Oh, What a Night

“When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.”  John‬ ‭6:16-21‬ ‭ESV‬‬.

The fifth of the seven signs of Johns’s Gospel, given to us so that we can believe in Jesus in a right way and have life in His name. And yes, it was a dark and stormy night.
Jesus has fed the five thousand.  They are on the eastern, more desolate, more Gentile side of the Sea of Galilee.  Jesus lives in Capernaum, that’s on the west side.  That’s where Bethsaida is, and the towns where Jesus is doing most of his ministry.   Jesus and his disciples had gone to the other side, and the multitudes had gathered to Jesus because they were hungering for his word.  And, as we know, he gave them the bread of his word, but then miraculously fed the multitudes with just a few loaves and s couple of fish.   He fed them until they were full, seconds and thirds, until they could eat no more, he just keeps pulling the bread and the fish, and when they were done there are twelve baskets left over.    

As a result of this,  the multitudes wanted to make Jesus king, by force.  They wanted to forcibly make Jesus king.  Of course, Jesus IS king.  That’s what Messiah means.  He comes to be king, he IS king.   Yet Jesus declines this effort by the multitude, he slips away by himself to the mountain to pray.  Why does he do this?   Because Jesus does not come to be a forceful king.  They were still stuck in their paradigm of scarcity.  They wanted Jesus to lead their forces, maintaining their distorted view of scarcity.  They wanted Jesus to lead their forces to make sure they had their slice of the pie.  They couldn’t understand that what Jesus wants to show them is the beauty of the infinite, that in the Christ way there is enough for everyone.

So Jesus slips away into the mountain by himself to pray.  He sends his disciples back to Capernaum, their base.  He sends them by boat, because they are fishermen and they have a boat.  After all, it’s only seven miles across the Sea of Galilee by boat.  To walk around is much longer and takes much more time.    So Jesus sends his disciples by boat across the Sea of Galilee, the quickest way.  Did Jesus know what he was going to do?  I would think so, he seems to be setting something up here.

So it’s a dark and stormy night, and the disciples are heading across the Sea.  It’s dark, they have no modern lighting, it’s very dark, maybe they had a couple lanterns.  And out in the middle of the night in the middle of the Sea in the middle of the storm, Jesus comes to the disciples walking on the water.   Imagine this.  There is a dramatic situation.  There is a storm, people struggling against the storm.  People being very aware of their own mortality at the moment.  The situation could get really ugly if the storm gets any worse. They are in circumstances I imagine they don’t like, and here comes Jesus just strolling across the sea!!   
Can you imagine walking on water?  I think we can all imagine this.  We can imagine it, we just can’t do it.  But maybe, just maybe, walking on water is something we are supposed to be able to do, but we just don’t know how.  Maybe this is not miraculous at all.  Just like swimming, we don’t learn to swim without someone showing us how, maybe in the age to come Jesus will be there giving his free walking on water classes.  C’mon, this is how you do it!!   Who know???
But here comes Jesus, walking on water in the middle of the night, and the reaction is not calm or joyous.  It’s not “Hey, Look, it’s Jesus, walking in the water!”  The disciples are frightened, even terrified.  Matthew and Mark both tell us the disciples said “It’s a ghost!!”   What else would they think?  What would you think?   To see a human figure moving toward you, walking across the top of the water, in the middle of the sea, on a dark and stormy night.  It would seem death is so close the ghosts are already here.   

But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”   That’s a relief.  Then they were glad to take him into the boat.   Wouldn’t you be glad to hear it was Jesus and receive him into your boat?   In the middle of the Sea on a dark and stormy night with the winds blowing and the waves crashing, knowing you could go down at any time, so close to death the ghosts are already coming.  How glad would you be to hear Jesus say It is I; do not be afraid.   
In the middle of the dark and stormy night, the voice of Jesus is heard.  “It’s me!  Don’t be afraid.”   Remember, the disciples were in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, they had rowed about three or four miles, and it’s about a seven mile journey across that sea.  But Jesus comes to them in the middle of the Sea, Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.   Bump!  They take Jesus in, and immediately they arrive st their destination on the other side.  Immediately they are through the storm.   They hit ground, and they are at Capernaum.  What happened?   They are just there.  Oh, what a night indeed.   Think about it.  Jesus goes straight from feeding the five thousand to slipping away from the crowd wanting to make him king to going up the mountain to pray, straight to the middle of the Sea of Galilee, walking on water to deliver his disciples from the storm.
Of course, it’s not just a miracle, it’s a sign.   A sign pointing us to Jesus, who is Lord, even of the Sea.
More to come.
John Lewis

4 thoughts on “Oh, What a Night

  1. John,

    I doubt if I make sense with this… I am having trouble making sense of it in my own mind… but you are the one neck deep in John at the moment, and so you are most likely (of any I know) to either understand and help me clear things up, or to understand and steer me away…

    Bear with me a moment as I ramble.

    One of the truly odd things about learning, in my experience, is that in a dozen years of grade school, junior and senior high, in which I was taught the English language at the technical level over and over… always advancing it, it was when I got to college and learned a second language that suddenly the English language began to really make sense to me. So odd that by means of taking a second language class, the thing I learned even more than the curriculum itself was the English language I was turning my attention away from!

