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.”
As time rolls on by, we encounter those moments which shake the faith we have for life. A child dies. A spouse dies. Faith is challenged in the after effects of disease or flood or tornado or hurricane. What we believe about life is questioned. We wonder about the goodness and presence of God. As we look at the political landscape with the partisan attacks, lying and manipulation of the truth, where do we put our faith may be at the front of our minds. Where do we put faith when the world seems to be a chaotic mess?
Jesus and the disciples were walking by the Temple. A few disciples boasted about the amazing structure and beauty of the Temple. It was an amazing building constructed by Herod, largely to the glory of Herod. For the faithful, however, the Temple served as a solid reminder of God’s presence during the trials of Roman occupation. Then Jesus declared the Temple would be destroyed (at the time Luke was written the Temple had already been destroyed by Roman forces). Jesus went on to tell of a persecution for his followers that would go far beyond what is called the ‘War on Christmas.’ The things we look to for security such as family and friends would betray his followers – even to the point of death. Why? Jesus and the kingdom of God stand in direct contrast and challenge to the chaos. Our sin – our defiance – leads us to choose the chaos.
So where does faith go when Temple and family and friends are part of the chaos? First of all, Jesus warned about con-men and manipulators who would use the times for their personal advantage – don’t be deceived. Jesus offers more than a stoic approach to ‘tough it out’ kind of faith. He shows us the God who brings life out of the chaos.
The beginning of Genesis tells of the Spirit of God hovering over the formless void (chaos) and an amazing, life sustaining creation was formed. From the chaos that nailed him to a cross, Jesus was raised to a resurrected life. This world will give way to the resurrection into a life that goes beyond our comprehension. The Spirit of God, present from the very beginning, is a witness to us so we can be a witness of hope to others. Faith looks to Christ’s return when this hope is fully realized.
Time passes by and we are all challenged to find a place where faith can grasp. Jesus’ death and resurrection points us to God who raises life out of the chaos. Let faith hold firm to this and gain the life that comes in Christ.