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If you haven’t had a chance to read the first two parts to this study, I invite you to read Part 1 here at Miraculous! The Miracles of Jesus: Introduction Part 1 and Miraculous! The Miracles of Jesus: Introduction Part 2 here to get caught up.
We just studied the miracle in which Jesus Feeds the 5,000 here and we saw that the story began with Jesus deep in emotion as He had been shunned by His own people, had sent His disciples off on mission and had them return to tell of all they had seen and done and, finally, received word that His family member and close friend John the Baptist had been violently killed by King Herod.
After Jesus withdrew with His disciples to be alone and pray, rest and grieve, we heard that they were followed by the large crowd of followers. Scripture told us that Jesus had compassion on the crowd and He brought healing and began to teach them.
We then saw Jesus testing His disciples, seeing if they really understood that God in His ultimate sovereignty would always provide in all circumstances. And finally, Jesus taking what little was given to Him, blessing it in prayer and multiplying it and giving back to the people who were hungry.
Scripture told us that all who were there were amazed at what He had done, and we hear His followers say in John 6:14 (NIV):
Surely this is the Prophet who is to come into the world.” Jesus, knowing that they intended to come and make him king by force, withdrew again to a mountain by himself.”
THE PEOPLE PLAN TO PROCLAIM A KING
And that is where today’s story picks up. Jesus dismisses the large crowd and retreats up to the mountainside by Himself to pray. Jesus knows that the people plan to make Him King of the Jews. And for many, this would sound like a great opportunity. One to pursue fame and fortune. Impressive, to say the least. But Jesus knew that God’s will and purpose for Him was not to rule as a physical king of the people. God has a divine plan for each of us, just as He did for Christ.
Jesus was sent to suffer and die for us, for our sins, so that we could live and be saved through Him. That was His divine purpose here on earth. Sure, His miracles and healing and teaching were wonderful, but the Father sent Him for one specific reason. And we are reminded of that in one of the most known Scripture verses that we hear today:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.” Jn 3:16 (NIV)
Today’s miracle is placed right after the story of Jesus feeding the 5,000 people in the Bible, and that is very significant. If you read back to that post here at Jesus Feeds the 5,000, you will see that Jesus tested the disciples when it came time to feed the hungry crowd.
The disciples never were able to wrap their minds around what was going on. They saw Jesus break bread and feed those who were hungry, but they never totally grasped the fact that Jesus was the Bread of Life. They saw Jesus take what little was given to Him and bless it, multiplying it and giving it back to those in the crowd, feeding the multitudes. They saw Jesus acting in His power, but they didn’t see that Jesus was power. They saw Jesus praying to God for the blessings to come but they didn’t understand that Jesus was the blessing in His divinity.
You see friends, whenever we see that Jesus performed a miracle, we must stop and ask, “What was His purpose for it? WHY did He do it?”
As we look deeper into today’s story, I think there are two main reasons that Jesus walked on water. First, to show His divinity. To show us that He is God as man. Second, to bring that divinity closer to us. To make it personal. To make a personal connection with us.
Let’s read the verses from this story in full, together:
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.
But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.” “Come,” he said.
Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”
And when they climbed into the boat, the wind died down. Then those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
When they had crossed over, they landed at Gennesaret. And when the men of that place recognized Jesus, they sent word to all the surrounding country. People brought all their sick to him and begged him to let the sick just touch the edge of his cloak, and all who touched it were healed.” Mt 14:22-36 (NIV)
JESUS SHOWS HIS DIVINITY
Our story turns to the disciples in the boat. They were far away from land, the waves and wind coming up against the boat.
Scripture said it was the 4th watch of the night, which meant it was likely between 3-6am and they had been rowing for a long time. Even after rowing for so long, they still found themselves in the middle of the lake. They aren’t making any progress, no headway. Mark 6:52 (NIV) says:
…for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.”
Not only are the disciples fighting a physical storm on the lake, they seem to be fighting a spiritual battle as well. There is a battle in their hearts and minds as well about what they know about Jesus and what they can logically understand and process. So, we see they are in danger.
The storm represents an internal struggle, danger if you will, of not really knowing Jesus and who He is. Their physical struggle of rowing and rowing but getting nowhere shows their attempts in the spiritual struggle of trying to know Jesus but not fully trusting Him or having true faith in Him.
Friends, don’t we all have this same struggle?
We may attend church service or Bible study or even small groups but then, in our hearts, we do not really know Him. We can get so busy serving Him that we don’t stop to grow in our relationship with Him.
