Jesus walks on the water

Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. After leaving them, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

When evening came, 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. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.

Immediately he spoke to them and said, 'Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid.' Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened. (Mar 6:45–52)

The One who sees me

Jesus told his disciples to get into a boat and cross over to the other side of the lake, and they obeyed him. Having dismissed the crowd, he went up on a mountainside to pray.

By the time they'd reached the middle of the lake the disciples were straining at the oars because the wind was against them. Matthew tells us they were being buffeted by the waves (Mat 14:24): things were difficult for them.

What can we learn from this? The lesson is that we shouldn't expect everything to run smoothly for us when we obey the Lord. It didn't for these men, either now or later in the Book of Acts. Neither was it so for the apostle Paul. But while the disciples were struggling in the boat, Jesus was on the mountainside praying.

Mark tells us that even though the boat was in the middle of the lake, he could see them. John's Gospel says it was dark and they were between three and three and a half miles from the shore (Joh 6:17,19): Jesus would not have been able to have seen them with his physical eyes.

In the Old Testament Abram's wife, Sarai, ill-treated her maidservant, Hagar, so she fled from her. The angel of the Lord (a manifestation of Jesus) appeared to her and told her to go back to her mistress. He also told her what would happen to the child she was carrying.

Hagar gave a name to the Lord who appeared to her. She said, 'You are the God who sees me'. And she added, 'I have now seen the One who sees me (Gen 16:13).' The names of God in the Old Testament describe him: he is the God who sees us—no matter where we are, no matter what we are doing.

Hagar was in distress because of the way her mistress had treated her. She had fled into the desert, but Jesus could see her. Our Lord's disciples were in the middle of the lake, straining against the wind and the waves, but he could see them; and he came to rescue them.

Look to the Lord

Jesus came to them walking on the water (a miracle); and when he got into the boat the wind died down (another miracle). John's Gospel says that as soon as he got into the boat they reached the other side (Joh 6:21)—yet another miracle.

What does this teach us? It shows us that we cannot do God's will in our own strength. It was only after Jesus got into the boat with them that they were able to reach their destination.

Are you still struggling against the winds and waves of life by yourself? If that is so, then isn't it time you welcomed Jesus into the boat with you and looked to him and his mighty power (Eph 6:10)? We want to do the Lord's will, and we think we can do it in our own strength, but sooner or later we realize that we cannot do it without his help.

Paul confessed to being under such great pressure at one point in his ministry, far beyond his ability to endure, that he despaired of life itself; indeed he felt he was going to die. But that happened, he said, so he would no longer rely on himself, but on God who raises the dead (2Co 1:8–9).

Jesus allows things to come against us as we perform his will to teach us to depend less and less on ourselves and more and more on him. When that happens God gets the glory in our lives, which is what he desires (Isa 42:8).

Failure to understand

Mark tells us that when Jesus climbed into the boat the wind died down, and when the disciples saw it they were amazed 'for they had not understood about the loaves (v52a)'. The Greek word translated 'understood' is syniemi. It means to understand, to comprehend, to perceive—as one would put together the pieces of a picture to see the whole.

If they'd understood the significance of Jesus multiplying the loaves and the fish (Mar 6:32–44), and the other miracles he'd performed, they would not have been surprised to see him walking on the water and controlling the wind. The reason they had not understood the miracles was because their hearts were hardened (v52b).

Hardened hearts

God had given his people his laws and commandments, through Moses, and had told them to obey them. If they'd done that they would have yielded spiritual fruit for him—the fruit of righteousness (Deu 6:25); but they'd failed.

God had given them plenty of time to produce the fruit and had sent his prophets to them, again and again, to correct them and bring them back to his Word. But they'd rejected his prophets, even putting some of them to death.

So Jesus said that the kingdom of God would now be taken from them and given to a people who would produce its fruit, ie the Gentiles (Mat 21:33–43). To implement that, God had hardened their hearts so they couldn't understand the message his Son was bringing them.

