On Getting Away When Things Are Going Well


September 4, 2020

John 6:16-21

When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened.  But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.


Let’s begin today by remembering the last words from yesterday’s text: “Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself” (John 6:15).

Many agendas compete for the attention of Jesus. Only one must prevail: the agenda of Jesus. Jesus could not be made king because he was already King. Rather than take on their agenda by confrontation, he does so by subversion. Jesus “withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” There’s a word hiding in that phrase I never noticed until now. The word is “again.” This was no isolated run-for-the-hills reaction. Withdrawing was not the exception for Jesus but the rule.

Many years ago a teacher pointed me to a passage in Luke’s Gospel that continues to both challenge and encourage me.

“Yet the news about him spread all the more, so that crowds of people came to hear him and to be healed of their sicknesses. But Jesus often withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” (Luke 5:15-16)

If I’m honest, and you know I try to be, this practice of withdrawing into the fellowship of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is not the rule for me, but the exception. It might read, “But John David, every now and then, when he was particularly stressed out, withdrew to lonely places and prayed.” It is usually some kind of chaos or storm I’m trying to escape that drives me to withdraw into the refuge of God’s presence. That’s not bad; it’s just not Jesus. It was Jesus’ extraordinary success, and the ever-present agenda of the world in light of this success, that moved him to flee into the haven of his Father’s fellowship.

Here’s the payoff. The next time we see Jesus, he’s walking straight into the heart of a storm and all its unpredictable chaos. The thing we tend to run from, Jesus runs to. Before I tended to put all the emphasis on the miraculous meal for the multitudes and the sensational headline of Jesus walking on water. That’s beginning to change for me. I’m starting to read the signs posted amid the signs and wonders. It’s like he’s posting those quiet and slightly hidden signs in the midst of so many other things.

They say, “Follow me.”


Abba Father, we thank you for your Son, Jesus, who always leads us to you. Whether it be miraculous signs, mountaintop solitude, or the chaotic storms of our lives, we want to follow Jesus. Come, Holy Spirit, and groove deeper patterns of the ways of Jesus into our lives. We pray in Jesus’ name, amen.


1. Would you say withdrawing into the fellowship of God is the rule or the exception for you?

2. What do you think of this notion of being driven into the fellowship of God by successes and not just by difficulties?

3. What signs between the signs are you beginning to take note of in the gospel? In your everyday life?

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For the Awakening,
J.D. Walt


Farmer. Poet. Theologian. Jurist. Publisher. Seedbed's Sower-in-Chief.