The disciples were around Jesus every day and they still didn’t understand Him. We also can get so busy or preoccupied that we end up in the boat with the disciples and we lose sight of who Jesus is in our lives.
But that is what is so great about Jesus. He doesn’t leave us (or the disciples) where we are at. That is when He comes and walks on water. To remind us of who He is. To remind us of His divinity. To remind us who He is in our hearts. Even when we forget.
So, picking back up in the story, we read:
Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear. But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Mt 14:25-27 (NIV)
Another version is from the Gospel of Mark and this version has some very interesting Old Testament ties. This version reads:
Shortly before dawn he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, because they all saw him and were terrified.” Mk 6:48-50 (NIV)
Mark uses the language highlighted above very specifically, as it is also the same language used in the Old Testament. “He was about to pass by them.” Back in the book of Exodus, God had called Moses to lead the Israelites out of Israel and in Exodus 33, we see Moses and God having a conversation. Moses says to God, “Show me your glory.” And then in Exodus 33:19 (NIV), we hear God’s very poignant response to Moses:
I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence.”
Some versions use this wording, while others use “pass by you.” Either way, they really mean the same thing.
We see God responding in two ways to Moses.
First, He says that He will cause His goodness to pass in front of him. This is the same way we see Jesus respond to His disciples in the boat who are wavering in their understanding and faith.
Second, we see God respond by saying “I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence.” Literally the word means Yahweh, which can be translated as “I AM.”
Let’s look back at what Jesus said to His disciples as He passed by them walking on the water in all His glory.
Take courage. It is I. Don’t be afraid.” Mt 14:27 (NIV)
He said, “It is I.” The Greek meaning of this phrase is I AM!
Isn’t this amazing?
Jesus walking on water was not Him just showing off for His disciples. He let His entire divine glory pass by the disciples, just as God did for Moses. And just as God proclaimed His name as Yahweh, as I AM, Jesus also proclaimed His name to the disciples as I AM.
JESUS BRINGS HIS DIVINITY CLOSE TO US
When you look at what God does for Moses in the book of Exodus and what Jesus does for His disciples walking on water, we can’t help but see the similarities.
Both Moses and the disciples were being shown God’s glory and divinity. But the stories are different in two significant ways as well:
- First, God revealed His divinity to Moses when he was walking in the best faith, obedience and intimacy with God that he knew. Certainly, he wasn’t perfect. But he was walking out his faith and his heart was trusting God.
Jesus revealed His divinity to His disciples at a time when their hearts were unbelieving and hardened. They were confused and couldn’t grasp the enormity of who Jesus really was.
This is great news for us.
Because sometimes we think Jesus only comes for us when we are living out our faith in perfect obedience, reading our Bible every day and having no sin in our hearts.
But friends, Jesus comes to meet us where we are. Just like He did with the disciples. There is no barrier too large. Not even a body of water that can separate us from His love.
When we feel that Jesus is far off, just as the disciples did while they were in the boat, that is when we must realize that the reality is that nothing can separate us from the love of God. He will walk on water for us. There is no amount of shame or sin that can separate us from Him.
- Second, the two stories differ in how they revealed God’s divinity. If you remember, in the book of Exodus God takes Moses and then hides him, shielding him as He passes by him in His glory. He then removes His hand and allows Moses to catch a glimpse of Him only after He has passed by, but even then, only from behind.
But Jesus revealed His divinity by coming near. He came near to the disciples and He comes near to us. Jesus passed by the disciples and then got into the boat with them.
Jesus has compassion on us and is near to us in all of our circumstances, even when it doesn’t feel like He is.
Wrapping up, we can see the importance of asking ourselves, “Why did Jesus perform miracles? What was God’s purpose in them?” Jesus walked on water, not to impress His disciples but to show His divinity. To show us that He is God. That God is All Powerful and is I AM.
Additionally, He wanted to let us know that even in His divine nature, He is always close to us. That no matter what we are going through, He is there. That nothing is too large or vast, or too difficult for Him to find us and come to our rescue. Thank you, Jesus, for this good news!
Dear Heavenly Father,
Thank you for sending your Son Jesus to be near to us. For meeting us where we are but never leaving us there. Open our eyes to see the wonder of your divinity and power, never forgetting that you are the One True God. Show us in our daily lives all the details in which you are drawing near to us. And walking with us through all things. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
Looking to find Part 1? You can find it here at Miraculous! The Miracles of Jesus: Introduction Part 1.
Or Part 2? You can find it here at Miraculous! The Miracles of Jesus: Introduction Part 2.
Are you looking for Jesus Feeds the 5,000?