The Greek word translated 'hardened' in Mar 6:52 means to deaden, to make dull, to harden like a stone. God had made their hearts insensitive to spiritual truth (Rom 11:7–8). That judgement was upon the whole of Israel, including our Lord's disciples.

It's true they knew who Jesus was (Joh 1:49; Mat 16:16) and, when he performed his first miracle, they put their faith in him (Joh 2:11); but, apart from that, their understanding of him, and what he had come to do, was limited. However, because they were elect (they'd been chosen by God to receive salvation) the condition of their hearts was soon to be changed.

A hardening in part

When Jesus rose from the dead he appeared to his disciples, breathed on them and said, 'Receive the Holy Spirit (Joh 20:19–22).' At that point the Church was born and its first members were Jews. Their hearts of stone had become hearts of flesh (Eze 36:26–27); they were now born of the Spirit and could understand spiritual truth (Joh 16:13a).

While on their way to Emmaus, Jesus appeared to two of them and explained to them all that was said about him in the Scriptures. They said, 'Were not our hearts burning within us while he opened the Scriptures to us (Luk 24:32)?' Those were the words of men who had been born again.

Just before Pentecost there were a hundred and twenty in the Church (Act 1:15)—all of them Jews; on the day of Pentecost three thousand were added to their number (Act 2:41)—all of them Jews.

Rom 11:25 tells us that Israel has received a hardening in part until the full number of the Gentiles has been gathered in. Not every Jew has been made impervious to the gospel, only some of them.

And even though the majority that are being added to the Church today are Gentiles, some of them are Jews. And that will continue until the full number of the Gentiles has been gathered in; and then 'all Israel will be saved (Rom 11:26–27)'.

The Greek word translated 'all' in v26 means all, every one, the whole. At that time the whole Jewish nation will be converted to Christ—every living Jew.

It was a Jew who died for the sins of the world, so we should not be surprised that the first to be saved were Jews and the last to be saved will be Jews, for salvation is from the Jews (Joh 4:22).

Man's desire for health and healing

When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret and anchored there. As soon as they got out of the boat, people recognised Jesus. They ran throughout the whole region and carried the sick on mats to wherever they heard he was. And wherever he went—into villages, towns or countryside—they placed the sick in the market-places. They begged him to let them touch even the edge of his cloak, and all who touched him were healed. (Mar 6:53–56)

Imagine the scene unfolding before your eyes: people recognizing Jesus as soon as he gets out of the boat; running through the region, carrying the sick on mats to wherever he was; begging him to let them touch him, and seeing everyone who touched him healed.

It must have been an amazing sight. What does it show us? It shows God's power and willingness to heal, but it also shows people's desire to be healed.

There is in everyone, I believe, a desire to be well. I believe God has placed that desire in us. Look at the queues in doctor's surgeries; look how much is spent on medicines and treatments each year—all in an attempt to make us well.

If physical health is not God's will for mankind, then why has he given us an immune system—a complex defence mechanism that constantly seeks out and destroys foreign organisms in our bodies which, if left unchecked, would make us ill or even kill us? God has designed us with such a system to keep us in health. Health is God's will for us.

The apostle John, inspired by the Holy Spirit, wrote:

Dear friend, I pray that you may enjoy good health and that all may go well with you, even as your soul is getting along well. (3Jo :2)

Good health is a joy: you appreciate that when you've recovered from an illness. Next to spiritual health, physical health must be the greatest blessing people can experience on earth. God wants us to enjoy them both.

Praise the Lord, O my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name. Praise the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits—who forgives all your sins and heals all your diseases… (Psa 103:1–3)

Jesus went around doing both of those things—forgiving people's sins and healing their diseases—and he still does today (Heb 13:8)! Did he turn any of the people away who wanted to be healed? No, everyone who touched him was healed (v56b). Neither will he turn us away when we want to be healed.

Put your faith in Jesus Christ for your physical healing, as well as your salvation.

Michael Graham
February 2009
Revised October 2010

Scripture taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®. NIV ®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society.

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