It is a curious little incident sandwiched between Jesus’ miraculous feeding of a huge crowd and his lengthy discourse on the nature of true bread.

It is evening. Leaving Jesus behind his disciples get into a boat and start to cross the lake to Capernaum. As they row a terrible storm arises in the midst of which they are terrified to see Jesus walking on the water. The disciples want to take Jesus into their boat. But, he speaks to them saying, “It is I; do not be afraid,” and suddenly they find themselves safe on the other side of the lake.

The context for this odd little story is essential. Jesus has just fed a multitude with scanty resources. After the disciples’ surreal lake crossing, another crowd gathers questioning Jesus about his trip across the lake. Jesus responds to the crowd’s question saying,

‘Very truly, I tell you, you are looking fo rme, not because you saw sings, but because you ate your fill of the loaves.” (John 6:26)

John chapter 6 circles around one question. What are we really looking for in life? What is it that we believe will nurture and sustain us for the journey ahead?

In John 6:16-20, Jesus’ disciples, probably unconsciously, provide the answer.

John says, in the midst of the storm and in the grip of their terror, when the disciples saw Jesus walking on the water,

Then they wanted to take him into the boat. (John 6:21)

The Greek word translated “wanted” is thelo. It means “desire”, “resolve”, “intend”. The disciples understood instinctively that what they most wanted in the midst of the storm was the presence of Jesus with them in their boat.

The disciples cannot chase away their fears. Their anxieties will not be ignored or denied.They cannot fix the storm.

What they can do is intend to take on board the source of light and life. They can determine that they will open to that strength and peace that, in Christian tradition, we call Jesus.

Storms are a wake uip call to the reality that we are not in control. Like Jesus’ disciples, when we ourselves find buffeted by the wind and waves, we know we cannot control the situation; that is why we are afraid.

We cannot just brush aside our fears. They will not be denied or ignored. The fear is real.

In the face of fear, what we really desire is to experience the peaceful presence of God in our lives.

All the fears we have ever faced, all the anxieties and turmoil we have ever encountered are calling us to reach deep within to that place of strength and peace that dwells at the centre of our being. Jesus came to manifest that peaceful powerful presence. Despite facing the gretest horror and the most unimaginable suffering, Jesus demonstrated that life is stronger than death and love ultimately prevails.

If we intend to find within ourselves that peaceful presence and that abiding reality of light, it will be present.

In the words of the prophet Isaiah, God promises

Can a woman forget her nursing-child,
or show no compassion for the child of her womb?
Even these may forget,
yet I will not forget you.
See, I have inscribed you on the palms of my hands;
your walls are continually before me.
Your builders outdo your destroyers,
and those who laid you waste go away from you. (Isaiah 49:15-17)

If we can stop and catch our breath in the midst of the turmoil, we will find that deep space opens within where we know we are held. We will find that place within ourselves that knows that, no matter what may come, we will never be abandoned. We are not alone. We are not foresaken. The peace and light of God’s love and compassion reside in the depths of our being. As we intend to open to that reality, we discover that we are held in love and tenderness.