If someone were to come to you and ask; “Tell me about Jesus walking on water”. What would you describe? We know that each miracle was not just to show off, but to teach lessons. What is your knowledge of the bible when this question is asked?
Let us look at this one encounter and then discuss some wisdom to grasp onto for when the time comes and this very question is asked of us.
Last week we had John’s recording of the miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand. At the end of that incident the people were about to take Jesus by force to make Him king, not because they recognized Him as their rightful Lord and Master but because He had done a wonderful sign and filled their tummies. But Jesus was not willing to be crowned on that basis, so He sought solitude in the hills by the Sea of Galilee.
As that day concluded the disciples went down to the Sea of Galilee in their boat to row back to Capernaum, but Jesus did not go with them. Soon the sunset and a storm arises…
Three of the four gospels record the disciples seeing Jesus walking across the Sea of Galilee. (Jn 6:16-21; Mt 14:22-33; Mk 6:45-51). The feeding of the 5,000 occurred on the east side of the sea, and Capernaum is on the northwest shore. This created a travel route across the see about 6 miles against the wind.
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. 20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus.
25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” 26 Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. 27 Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” 28 Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” 29 Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” 30 So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? 31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” 34 They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.” – John 6:16-34 ESV
Knowing that the journey in the boat was against the wind, it would mean that the men would have been in the boat rowing. In the book of Mark, it says they were “straining at the oars” (Mk 6:48). The gospel of John does not clarify the time in the evening, but both Matthew and Mark declare that this event occurred in the “forth watch” of the night, that is, between 3 and 6 o’clock in the morning (Mt 14:25; Mk 6:48).
16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. 19 When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. – John 6:16-19 ESV
“They were frightened” – as too they should be. Much rightful focus is on the miracle of Jesus walking on water, but us make sure we get the full experience. Not all the disciples were sea worthy. Some of them were professional fishermen, seasoned veterans on this very lake, but they we in trouble in familiar waters.
Many people discredit the idea of a major storm on an inland lake. If you have been to large bodies of water inland, such as one of the Great Lakes, you would understand that storms can be very violent. The Sea of Galilee is 600 feet below sea level, and it is situated in a pseudo wind-tunnel. Gale winds blow in off the Mediterranean and through the mountains stirring up the lake without warning. During the stormed recorded in this passage, even an experienced fisherman such as John could become alarmed, and we can only imagine how fearful the landsmen around the disciples were.
The Ancients believed that the demons of hell lived beneath the lake; and stirred up the storms against those on it.
But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. – John 6:20 ESV
Those guys must have looked terrified by the way Jesus greets them: “It is I; do not be afraid”. They saw Jesus approaching them without the benefit of a boat. He was walking in the darkness over the chaotic, frothing sea. John tells us in the prologue of chapter 1 “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God”. Christ was God in the flesh, but His divine nature was masked and hidden by that veil of humanity. Sometimes, however, His divine nature showed through. There were moments when Jesus’ deity burst through the veil and became obvious and manifest to anyone who was watching.
This verse also has a profound message in it that we can directly relate to. We know that the journey was about 6 miles and Jesus met up with them about 2/3 of the way across the sea, but did you notice what occurred when Jesus got in the boat? “immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going”.
Just like in our life; we go about our ways and we get in storms and tossed around violently, then when we invite Jesus into our boat, we are at peace, we have all we need, we have arrived.
The miracle of walking on the water was directly witnessed only by Jesus’ disciples. The next chunk of scripture is evident that it was not undetected by the multitudes.
22 On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. 23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. 25 When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” – John 6:22-25 ESV
The people follow Jesus and His disciples from the east shore where He fed them and when they got there, they made it almost sound like they were surprised to find Jesus there. They asked: “Rabbi, when did you come here?”. Jesus, being Jesus, knew what was on their minds and in their hearts and He actually ignored their question.
Do you ever take questions to Jesus and find out He does not answer you or leads you in another direction? How do you react in these times?
Jesus answered, “You’ve come looking for me not because you saw God in my actions but because I fed you, filled your stomachs—and for free. – John 6:26 MSG
It is true that hey sought Him because they saw the signs. But Jesus said that they hadn’t seen the significance of the signs. Jesus tells them that they hadn’t seen the significance of the signs. He told them; “You saw the miracle, you enjoyed the benefit of the miracle, and so you’ve been chasing after Me to make me your King because I filled your tummy when you were hungry.
