Thursday, January 30, 2014

Desire is the Destination

Having a hard time getting where you want to go? Jesus’ first followers had the same problem.

Three or four miles out to sea, tossed and turned by gale-force winds and swelling waves, the disciples were having a very hard time getting to their destination. They were exhausted, having spent the day feeding thousands in the Galilean hill-country, and they wanted what we all want after a long and trying day - the comforts of home.[1] This is where the storm-battered disciples encountered the first miracle, one that is very familiar to us – Jesus walking on water.

But then we have the second miracle(s). In Matthew’s gospel, we have Peter walking out onto the water to meet Jesus. Mark’s gospel has Jesus climbing into the boat with them and the waters are calmed. Yet in John, perhaps my favorite ending, a most subtle and curious thing happens. After identifying himself and assuaging their fears, the Scriptures say:

Then they were willing to take him into the boat,
and immediately the boat arrived at their destination.[2]

It is easy to glance over this tiny verse. Reading it quickly, the passage seems to do little more than document two ordinary events – Jesus getting into the boat and the boat arriving at its destination. Nothing miraculous here. Upon closer examination, however, we find another beautiful miracle.

When the disciples were willing to invite Jesus in, they immediately arrived at their destination. We’re talking Star Trek, teleportation stuff here. They suddenly zipped across another four miles of tumultuous sea and arrived at the shore where they were heading because they received Jesus among them.

But the Scriptures go further. It wasn’t that the disciples did receive Jesus into the boat. The weary travellers didn’t reach out their hands and help their water-walking leader into the boat. Various translations put it this way:

“They were willing to take him” (NIV)
“They wanted to take him” (NRSV, NAB)
“They were glad to take him” (RSV)
“They were eager to let him in” (NLT)

The passage tells us that the disciples got to where they were going by the mere desire or willingness to receive Jesus. As Scripture scholar Brooke Westcott put it, “Opposing forces were removed. . . the desired end was gained. . . both from the presence of Christ welcomed.”[3] Pope Francis assures us, “Whenever we take a step toward Jesus, we come to realize that he is already there, waiting for us with open arms.”[4] And he's right: our desire for Jesus, allowing that deep and holy longing come to the surface, is all it takes. 

Having a hard time getting where you want to go? Maybe the question should be, “Am I willing to let Jesus in?” It seems like the destination is in the desire.

It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness;
He is waiting for you when nothing else you find satisfies you;
He is the beauty to which you are so attracted;
It is He who provoked you with that thirst for fullness
that will not let you settle for compromise;
It is He who urges you to shed the mask of a false life;
It is He who reads in your heart your most genuine choices,
It is Jesus who stirs in you the desire to do something great with your lives.
~Pope John Paul II, World Youth Day, 2000

[1] Five of the twelve disciples were from the seaside villa of Capernaum. Peter and Andrew were originally from Bethsaida but moved to Capernaum. The Zebedee brothers, James and John, were from Capernaum. Finally, Matthew, the former publican and tax collector, was from Capernaum.
[2] Jn 6:21.
[3] Brooke Foss Westcott, John, 1:219; taken from Frederick Dale Bruner’s The Gospel of John: A Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans Publishing Co, 2012), 372.
[4] Pope Francis, Evangelii Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel), 3.

1 comment:

  1. This is really great. Thoughtful and helpful. Thanks Michael.


Thanks so much for your input. I pray that this dialogue may be a blessing to you personally and to the ministry you exercise in Christ.