“After making the crossing to the other side of the lake, Jesus and his disciples came to land…” (Mark 6:53).
The frequent mention of crossing the lake in the Gospels suggest that there is deeper meaning to this act than simply going from one place to another. It seems to be an exercise that held special importance for Jesus as he taught his disciples about his mission and their role in it.
It has something to do with the particular risks and challenges of crossing a body of water. We recall the Exodus, when Moses led the Hebrews out of Egypt to freedom. We recall Joshua leading the people across the Jordan River when they entered the Promised Land. Each crossing marked an important transition.
For Jesus the central act of his redemptive mission was his death as the new exodus, the new crossing from the slavery of sin into the new creation. His disciples needed to understand that they too would pass through this redemptive transition, from death to new life.
With each crossing of the lake, the disciples had another lesson in trusting Jesus. They would endure storms and frightening night crossings. In some of the dangerous storms, Jesus would be asleep in the boat. In others they would encounter him walking on the water and think he was a ghost. In a special crossing, Peter would be invited out of the boat to walk on the water, testing his faith.
So it is possible to say that what Jesus and his disciples were doing when they crossed the lake was preparing for the Paschal Mystery, the essential act of Christian disciple, the sign of baptism, when they would be going down in death in order to rise with Jesus to new life.
We can see our own lives in the light of this symbol. How many crossings must we make to perfect our baptisms? How often we must have profound faith in times of crisis, when life’s storms threaten to sink our little boats? Have we even been challenged to step out of the security of the boat to walk on water when summoned by Jesus?
Today’s Word invites us to consider just how much discipleship asks of us in leaving behind the certainties of life on dry land, to follow Jesus when he calls us to accompany him through death to life.