Updated: Feb 21
Photo by Katalin Salles
Whenever I have heard the story of Jesus walking on the water in a sermon, the focus seemed to be on Peter lacking enough faith to walk with Him. However, this story is written in the gospels Matthew, Mark, and John and only the account of Matthew includes Peter walking with Jesus on the water. Since this is the case, there has to be more significance to this story to learn about.
Jesus and his disciples were on the far shore of the Sea of Galilee and this is where he
miraculously fed the 5,000 men with only five loaves of bread and two small fish. His disciples
saw Jesus provide for them and the thousands of people there in an impossible way.
Next, the disciples cross the lake in a boat.
“Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the
other side…” Matthew 14:22 NIV.
Mark 6:45 NIV says the same however it ends with, “…go on ahead of him to Bethsaida”
John 6:16 NIV, “When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they go
into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum.”
They were headed north across the lake. This sea is known for violent storms. The disciples,
many being fishermen probably knew this. Especially since they were in a violent storm with
Jesus on the same lake not that long beforehand. (Matthew 8, Mark 4, Luke 8.)
The sea is the lowest freshwater lake in the world around 680 ft below sea level. It’s
approximately 13 miles long and 8 miles wide. There are mountains that are around the sea.
The lake forms a depression down among the hills. At night the cold air rushes down the
elevated surrounding hills and causes the windstorms across the low lake. They were headed
against the wind. Yet, Jesus told them to go. Without him. In the night. And they probably knew it would be a rough journey. Maybe they were confused about why Jesus told them to leave without him. But they obeyed while Jesus went up the mountainside to pray.
“Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it. Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake” Matthew 14:24-25 NIV
“Later that night, the boat was in the middle of the lake and he was alone on land. He
saw the disciples straining at the oars because the wind was against them. Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake” Mark 6: 47-48 NIV
“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” John 6:18-19 NIV
Jesus fed the 5,000 men and it was late in the day. Immediately after, the disciples started
crossing the lake. Shortly before dawn Jesus started walking toward them on the lake. Jesus
walked miles across the lake in the wind in much less time it took them to row. They had only
gone halfway across the lake after rowing all night long! They fought all night long against the wind to only be halfway. They must have been exhausted. I wonder what they must have been thinking. Were they scared of the storm? Were they angry at Jesus who told them to go and left them alone? Did they just have tunnel vision to their destination not thinking of how they could have asked God for help? They just witnessed an impossible miracle earlier that day, yet they didn’t think to ask God for help across the lake. Were they thinking how much easier it would be to turn around and go back with the wind helping them? But they continued to obey Jesus.
Despite their exhaustion or frustration at doing the will of Jesus- they still obeyed. According to the Mark account, Jesus saw them from the mountainside struggling and went out to meet them. Jesus saw his disciples struggling; he wasn’t with them, but he didn’t leave them alone. He went out to meet them where they were at, to show them the impossible power of God by walking on the water.
“…they were willing to take him into the boat and immediately the boat reached the
shore where they were heading” Joh 6:21 NIV
I think the wording of that has to have significance, the disciples “were willing to take Jesus into the boat.” I don’t want to get too cliché, so I’ll just let you draw your own symbolism there. That word immediately again! The disciples struggled all night long to get halfway there and once they let Jesus in the boat they were immediately on the shore! Jesus knew they were exhausted. He didn’t make them cross the rest of the way. He didn’t say “You can do it!” and not help. Instead, He showed them his mighty power and to not rely on themselves.
He could have miraculously gotten them all across the lake from the beginning, but I think he wanted them to rely on him. How cool is that? That even though when we don't understand why God tells us to do something he is always watching and knows our struggles and wants us to be obedient and faithful.
Posted by Emily Stark.