Mark 6:45-56 45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.
There are many events recorded in the Bible that from an outside perspective and only looked at by themselves seem unbelievable. In spite of the fact that just before this incident, as recorded in Mark 6:30-44 Jesus had fed a crowd of around 20,000 people with only five loaves and two fish, this miracle seems harder to believe. How can anyone walk on water? The only way is if you are the Creator Himself and God in the flesh. And yet, even as Jesus performed this miracle He did not act as the Son of God with all of His power and authority that He had before He entered this world as a baby born of the virgin Mary. Rather he acted as a man equivalent to us but as a man who had been baptized with the Holy Spirit (when He was baptized by John at the beginning of His public ministry). Jesus would not act in all His authority as the Son of God until after He had risen from the dead for He had to die in our place as a man. Our sins could not be paid for in Jesus’ death upon the cross if He was not like us in every way. There had to be a like for like representation. A perfect man had to die in my place in order for my sins to be forgiven. So this was a great miracle but not beyond what any man could do. This is proven in that Peter too walked on water (Matthew 14:28-31).
But to bring us back to the point in question this seems to be a very strange miracle. What was the purpose of this miracle? Why did Jesus walk on the water? Was it just because He was looking for a shortcut to His destination? The disciples had already gone across the sea of Galilee while He was alone in prayer and maybe it was quicker for Him to catch up with them in the boat? But He was actually walking on the sea as if to pass them by. It appeared as if He was going to a different location (verse 48). He walked near them at 3 am but why were the disciples being taught in yet another storm? Mark 4:35-40 describes the incident when Jesus was asleep in the boat with the disciples when a storm arose that scared them. When Jesus awoke he rebuked the storm and it became calm. Why did the disciples face this storm now?
The key to finding the answer is in verse 52: “for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” The disciples had just been on their first mission apart from Jesus. They had gone out around Israel preaching the message of John the Baptist: “Repent for the Kingdom of God is at hand! Jesus of Nazareth is the Christ!” They had healed the sick and cast out demons just like Jesus but He was not physically present with them. But when they returned they naturally would have become proud and puffed up in what they had accomplished. They could not see the state of their own hearts and although they had performed great miracles which would have been new and exciting for each one of them they could only do so because of their relationship to Jesus Christ. He, through the Holy Spirit, had empowered them. They had no power in and of themselves. Jesus tells them to feed the five thousand which they knew they could not do but did not recognize the parallel incident in the wilderness where God fed the Israelites in the wilderness. Jesus would show them He is the bread of life and they were to feed on Him. He was the source of their life. But here in the storm they did not yet understand this. They still had pride in their hearts from their mission trip.
Jesus sent them out across the sea without Him and a wind arose of which they did not have the strength to overcome. No matter how hard they tried in their own strength they were powerless. This storm was to teach them the importance of always keeping their eyes fixed upon Jesus. They were still at the beginning of learning what the Kingdom of God is like vs. the kingdom that they had previously known as being a part of the nation of Israel. Jesus walks on the water not directly to them but near them to get their attention. But they needed to return their focus upon Him as the only King in the Kingdom of God. They needed to see their complete need of Him. When Jesus entered the boat the wind ceased. The struggle to overcome the power of this world was overcome in a moment when they once again submitted to Jesus Christ. He, in a very dramatic and unbelievable way, corrected His disciples.
From Mark 6:53-56 there is a description of how Jesus completed the miracles among the Jews at the end of this first chapter of His ministry. He had shown mercy to the Jews and ample evidence that He is indeed the Christ- the Savior of mankind. But as I mentioned last week, His message now turns to correct the impure motives and false beliefs of many who followed Him. Just at the height of His ministry, Jesus goes in a direction that nobody would have expected.
When you take your eyes off of Jesus as your only hope and the only means of your salvation do you need Jesus to walk on water before you once again return your focus upon Him? How long do you keep fighting against the wind in your own strength before you once again acknowledge that you are powerless apart from Jesus Christ? Do you really understand what it means to be in the Kingdom of God or do you continue to see the world around you as before? Do you fall back into superstitions and traditions as the disciples were initially afraid and assumed that Jesus walking on the water was a ghost? Do you fall back into fear and doubt? In spite of the disciples’ error, Jesus said to them, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” The kingdom of this world brings us to a place of fear. But to be in the Kingdom of God is to know the peace that passes all understanding as we rest in knowing Jesus as our Lord and Savior!
Pastor Murray Hack
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