The Fourth Watch

30 09 2012

While stationed at the Coast Guard Air Station in Elizabeth City, I was part of a crew sent into the Caribbean to locate a young man attempting to go around the world in a 21 foot sailboat. He had reached a point 700 miles east of San Juan, Puerto Rico when he found himself surrounded by mountainous waves churned up by a tropical storm. By the time we reached the scene, his mast was broken and his auxiliary engine wasn’t working. He was bobbing around the sea like a feather in the wind.

When we made an initial pass about 200 feet above the boat, we saw only a sailboat with a broken mast. The sailor was below in the warmth of the cabin. He heard our plane and by the time we had come around for a second pass, he had come up on deck and was waiving both hands in excitement. When we got him on the radio he was sea sick and afraid but comforted to know rescue was at hand. He said he was confident that help would come. We coordinated rescue with a nearby freighter that picked him up and carried him to safety.

In the days of Jesus, the Jews divided the night into four distinct periods and posted a sentinel during each period. Beginning at 6 P.M., the watch would change every three hours until the end of the fourth watch, which began at 3 A.M.

Jesus Walks on Water

Mark 6:48

Now the fourth watch, the hours from 3 A.M. until 6 A.M, is the darkest part of the night. That’s also about the time Jesus came walking across the Sea of Galilee out to where His disciples, mostly professional fishermen, struggled against a raging storm to keep their boat afloat. As the churning sea tossed their small boat about, the disciples struggled in fear until they looked across the waves and saw Jesus walking out to them. He was about to walk by them when they saw Him. At first they thought they were seeing a ghost and were terrified. Suddenly, Jesus turned toward them and began to walk toward the boat. Jesus saw their fear and said to them, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Then Jesus climbed into the boat and immediately the wind stopped.

The reason Jesus turned toward them was two-fold. First, He wanted to go in their direction so He could help them. Second, He wanted them to be able to see His face so they could recognize Him.

At a time when they needed Him most, Jesus was there to help the disciples.

Everyone at some time gets caught in storms; they struggle with finances, marital problems, addiction, disease. For some people, every day is a storm. Like the disciples, tossed about by the billows, Jesus is there with us. He is there for us during the fourth watch-our darkest hour- a time when we think things can’t possibly get any worse. All we have to do is look beyond the gunwales and focus, not on the storm, but on the Savior. He told us He will always be there for us. We should believe Him and seek His help when in need. That’s why God invented prayer!




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