After miraculously feeding 5,000 people, the crowd cried out: “This really is the Prophet who was to come into the world!” (John 6:14). Jesus knew that the people “were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king…[so]…He withdrew again to the mountain by Himself” (John 6:15). Mark tells us that He quickly dismissed the disciples and made them go on ahead of Him in the boat to the other side of the sea (Mark 6:45-46) and dismissed the crowds in order to go “up on the mountain by Himself to pray” (Matt 14:23). What happens next is the fifth recorded sign by Jesus in which He displayed His glory through a miracle. Jesus used this sign to show His disciples that He cares for them and is Lord of all creation.
Jesus Walks on the Water
Jesus told the people about the Kingdom of Heaven and performed many signs in order to prove that He is the Son of God. One of these important signs was walking on water. The disciples got into a boat and were terrified when a powerful storm arose. In their distress they saw Jesus walking on the water towards them and they cried out in terror. Jesus proved He is God’s Son with His power over creation. Jesus walked on the water because He commanded the water to uphold Him. Jesus did not just appear to walk on the water. Jesus did not walk on the seashore. Jesus literally walked upon the water because He is the Lord of all creation. The disciples saw Him and were afraid and Jesus comforted them by saying, “It is I. Don’t be afraid!” (John 6:20).
Peter Walks on the Water
As remarkable as it was to hear that Jesus walked on the water, He wasn’t the only one! We are told that Peter walked on the water as well. Matthew tells us that Peter said to Jesus, “Lord, if it’s You, command me to come to You on the water” (Matt 14:28). Jesus told Peter to step out of the boat and “climbing out of the boat, Peter started walking on the water and came toward Jesus” (Matt 14:29). How remarkable! Peter walked on the water just like Jesus! Does this mean that Peter is also the Lord over creation? No, Peter didn’t walk on the water because he commanded the water to uphold him. Peter walked on the water because Jesus commanded the water to uphold Peter. Peter worked in Jesus’ power that was graciously granted to Him.
Peter is to be commended because of his faith. William Carey, the father of modern Baptist missions, is well known for saying “Expect great things from God. Attempt great things for God.” Peter asked to join Jesus on the water and Jesus did not rebuke him but told him to come and join. J. Vernon McGee has rightly said, “I am afraid that most of us are satisfied with little things from God.” If we are not careful, we will rebuke Peter for his “foolishness” and commend the other disciples for their reasonableness. God allows us to go through difficult seasons in order to show us our weakness and His strength? The Lord told Paul “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness” (2 Cor 12:9).
Peter Sinks into the Water
Peter is to be commended for his faith as he asked Jesus to let him walk on the water, and He also serves as a warning. When you are upheld by the power of Christ, you cannot take your focus off of Christ or you will fall. Peter took his eyes off Jesus and “saw the strength of the wind” (Matt 14:30). When Peter focused more on the situation he was in and less on Jesus, He began to sink! Peter started with great faith and quickly descended into little faith. Before we are too hard on Peter, ask yourself how many times you have started out with great faith and quickly fell into fear and anxiety. What did Peter do when he began to sink? He cried out to Jesus “Lord, save me!” (Matt 14:30).
Jesus Rescues Peter
There are some who believe that Jesus was not literally walking on the water. William Barclay for example said, “the disciples’ boat was driven by the wind to the northern shore of the lake…Jesus came down from the mountain to help them when He saw them struggling in the moonlight, and that He came walking through the surf of the shore and the waves towards the boat, and came so suddenly upon them that they were terrified when they saw Him.” If what Mr. Barclay says is true, Peter and the rest of the disciples are in no danger. If Jesus is just walking on a few inches of water by the shore then Jesus should have replied to Peter: “Why are you afraid, you are not in deep water.” The only honest reading of the text that makes any sense is that the boat was in the deep part of the sea, the disciples were in danger from the storm, and Peter would have drowned if Jesus did not help him. John writes: “Immediately Jesus reached out His hand, caught hold of him, and said to him, ‘You of little faith, why did you doubt?’” (Matt 14:31). Why be afraid when you are with Jesus?
Truly You are the Son of God!
This fifth sign was slightly different from the others we have previously discussed. While this sign became known to the crowd later (How did Jesus get to the other side? see John 6:25), it was specifically for the disciples to witness. What also makes this sign important is that it is provided in order to help the disciples who are in desperate need. They had seen Jesus help others, but now they need help. They were understandably frightened at the sight of Jesus walking on the water, but their fear soon gave way to joy. This sign revealed that Jesus is the Lord of all creation who has authority over creation. Later Paul wrote in Colossians 1:16, “By Him everything was created…all things have been created through Him and for Him.”
Two important questions: First, do you believe Jesus has ultimate authority over all things to the degree that He can control the wind and the waves (Mark 4:41)? Second, do you believe that Jesus is aware of you and cares enough about you to help you during your trials? If you answer both of these in the affirmative, then you will demonstrate great faith and live with courage and hope. If you cannot answer these two questions affirmatively, then you will remain hopeless in an evil world. Turn to Jesus. Confess Him as Savior and Lord. Repent (turn away from) of your sins and surrender your life to Him and be saved.
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