Lesson 59: Jesus Walked on the Sea
Matthew 14:22-33, Mark 6:45-52, John 6:16-21
A Blending of theFour Gospel Records. Welcome to lesson # 59. This lesson in effect is an extension of our last lesson where Jesus fed the five thousand. Luke does not cover this; but, it's covered by Matthew, Mark and John. We're going to start our reading in Mark 6:45 in a few minutes. Our last lesson ended as the crowd was breaking up on that mountain some place near Bethsaida. When all had eaten, John records, Jesus said unto his disciples, "Gather up the fragments that remain, that nothing be lost." They gathered twelve baskets full. Why did Jesus say that? Well first of all, it's evident they gathered more than two fishes and five loaves. So, that emphasizes the magnitude of the miracle. But, the important thing is that it emphasizes that Jesus can take care of our needs faster than you can scoop it through the front door. But, he expects us to use what we have to the honor and glory of God. It doesn't make any difference how easy you got it! Don't waste it! Don't sow it and don't strow it. Jesus expects you to use it or give it to someone who will.
Then as that crowd was breaking up, John emphasized that some got an idea of making Jesus king. They were apparently going to force him to be their king. Their minds were frozen upon worldly things. They could not and would not think in spiritual terms. How depressing this must have been to Jesus. We don't know all the details here; but, it must have created a problem in getting a smooth dismissal of the crowd. Let's begin by reading Mark. Beginning in Mark 6:45, let's read v.45-46. "And straight way he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before unto Bethsaida, while he sent away the people. And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray." John also emphasized that Jesus went into a mount alone. It doesn't say how Jesus gave his pursuers the dodge; but, he was apparently successful in a smooth get away. Then, as James, John, Peter and Andrew untied those little boats and pushed out into the lake with all the twelve on board; Jesus was still in up in the mountain praying. Now, Jesus' instruction was "go to the other side before unto Bethsaida..." where, I suppose, Jesus would likely join them later. But, things didn't work out as smooth as they anticipated.
Let's back up and read Matt. 14:22-33. Remembering Matthew was one of the apostles in that little ship. Let's read, Matt. 14:22 beginning. "And straightway Jesus constrained his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him unto the other side, while he sent the multitudes away. And when he had sent the multitudes away, he went up into a mountain apart to pray: and when the evening was come, he was there alone. But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear. But straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. And Peter answered him and said, Lord if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said unto •him, 0 thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt? And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou are the Son of God."
Now, let's finish up Mark before going on to John. Mark 6:47. Let's read beginning in v.47. We'll read down through v.52. Are you ready? "And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea, and would have passed by them. But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out: for they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: it is I; be not afraid. And he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves; for their heart was hardened."
Now, John ch. 6, let's finish it up. John 6:16 beginning. We're going to read six verses. John 6:16, ready? "And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, and entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went."
One of the first questions we might ask ourselves is this: what did Jesus' walking on the water of Galilee teach us? Well, this is more than just a good Sunday School story. It helps us to see how fast, we as men, forget spiritual things. We can be focused on Jesus and his word; but, it doesn't take much to distract us, i.e. when we get out to ourselves and the details of the moment engulf us. Secondly, we are so tied to the elements of nature and the laws of nature; it's hard for us to comprehend that Jesus WAS God and that he possessed the H.G. without measure (John 3:34). Even those apostles who had, undoubtedly, themselves done miracles of healing on their mission over Galilee in recent days; could not totally adapt to the fact that the forces of nature were a mere extension of the creator and "All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made." (John 1:3). It was hard for them to realize Jesus was a divine person in a human body. And, if that was difficult for them in the very presence of Jesus; think how much harder it is for us to keep a sharp edge on our faith in this respect.
Then, don't lose sight of the fact that John and these other writers admit they wrote these books so as to develop and encourage our faith (John 20:31). You see, they under the oversight of the H.S., recognized that if the apostles, at the very feet of Jesus, took time and evidence and discipline to develop their faith; certainly, WE NEED HELP to grasp the same. And this emphasizes THEIR UNDERSTANDING of the importance of faith —that substance of things hoped for. (Heb. 11:1). —That evidence of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). —that which gives us the power to become (John 1:12). —Without that stuff called "faith" it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). --He that cometh to God MUST have faith (Heb. 11:6). So, recognizing the great importance of faith; these writers tried to empathize and identify with our needs by showing and relating to us their own short comings in these things.
