John 6:15-21 Walking on Water

The one miracle of Jesus, which seems to be most talked about in common culture, is when He walked on water. The healings are rarely mentioned. Even the resurrection of the dead is rarely noted. But walking on water is often referenced. Sometimes, when someone has a really big, almost god-like opinion of themselves, someone tries to burst their balloon with “I haven’t seen you walk on water yet.”  There are also several examples in popular media where a character mimics the feat through mysticism or technology.  So, let’s take a closer look.

John records, “So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.” (John 6:15–21, NASB95) Jesus’ walk on the water is also recorded in Matthew and Mark with a bit more detail. Both, however, put the feeding of the 5000 and Jesus walking on water in direct proximity.  

Verse 15 has a couple of interesting notes. The people, having been satisfied, wanted to make Jesus their king. Not because of who He was, but because of what He could do for them – feed them without cost or labor. The crowd always loves free stuff, just ask any politician. But Jesus wasn’t having any of it. He instead withdrew into solitude. Jesus didn’t relish the fawning attention of the crowds but sought fellowship with the Father. That should show us something essential.

Here’s the thing. Jesus didn’t walk on water for any other reason than to get on the other side. The disciples evidently took all the boats.  Jesus wasn’t showing off or trying to gain attention. That should tell us something too. But let’s go back to the why for a moment. There were no boats. Jesus was effectively stranded and, by normal means, would either walk the shore all the way around or walk until He could borrow a ride. When, in the normal course of things, there is no way, remember this – God always has options.

Now let’s turn to disciples struggling against wind and waves to reach the other side. Their first reaction was fear. I think that is more normal than we’d like to admit. The unexpected often induces a shock of fear. Jesus’ only quoted words in this portion are, “Don’t be afraid, I am here.” (NLT) And that is the big lesson.

In an upside-down world kind of way, we see Jesus relishing real relationships but rejecting the flattering crowd.  So often it’s just the opposite with people, especially in our social-media-driven world. How many folks measure their worth by their following? The fawning, flattery, and likes are often more desired than meaningful conversation. But Jesus showed us a different way. He pushed away from the crowd and sought His Father and then His disciples.  

Whenever we are straining against the winds and the waves life brings us, recall these words of Jesus and welcome Him into the situation, welcome Him into the boat. He’s with us even if He has to walk on water to get there or get our attention.  God always has options and always desires to be with us.

Dale Heinold
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