John 6: 16 – 24 Jesus walks on the water
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, 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. A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus approaching the boat, walking on the water; and they were frightened. But he said to them, ‘It is I; don’t be afraid.’ Then they were willing to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the shore where they were heading.
The next day the crowd that had stayed on the opposite shore of the lake realised that only one boat had been there, and that Jesus had not entered it with his disciples, but that they had gone away alone. Then some boats from Tiberias landed near the place where the people had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. Once the crowd realised that neither Jesus nor his disciples were there, they got into the boats and went to Capernaum in search of Jesus.
As well as this passage in St John’s gospel, this story appears in two of the other three gospels, in Matthew 14: 22 – 32 (this account adds that Peter, too, walked on water with Jesus’ encouragement), and in Mark 6: 45 – 52. It doesn’t appear in St Luke’s gospel.
John, Matthew and Mark all place the story immediately after the feeding of the five thousand. I suppose it could indicate a common source for the accounts, either written or oral; I don’t know – I’m not a bible scholar. But let’s look at the context in St John’s gospel.
John 5: 36 says ‘I have testimony weightier than John (the Baptist). For the works that my Father has given me to finish – the very works that I am doing – testify that the Father has sent me.’
Jesus is saying that the miracles he is performing are equivalent to a legal witness declaring that the Father sent him. This is why St John has included the accounts both of the feeding of the five thousand and of Jesus walking on the sea.
Now, it is possible to understand the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand in human, non-miraculous terms, by saying that people had brought food but had been unwilling to share until Jesus set the example. How, though, do you understand walking on water in non-miraculous terms? It either happened and was a miracle, or it didn’t happen at all. And if walking on water happened, then why shouldn’t the feeding be miraculous as well?
St John is making it very clear:
- Jesus is the Son of God;
- God the Father confirms that by having Jesus perform miracles;
- We need to believe in Jesus as the Son of God.
I have believed that Jesus is the Son of God for many years, without necessarily believing that all the stories recorded in the bible are literally true. But in these linked stories, Jesus is leading me to walk more closely with him, to open my spiritual eyes and recognise that he really is who he says he is – the Son of God. And that means believing that these accounts of miracles are true.
Heavenly Father, Thank you for calling me to walk more closely with Jesus. Help me to put my trust in you more fully every day. In Jesus’ name, Amen