Now, try to imagine, you are somehow, in that little ship out there in the darkness observing the apostles while Jesus is still in the mountain praying. Remember, this must have been a kind of home-coming of the apostles. They had been separated in the weeks before going two by two over Galilee. And, some must have had good stories to tell about their recent journey and some of the little quirkie things that had happened here and there and what they had learned and discovered and especially their successes and their misfortunes of their trip. How grateful some must have been when they exercised those powers of healing and casting out demons that Jesus had bestowed upon them for that journey. John said in v.17, "it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them." Can you feel the chill in the night air and hear the screeching of the rigging and the wind whistling through the little sails overhead that were undoubtedly rolled up and tied off at that time as that little boat shifted from side to side in rough waters. Matthew said simply, '.'the wind was contrary." The point is, if you look at your map, the wind was from the west and they were trying to travel westward toward Capernaum. You see, the forces of nature can drift us along to our destination; or, the forces of nature can be very hostile. Some times we have to paddle hard just to stay in place. But, they were obeying Jesus! Jesus had told them to go on ahead and launch out into the deep and he had promised them he would come to them later. How, did they expect Jesus to come to them? Well, that's a little vague. Did you ever get that feeling in life? Jesus has promised to come to you and me at a later time. And, in all fairness; I must tell you it's a little vague to me just HOW he's going to come back. He has assigned us some work to do in the mean time and to wait HERE subjected to the forces of nature. But, HE'LL BE BACK one of these days; just like he LEFT, according to Acts 1:11. It may be after I've reached the shoreline of this life and been laid to rest in a cold solemn grave for many years. Or, he could show up unexpectedly at any moment while I'm involved in trying to battle the forces of life and trying carryout his assignment. Isn't that what happened to the apostles? Life dealt them some hard work that night and some unexpected evils arose, "the winds were contrary" Matthew said. And Matthew, undoubtedly remembered how tired he was on that occasion and how the hours drug by and how much he would have liked to been in bed at home over in Capernaum only a few miles away. Matthew gave the time as the fourth watch of the night, (that is) what we would call the wee hours of the morning, something between 3 AM and 6 AM as we count time. John, one of the apostles, a fisherman by trade, and an experienced boats man; who, must have been involved in trying to navigate that little vessel that very night, by whatever directional devices they knew, said: "when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea and, drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid." The distance that John describes is only 3 or 4 miles; the point is, they had rowed hard and worked hard most of the night and made very, very little progress. Conditions if anything grew worse as the hours drug on. But, at and un-expected hour; when they least expected to see Jesus, suddenly Jesus returned to them. They saw Jesus approaching in a miraculous way, simply walking across the water. John said very simply, "they were afraid." Mark said, "they all saw him, and were troubled." But, Matthew gives us a little more vivid description, "they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear." Can you identify with that? Some must have thought they had pushed those oars so hard and so long they were hallucinating. Jesus came to them in a way they least expected. In a way that defied the laws of nature. A frightening experience; when they were so involved in battling the forces of life; they couldn't believe their own eyes.
Now, Mark and John don't relate the bit about Peter; but, Matthew is the only one that throws in that little tid bit. A PRICELESS PICTURE of Peter and PETER'S personality. If you can get this down to Matthew's point of view; I think you might even see a little humor in it. Try to tune this in sharp. It was darker than pitch. The waves were frightening. They were working like a trojan .and making no progress. After hours out there; their eyes were acclimated to the darkness; and suddenly they could see this figure walking and approaching on the water. Horror strikes them! It can't be; but it was! There's Peter, the captain of the ship, so-to-speak; holding on to a brace rope, horror struck and a gaze that must have penetrated the darkness. Notice now, Jesus didn't try to frighten them. Matthew said, "straightway Jesus spake unto them, saying, Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid." They immediately recognized Jesus' voice, I'm sure. Then, observe how the pendulum of Peter's personality made a sudden shift from one extreme to the other. Before those chills of fear could subside and permit even a deep sigh of relief on the part of the other disciples; Peter, was impetuously involved in the situation AND ready to indulge a little. That was just Peter's personality. Matthew gives us a little insight here. In Luke 5:5, that writer gave us another installment of Peter's personality once before. Do you remember, Jesus told Peter to launch out into the deep? Peter said, "Master we've toiled all the night and taken nothing" and then undoubtedly Peter saw that Jesus was displeased and Peter said, "nevertheless at thy word I will let down the net." But, on the occasion here; when Jesus came walking on the water; Peter immediately wanted to walk on the water too. Look at v.28 in Matthew. "Lord, IF IT BE THOU, bid me come unto thee on the water." Jesus simply said, "Come", (that is) COME ON! And maybe Jesus motioned for Peter to come on out. Notice, Peter didn't hesitate! Before he realized what he was doing, he was on the water. To me, Matthew in this way accentuates Peter's quick witted personality. But, (v.30) "when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid..." And then, just suddenly, Peter's mind shifted back to his fear a few minutes before. Next, Peter realized the miraculous side. He couldn't believe his eyes! As he began to sink, he yelled out, "Lord, save me." The Lord simply reached out and stabilized Peter. And very quickly they were in the ship. The Lord rebuked Peter for his lack of faith. But, notice something here. When Peter decided he wanted to do something it was as good as done. Yes! His faith wavered a little. But, you might remember, the other apostles didn't even get out of the boat. It's easy for us to criticize Peter's faith from our vantage point. But, get a REAL grip on the situation! In v.51, Mark said, "he went up unto them into the ship; and the wind ceased: and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered." Although, Matthew points out, they all worshipped Jesus and confess Jesus; Mark points out, they had already forgotten what a great miracle that Jesus did the day before in feeding the 5000. Like I said before, these things don't stay with us very long. John points out that after that sudden shocker; the wind ceased and there was a sudden calm. "Immediately the ship was at the land whither they went." In other words John was amazed how quickly the great nightmare was over. Whether anything miraculous is intended in John's statement about immediately discovering the land or not; I don't know. But, I don't see that in John's statement. The silence was deafening and the sudden discovery of land happened so quickly; it was psychologically mind bending and mind grinding. And the way it happened was a stunning experience. You see, John as a fisherman had no doubt spent many nights out on that lake trying to get a few fish in his net; but that night was different. Have a good day.