"When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified" (John 6:19).
The lovely Galilee in Israel is approximately fifteen miles in length and averages some five to seven miles across. The entire Jordan valley is cradled in what was once a geographic or seismic rift that runs from the slopes of Mt. Hermon in the north to the Dead Sea some 1300 feet below sea level in the south. Galilee, however, is located about in the middle of that fault--about 700 feet below sea level.
Immediately to the east of Galilee are the desolate Golan Heights, and subsequently slight barometric changes can affect the weather which quickly turns what was a rather placid body of water into a raging, choppy sea. I know. I've seen it happen myself.
When the wind is already blowing, anyone with experience would know that it's only going to get worse. But that's the way it was the time the disciples launched their little craft from the eastern shores of Galilee and headed towards home in Capernaum. John says, "A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified"--a proper response, being that they were very human.
Fear is one thing, but terror is fear compounded. Not only were they fearful that this mother of all storms could sink their little vessel but they were also terrified in a very disconcerting way to see Jesus. "Are we really seeing this or are we just imagining it? It is really Jesus in the flesh or his spirit?" they must have asked themselves.
On another occasion, Jesus came walking on the water and invited Peter to step out of the boat and come to Him (Matthew 14), but this time, Jesus wanted on board their boat. John 6:20 and 21 says, "But he said to them, 'It is I; don't be afraid.' Then they were willing to take him into the boat."
One thing is obvious: Their fear had to be overcome before they were willing to let him get into the boat, and that issue is no different today. How do you know whether you can really trust God in the storm? In a sense, the storm is the laboratory of life, the proving ground where you put your faith to the test. A lot of folks would prefer never having to face the dark night and the storm, as did the disciples; they could never be completely sure that God is enough.
Jill Briscoe contends that the Mother of All Storms is allowed by the Father of All Comfort so we will know something of His power and protection. She's right.
How did the disciples overcome their fear? By listening to his voice saying, "It is I; don't be afraid!" It was that simple. "But" you may well be asking, "How can I hear His voice today?" The incident which I just related is found in the Gospel of John, and in this book John says that the purpose of his writing was “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name" (John 20:31).
A final thought: Jesus Christ doesn't force Himself into your boat. He comes in response to your invitation. Are you willing to let Him aboard? Willing to let Him into your life, to be present at your dinner table, to be the unseen listener to your conversations?
The last book of the New Testament records His words, " Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and dine with him, and he with Me" (Revelation 3:20, NKJV). It's still true.
Resource reading: John 6:16-24