Walking on Water
Did you understand what you read?
- Why did Jesus send everyone away?
- Where were the disciples? Where were they heading? What time of the night was it? Why were they having difficulty?
- When the disciples first spotted Jesus, what did they think?
- Why did Peter want to walk out to Jesus?
- Why did Peter begin to sink?
- What happened as Jesus and Peter entered the boat?
- Where did Jesus and the disciples go next? What was their reception like?
- Trace Jesus’ travels in this lesson. Mark the places of significant events.
Walking on Water
The crowd, excited about the prospect of free food, became eager to force Jesus to be their king. Perceiving this, Jesus sends the disciples away in the boat, dismisses the crowd, and goes alone into the mountains to pray. The disciples were to go to the other side of the mountains, toward Bethsaida (Mark 6:45), probably to pick up Jesus after he crossed the mountains, with the ultimate goal to head toward Capernaum (John 6:17). However, the winds are against them, and by the fourth watch – that is, between 3 and 6 a.m. – they were still on the lake about three to four miles out from the shore. The sea had become very rough and the distance meant that turning around was not an option.
Jesus saw his disciples' troubles and walked out across the lake. He would have passed them by, but the disciples spotted him and assumed they were seeing a ghost. Jesus called out to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid” (Matthew 14:27).
Peter, showing a rashness of character, immediately asks to join Jesus on the water. Jesus invites him to come and Peter leaves the boat. Here is the basis of faith. Peter did not attempt to leave that boat until Jesus commanded him to come. Faith comes from accepting the words of Christ (Romans 10:17). Peter understood his need for authority from Christ (Colossians 3:17). At first, he is able to walk on the water, but the storm-tossed waves soon divert his attention from Jesus, and he begins to sink into the water.
Peter did not sink because he could not walk on the water. He had made some progress toward Jesus. He started to sink because he began to doubt that he could reach Jesus. “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid” (Matthew 14:30). Peter would not have noticed the waves if he had remained focused on Jesus (Hebrews 12:1-3). It was not so much that Peter was aware of the wind and the waves as that he focused on them, allowing his awareness of them to become fear. That fear, in turn, overcame his faith. In that moment of doubt, he forgot which was more powerful – the wind and the waves or the Creator of all things.
This is why Jesus scolded Peter, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:31). We tend to see the world as they immediately appear to our senses. Much like ten of the twelve spies sent out to look at the land of Canaan (Numbers 13:20-14:3). They only saw the fortified cities and the number of the enemy. They forgot that God, who was with them, was greater. They were deceived into thinking that they could not win because their faith was overcome by fear.
We face the same situation in life. Jesus tells us in his word what we must do, but often we let the problems in life distract us from the goal.
Still, Peter cried out for Jesus to save him, and Jesus did. As they climbed into the boat, the storm immediately stopped. Those in the boat fell before Jesus and worshiped him, saying “truly you are the Son of God!” The fact that Jesus did not reject their worship shows that it was proper. Since only God is to be worshiped (Matthew 4:10; Luke 4:8), this is another indication that Jesus was God.
Healings in Gennesaret (Matthew 14:34-36; Mark 6:53-56)
Instead of going immediately to Capernaum, Jesus and the disciples pass Capernaum and head to Gennesaret. Some translations of John 6:21 make it appear that the boat arrived at Gennesaret instantly, making this yet another miracle. However, the word eutheos can be translated as “directly, soon, or straightway.” In other words, it can be read as in the other accounts that they went straight to Gennesaret without pause to stop elsewhere.
When they arrived, the people recognized Jesus and brought their sick to him. Jesus and the disciples moved through the villages of the region healing the people. Some begged even the privilege of touching his garment, and those who did so were healed. The fact that people wanted to touch the hem of Jesus’ garment tells us that word of his healing the woman with the hemorrhage had spread across the country.