Jesus doesn’t always do what we expect Him to do.
Around here, when someone makes a very obvious statement, we call that person Captain Obvious. I’m sure many of you want to dub me Captain Obvious right now for the above statement, but let’s stop and think about the implications of this truth. When God moves in an unexpected way, do we welcome it, remembering immediately and with joy that our Lord acts according to His vision and not ours? Or do we have a very different range of emotions? Fear. Anxiety. Misunderstanding. Skepticism.
John 6 shares a beautiful example of this. The five thousand have just been fed, and Jesus has slipped away. The disciples, meanwhile, hop in their boat and head on to Capernaum without Him. I don’t know how they expected Him to meet back up with them. Maybe they thought He would spend the night on the mountain and they would come back for Him the next day. Perhaps they expected Him to find another way across the lake. Who knows? I do know they did not expect what happened.
Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” John 6:19-20
They had seen His miracles. They knew His power. But walking on water was a little outside their experience. I have a feeling such a possibility never even occurred to them! Yet here He was, walking toward them as they strained against the wind and waves. I can’t blame them for being afraid. After dark, on the water, in a powerful wind, an “apparition” appears. Jesus arrived in a way they did not expect.
The best part, though, is not the miraculous walking on water. No, the best part is what comes next.
So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. John 6:21
Do you see it? “They were willing to receive Him…” This is where we find our greatest challenge. What will we do when Jesus comes as we do not expect?
God possesses a much broader vision than we do. We think we understand that fact, but then when we get into our boat and see that He’s nowhere near, we begin to make assumptions based solely on our own vision. We convince ourselves He cannot possibly work until certain hurdles have been overcome. It doesn’t even occur to us to anticipate a walk on the waves, something outside our experience.
Then, suddenly, He shows up. If we are completely honest with ourselves, we are no less afraid than the disciples were. He is also no less patient with us than He was with the disciples. He will identify Himself. He will remind us that we can trust Him and do not have to be afraid. The next step is up to us. When He comes in an unexpected manner, are we willing to receive Him or do we refuse to bend our way of thinking to accept the unexpected?
As soon as the disciples were willing to receive Jesus, their struggle ended. John tells us that “immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” Jesus will do the same for us. When we receive Him, even in His unexpected arrival and ways, He will bring us to where we need to be. That does not mean the winds and waves will stop, but we will be reminded in that moment that His presence is all we need. I know from experience that when we resist Him, the opposite is true. The struggle intensifies, the winds strengthen, the waves push against us from every side, and our strength fails.
When Jesus comes unexpectedly, may we follow the example of the disciples. Once we know who He is, may we be willing to receive Him into the boat.