This is a very common situation in our own times. People cry out to God when they are in trouble and when He pulls through they want to commit to His ways and make him there one and only God, but it usually is not long when focus shifts off of the savior and independence returns.
The reality of the situation comes down to the full-truth. Will you want Jesus to be your King when you see the baptism with which He was baptized? You want to enter the feast, but do you want to enter into His sufferings? Do you want to pick up your cross and follow Him? Jesus actually gives a warning to these fans….
“Do not work for the food which perishes, but for the food which endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you, for on Him the Father, God, has set His seal.” – John 6:27 NASB
Many of us have probably been victims of working and working and then we reflect on our times and wonder where the time goes. We work in jobs that provide for us, but they are not our vocations. The jobs are a means to getting by. This is what Jesus is referring to. He is saying don’t waste your time on things that are going to perish and fade away. Don’t set yourself up for regrets.
Can you share of a season in life that just seemed to slip away and now you reflect on those missing years and learn from your mistakes? Has your worldly goals come and gone? How many times?
Some of the people right around us get up each morning, get dressed, go to work and go through the anguish and the struggles that life brings each day and we must ask “Why are they doing this?”, and we need to have compassion and love enough to pray and reach out to them.
It becomes a hope and a foundation when we understand that Jesus said. “See that which is eternal. Invest in that which doesn’t perish. Store up for yourselves treasures in heaven where there are no moths, no rust, and no thieves that come in and steal it.”
Have you ever asked yourself what you are doing with your life? Do you wonder why you live the way you are living? Do you think about what you’re trying to accomplish? Do you know what you have to gain?
Let me provide for you
Jesus then begins to give an introduction to the true offering. A great similarity is the reference to the
31 Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” 32 Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” – John 6:31-33 ESV
In the case of the Israelites in the desert getting the food they needed from God, in the form of manna, and then the real thing the people needed on that shore, Jesus, is offered; from heaven, from God. What they really needed was offered, even when they did not know what they really needed. It is almost evident in their response that they still did not understand the offer in front of them. “Sir, give us this bread always”…
Back to your response
As we read through this section today, have you been on the edge of your seat waiting for Peter to jump in the water and walk out to Jesus? That is the most common response. There a few times recorded on the Sea of Galilee where it involves Jesus and a storm.
Matthew 8, Mark 4 and Luke 8, record the calming of the storm when Jesus was asleep in the boat and quites the storm with His words. Don’t get that story confused with Jesus walking on water. If you do it kind of sounds like Jesus walks out on the water, jumps in the boat and curls up and takes a nap. But that is not a biblical story to combine. There are different lessons to be learned from Him walking on the water and the other where he is awakened to quite the storm and pierce the disciples hearts with the challenge of faith.
Today’s account is similar to the ones in Matthew 14 and Mark 6, but like much of John’s writings, it is not the same. All 3 of the accounts happen after the feeding of the 5,000, but they all have different stories and lessons.
- Matthew 14:22-33 – Jesus walks up in the storm, does not calm the storm. Peter requests to come out in the storm and does. After Peter’s faith shifts, they both climb in the boat and the storm ceases.Following this activity Jesus heals the sick in Gennesaret.
- Mark 6:45-52 – Jesus was attempting to pass them by in the storm, but they cried out to Him. He got in the boat and the storm ceased. Their hearts were hardened with confusion. Following this activity Jesus heals the sick in Gennesaret.
- John 6:16-21 – Jesus walks out to them tells them to not be afraid, gets in the boat, the storm calms and they arrive at their destination. John provides a unique learning experience about the Bread of Life like no other. He also does not capture the healing of the sick in Gennesaret.
Once again. We can be wise if fully grasp the concept that John’s gospel is not one of the synoptic gospels. It is unique and always wants to show us Jesus.
- The Holy Bible: English Standard Version. (2001). Wheaton: Standard Bible Society.
- R. C. Sproul. John (St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary). Kindle Edition.
- Nicholas Thomas Wright. John for Everyone. Kindle Edition
- Peterson, E. H. (2005). The Message: the Bible in contemporary language. Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.
- New American Standard Bible: 1995 update. (1995). LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation.