Jesus was taking some of what could be called, “Personal time.” Who would blame him? He had been busy teaching. Crowds surrounded him. His home town folk rejected him. The news of John the Baptist being beheaded had just come. So Jesus sent the disciples ahead in a boat while he spent the night in prayer.
I think we can identify with Jesus. The daily news simply can wear a person down. Covid-19 continues to spread and death totals rise. Leadership seems more interested in maintaining their base than coming together to address the issues. Job losses. Rent coming due with not enough in the bank account. Yes, personal time for prayer would do us all some good. While we might identify with Jesus, we are far more like the disciples in the boat. They had spent all night rowing against a strong headwind.
If you have ever been in a boat on a windswept lake, you know that conditions on the water get rough quickly. Getting to shore fast is important for safety. The water can become very chaotic which describes well how the world is functioning right now. In Scripture, water represented chaos. Scripture also reminds us that the Spirit hovered over the waters and it was from there that a beautiful and life giving creation came into being. Jesus came walking to them over the water, over the chaos of the world. When Jesus got into the boat, the wind stopped and they worshipped him “Truly you are the Son of God.”
Peter wanted to join Jesus walking on the water. The first steps went fine but at the sight of the swirling water Peter started to sink with calls for Jesus to save him. On our own we are no match for the chaos. On our own we are overwhelmed. Jesus wasn’t a ghost as they first thought but the Son of God in flesh and bone come to save us. Even the disorder of an unjust court and a hasty crucifixion couldn’t stop the One who brings life out of a watery and formless void. The resurrection is God’s response to the chaos we cannot control.
Jesus’ example of time away for prayer is good for us to follow, especially now. Hear the words that Jesus said when they first saw him walking above the watery chaos, “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”