working hard to make it across, waves rising, and strong winds blowing against their every effort.
While three evangelists tell the story of our Lord walking on the water, only John strips it down to the bare essentials. He says nothing about Peter going out to join Jesus, the Apostles mistaking him for a ghost, or thinking that he will pass them by. Rather, John keeps only two things in common with the other versions: First, the Apostles see Jesus walking on the sea (6:19); second, when Jesus comes to them, he says, It is I (or, I AM). Do not be afraid (6:20).
Why would John do this? Possibly because of the way he wants to use the story to help us understand Jesus. Consider how this story fits into John’s narrative: Right before this, Jesus fed thousands with five barley loaves and two fish (6:4-14). Now, he walks on the sea and the Apostles get safely to shore. The next day, he will again encounter those he fed, but this time will reveal to them that he himself is the true bread come down from heaven that gives life to the world (6:32-33). In all this, John stirs up a memory and makes an association. Who in Israel’s history fed thousands in the wilderness, brought them safely through the sea, and guided them to a new life in the Promised Land? What the Father once did for Israel, his Son now does for the Apostles, and for all his people.
And not just for them; for us, too. Through John’s simple but powerful retelling of the story, Jesus assures us that there is no storm in our life that is too much. They may seem so to us, but that’s because in the heat of the moment we tend to focus on the troubles, the failures, and the problems. That’s only natural; the storms in our lives come upon us so suddenly, and seem so big. But, if we can find it within ourselves to take a moment, step back, and remember how God has always been there, we will see that he hasn’t abandoned us; he is right there in the storm with us.
In the storm with us… what does that mean? Won’t the storm be over? You might not have noticed, but that’s another difference between this version of this story and the others. John says nothing about Jesus calming the storm. His point wasn’t that Jesus makes storms disappear, it was that he is with us in them and keeps us safe despite them. So, let us resolve to do what the psalmist urges us to do: Place our trust in God. For, although we cannot eliminate the storms from our lives, we can remember that, even in the most perfect storm, it isn’t that we have nothing but trouble; it’s that we have nothing but God.
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