When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored the boat. When they got out of the boat, people at once recognized him, and rushed about that whole region and began to bring the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went, into villages or cities or farms, they laid the sick in the marketplaces, and begged him that they might touch even the fringe of his cloak; and all who touched it were healed.
Jesus’ words to the disciples in this reading shine hopefully to us today: “Take courage! It is I! Don’t be afraid.” For don’t we all at one time or another find ourselves on a windy and stormy lake, straining at the oars, unable to make out the shapes and forms surrounding us, unsure whether that figure moving toward us is a ghost or is God Himself? In these dark moments, today’s story reminds us that Jesus is with us, telling us to take courage.
And what is courage? Courage is acting out of hope in the face of fear. Courage is a cancer patient going to chemotherapy despite the fact that it will make him feel nauseated and weak, and the outcome of the treatment is yet unknown. Courage is waking up and facing a painfully open world, day after day, following the death of a loved one. Courage is softening our hearts to see, hear, taste, and smell the miracles that God is doing every day, miracles that the disciples themselves missed because of their “hardened hearts.” Courage is trusting that the economy of the Kingdom of Heaven is one of abundance, not scarcity—although everything in the world tells us otherwise.
Courage is walking through the penitential season of Lent, plodding unflinchingly towards the blackness of the Good Friday tomb, trusting that once again God will bring life out of death. Courage is making space for the still, small voice of God—a voice that might indeed be calling us not to something small but to something very, very big.
The Rev. Sarah Taylor Miller
Appointed readings for today: Isaiah 43:16-21, Psalm 126, John 12:1-8