135 Sign 5 Jesus walks on the Water
John shares this fifth miracle of Jesus walking on the water and Peter asked to join Him to be sure it was really Him. How reassuring of Jesus to respond to their fear and uncertainty of seeing this form walking on the water in the midst of the storm that is threatening their lives with the words don't be afraid. These are the words we need to be reminded of as we encounter the storms of life. Don't be afraid.
Sign 5 Jesus Walks on the Water (Can be allegorized!)
John 6:16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake,
Lake Galilee was also referred to as the Sea of Tiberius (23) meaning that Caesar claimed even the water in Israel belonged to him. When Jesus walked on this water it was prophetic that one day he would rule over the Roman Empire as predicted in Daniel 2 and in Mary’s song (Luke 1:51).
The disciples were used to sailing at night. Why did they leave Jesus? Matthew says Jesus sent the disciples away in the boat and sent the crowds home and went away by himself (Mt 14:22-23).
Jesus often chose to be alone (Matthew 14;13, 23; Mark 1:35). In this instant the people wanted to proclaim him king. This was a temptation for Jesus as it had been in the wilderness (Matthew 4:8-10). Jesus needed solitude to get back to the basics for his coming to earth as one of us.
6:17 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. 18 A strong wind was blowing, and the waters grew rough.
This happens in our lives. The winds blow and life gets rough. Was the devil trying to destroy the disciples? There is no smooth sailing all the time in this world. All the heroes of the Bible had rough times. How do we prepare for the tough times ahead! Remember who you are in Jesus and His great love for you to care enough for you under all circumstances. Practice this awareness in your heart. This must become a routine! It is to have enough faith not to be healed when we desire it most! It is the faith that breathes, “I trust you even if I have to drink this cup.”
6:19 When they had rowed three or three and a half miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were terrified.
Mark says they were in the middle of the lake (Mk 6:47). They are not expecting an intervention. They have been with Jesus for some time now, but they still did not grasp who he really was! Often there are supernatural interventions in our lives, and we do not recognize them as such, even though we think of God in terms of magical powers.
6:20 But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” They did not recognize Jesus because they did not expect Jesus, because he was walking on water. They were preoccupied with the danger they were in and lost the faith to believe they were in God’s hands. The Greek allows for “I AM; do not be afraid.” What was different that they now recognized Jesus? Matthew adds further detail about Peter’s reaction to Jesus arriving (Matthew 14:28-31).
14:28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”
What could be the motivation for Peter to request this action? Was it to confirm this was really happening rather than a dream? It could also be that Peter wanted to demonstrate his faith or he said this because the silence was awkward.
14:29 “Come,” he said. Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Perhaps Peter looked back to make sure the other disciples were aware of what he was doing, walking on water too! When he lost sight of Jesus, he was afraid and started to sink. This happens to us. We lose sight of Jesus’ care and compassion in the press of difficulties and life and sink into fear and discouragement.
14:31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
There are two responses by Jesus to Peter’s predicament. He saves him and he rebukes Peter’s lack of faith or doubt with a chuckle. Jesus does not need to rebuke our doubts. Some are already filled with self- doubt and need to be encouraged. Where does doubt come from? From our history. From others. From the evil One.
6:21 Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
Jesus only entered the boat when they were willing. This is an astonishing addition to the narrative. It means there is no coercion in the Kingdom of God. I remember thinking as a teenager that being friends with Jesus would reduce my fun. Week of prayer speakers who have escaped from the pit of sin are often a temptation.
Arriving immediately at their destination emphasizes the miraculous nature of the event. This was not a hallucination or a vision. Jesus can take us where we need to go with His grace and power.
This was a miracle specifically for the disciples. There were other miracles specifically for them: the coin in fishes’ mouth, sending them out to heal and cast out demons, Malchus’ ear healed, the transfiguration, they arrived there immediately, the large catch of fish after the resurrection,
6:22 The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realized that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone.
This verse is setting the scene for what happens in verse 25.
6:23 Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks.
This is a way of referring to the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.
6:24 Once the crowd realized that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
They must have heard of the miracle in Tiberias and so set out to see what had happened.
Jesus the Bread of Life (Follow up of sign 4)
6:25 When they found him on the other side of the lake, they asked him, “Rabbi, when did you get here?”
The question in Greek can also mean “Where did you come from?” “What is your origin?” Messiah was expected at Passover. The manna given in the desert wandering was preserved in the ark and was expected to reappear at the Marriage Supper of the Messiah.
6:26 Jesus answered, “I tell you the truth, you are looking for me, not because you saw miraculous signs but because you ate the loaves and had your fill.
Miraculous signs: baptism, water to wine, clearing the temple, Samaritan woman, official’s son, invalid at the pool. They are not impressed by Jesus’ divinity but with food. The primary interest is self-benefit not other’s benefit. To worship God for the material benefits of heaven is to do the same. Can our motivation move to being an ambassador of God on this planet to bring joy to all we meet?
6:27 Do not work for food that spoils, but for food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you. On him God the Father has placed his seal of approval.”
Barley loaves and lake fish spoil but the words that Jesus spoke last forever. The seal of God’s approval was manifest at Jesus’ baptism and in every other miracle that was performed.
6:28 Then they asked him, “What must we do to do the works God requires?”
These are sincere people who want to do God’s will no doubt because they believed they would be saved by “these works.” Works are important according to the story of the sheep and goats (Matthew 25). However, the sheep were unaware of their works. “Works” can be the outflow of love, or they can be the duty or obligation of the relationship. Every relationship has obligations, and the best test of our love might be our willingness to fulfil these obligations.
6:29 Jesus answered, “The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent.”
We believe in Jesus when we remember that God knows us by name, that we are precious to him, that he has forgiven all our sin and written our names in his book of life and he plans for us to be with him in deepest intimacy forever.
Ian Hartley, July 2023