    Well, sometimes other areas of study have a similar impact.

    I am studying Luke these days, but the deeper I get into Luke, the more clear Mark and John get for me… or so it seems. And John… well… There are a handful of mysteries in John that I see quite clearly, but there are huge gaps in which I don’t know how this bit fits with the larger scheme of things and so forth. Thus a handful of chapters in John seem very clear to me, and there are a few things I can say about it over all, but there are huge bits that I don’t understand too.

    Several years ago, I read Wright make plain what should have been overwhelmingly obvious all along, but my culture and faith heritage put very specific blinders on me so that I would focus only on the bits deemed appropriate for those in power. Not that what I saw was bad or wrong, necessarily, but that it at least caused me to major in the minors and or omit important elements. Specifically, here is what I mean:

    All four Gospels tell essentially the same story about the same man. There are important differences, but in the broad strokes the sameness is clear. They tell about a man who claimed to represent God and who was crucified for his trouble.

    My culture and my heritage steered me to see this man as God incarnate and then told a deeply theological story about God dying in my place for my sins to save my soul from eternal destruction.

    That is all right and true.

    But its also a big mishmash. It streamlines theological concerns about atonement and disregards much of the history on the one hand and other theological concerns on the other.

    So Wright comes along and points out that all four Gospels tell the story of God coming to his own people to be crowned King. And THIS is overwhelmingly obvious! But it also pulls together massive tectonic plates of history and theology and fits them together into a coherent picture. The fact that God dies for our sins is not lost in the mix at all, but settles in to a much bigger picture.

    The take away is that all four Gospels present a story about a man who is executed. They all take as their climax the moment of execution. But there is a trick here – but of course the word trick is a very cheap word for it. There is a deeply faith-provoking element in this. As you read this story (in these various accounts) you are invited to see not so much an execution, but a CORONATION. THIS is what it looks like when God comes to his people to be crowned King!

    Some people will look and see yet another criminal getting what he has coming. But SOME of us will see in the midst of that something far deeper, far richer… A CORONATION.

    And this brings me to John.

    John is very unique. They all are, but John is unique among uniques.

    Like the others, John tells a story about an execution, alright, but he invites us to see … drum roll please… a WEDDING!

    John, I THINK, is revisiting the CREATION ACCOUNT of Genesis and telling us the story of NEW CREATION using the old one as a template and paring it with APOCALYPSE, and he is zeroing in on the wedding! And sure enough, the old creation account pairs coronation with wedding. The Adam is given a bride AND rule and dominion all in one big coupling!

    And we see so many of the important narrative bits from Genesis come back into play in Jesus according to John, that they begin to slap me in the face!

    “In the Beginning…” … “…was the Word…” keeps going in this new creation account and plays on all the chords and harmonies of the old while blowing them open with the new!

    John could tell us countless signs Jesus performs, but he highlights SEVEN. Not six, not eight, but SEVEN. Seven is an important number in the Old Creation and in the New.

    The first sign happens at… drum roll please… a WEDDING. And water is turned to wine in the NEW CREATION.

    Genesis tells of God parading animals before The Adam (THE MAN) and he rules over them. John has Pilate present Jesus to the mobs saying “BEHOLD THE MAN”. You almost don’t need Daniel 7 to inform this… But in Dan 7, the kings of the earth are the beasts! Men have become like animals! But one like a son of man is lifted up…. Well, John’s Jesus will be lifted up alright, and will fulfill Dan 7, but already at his trial Pilate presents him to the mob (beasts) and says, BEHOLD THE MAN. A fantastic apocalyptic phrase if ever there was one!

    John’s Jesus (The MAN/the Last Adam according to Paul) is playing the same chord as Genesis, but blowing it open.

    But let’s hold fast to the wedding here. The other gospels highlight the coronation, and that is not lost on John one bit, but John highlights the wedding!

    In Genesis, God puts the Adam in a DEEP SLEEP, pierces his side, and takes a rib to form a wife. In John, God takes a centurions spear and opens the ribs of THE MAN while he is in a DEEP SLEEP and out flows water and blood (all in conjunction with sour wine, btw).

    Early on the first day (of NEW CREATION) the woman comes running to the tomb that is IN THE GARDEN and bumps into a man she doesn’t recognize at first but whom she thinks is the GARDENER (exactly what the Adam of old creation was designed to be). Through her tears she comes to see that Jesus is REVEALED/APOCALYPSEd to her – and to us.

    This, I think, is John’s apocalyptic revelation of the wedding, the bridegroom and his bride, the Son of God and his Church – told not in those terms, but in the terms of a common Roman execution hijacked by God.

    The trick – to use that terrible word again – is to see the wedding and coronation in this execution. Faith gives you that – and more. It gives you a NEW CREATION where this Jesus and his bride rule over the beasts like God said at the very beginning.

    These are just nutshell observations. I have yet to fully test my hypothesis. But I wonder if this resonates with your study.

    And funny how this is coming home to roost while studying Luke.

    Anyway, I look forward to your exchange.

    God bless…


    Liked by 1 person

    1. Brother X – yes, I fully see and believe in the CORONATION of Christ on the cross. It’s an execution, it’s also a coronation. Jesus is king. JESUS IS LORD. The most central proclamation of the gospel. Yet somehow we spiritualized the whole thing, reduce everything to a ticket to heaven when we die, while we remain in charge here in this life.

      Read Acts. Almost nowhere is the gospel being proclaimed postmortem. It was JESUS IS LORD, here and now. In this life.

      I like the comparison of the wedding as well, and think it’s valid. But…really have not looked at it in this way. So maybe just have to read John with this in mind.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Thanx for your charitable response.

        I am actually only scratching the surface with this stuff. I am new to the table.

        Your observation about ACTS is good. Thanx for that. You are right. The core message is that Jesus is Lord. Miss that, and you give up waaaaaaay too much even if you are still at the table. Everything hinges on it.

        But I am mindful that each canonized gospel, though telling the same story, tells it differently. And sure enough there are aspects to this which are LIKE differing eyewitness testimony (cops interviewing witnesses know that if everyone gives the exact same story, its not a sign of the truth, but of everyone having rehearsed it – which raises questions about accuracy and even honesty!) And in bible school, we talk about that kind of dynamic.


        Mark tells the same story to emphasize this or that. Matthew tells it to emphasize that or this. And so on. There are differing emphases (at the least). Personally, I think there are differing functions too – but I am a novice digging this stuff out and not the trained scholar capable of handling multiple dimensions of this stuff with rigorous academic discipline. But I am taking shots as if I can. There is something to this stuff, but just what? I am not prepared to declare with certainty. I have not peer review to work with either – which would help.

        I think Mark is very TIMELY. I recognize that Matthew is particularly Jewish (but I think Mark and John are right there too – just not emphasized as strongly. I think Luke is Gentile in nature AND well researched, but I also think these observations, though valuable, don’t go very far in revealing the function and even the true emphasis of each.

        My working hypothesis is that Mark writes to enlist soldiers. He writes right during the war – the destruction of the temple. Go look at history and see how “messiahs” are calling on recruits to defend the temple. This is 35 years after the crucifixion of Jesus, but Jesus is competing still for recruits. Jewish recruits! (I know, this bucks the scholarly trend that believes Mark writes for Roman consumption.)

        I think both Matthew and John (each in two very different ways) reach out to Jewish readers.

        Luke writes to give Theophilus (whoever that is) certainty about the things he has already been taught. And THIS feature tells me that Mark’s account (which we can verify from other places and sources at later times) is considered second-rate and troubling rather than providing comfort or certainty. Thus Luke writes to correct???/enhance and supplement Mark (and others) who have caused anxiety for some readers. And in fact, probably the other two do this as well to some extent, but Luke comes along and REALLY makes it a point – a function.

        As you note in your reply, the LORDSHIP of Jesus is paramount and central. The part I think I am highlighting is that while at a very surface level, readers are invited to read about the execution of yet another “criminal”, you are actually (AT A MUCH DEEPER LEVEL) really invited to see God hijack the execution and turn it into a CORONATION. And THANK YOU NT WRIGHT, all four gospels do this as a central feature.

        But John is different from the others to a degree to be a category all his own. The others are “synoptic” we say. John uses different style, different stories, moves events around in history etc etc etc…. But I think John is featuring the WEDDING as right there at the crux of the matter in a way the others do not. His emphasis and function come to light here, I think. It is my new hypothesis. I have been playing with it for a while, but it dawned on me today, that since John goes soooooooo deeply to Genesis (esp 1 &2) and revisits and reworks it all with his APOCALYTIC flare,

        Right there in the Genesis scenes we see coronation and wedding coupled together! I was hardpressed to see it until John woke me up this morning telling me “Its in there!!!” So I looked, and he is right!

        This begins to open up more dimensions of reality for us to consider. I can only begin to speculate, but an execution turned coronation and a world remade at a WEDDING begin to help me think about a proper relationship with God and creation. It’s a marriage relationship. And that involves sex for most of us, which is far more rich and mysterious than just reproduction. It involves worship!


        To a modern American, just the word SEX has so much unholy baggage attached that we should write a book just to rehabilitate the phenom. But in the Old Creation as well as the New, godly sex is holy, right, and good. A celebration of vulnerability and trust, of fidelity, of warmth and care… of hearth and home… of family and so on. Its not really about the jollies, though none of that is excluded.

        Anyway, I am rambling now. And I am working with other things while I write… distractions. Hopefully we can explore this further, and IF, IF, IF I am on to something, maybe we can get on the hunt like a bloodhound.

        Thanx again!

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Yeah, John is whole different style. I’m sure John wrote much later, and at a much older, wiser age. The history was already written, John wrote not just to tell a story, which he does, but also to make a point. A point about Jesus. He writes specifically, as he tells us, that we may BELIEVE.

          I would agree his is very Jewish, that’s why he numbers work so well in understanding John as opposed to the Synoptics. That’s why we have seven signs in John, which is itself a signpost to us. Also 12 tribes, 12 apostles…and 12 baskets left over after the feeding of the five thousand.


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