Jesus Walking on Water

Studies in First Peter

Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:1 ESV)

Matthew 14:22-33

What seems impossible to us is easily done by God. God may give us visions of great things, followed by a command to carry them out. Most often, we talk ourselves out of doing anything because of the enormity of the task and our lack of faith in God. Either that, or we are just lazy and don’t want the work. However, some may begin to work, in their own strength. And then the great things envisioned become impossibilities, surrounded by impossible circumstances. What is impossible for us is merely commonplace for God. He places us in impossible times so we will rely completely upon His strength and not upon our own, and so we will know He has accomplished the task through us.

There are a number of stories found in all four Gospels. One of those stories is the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus asked His disciples to feed the crowd of people who had come to hear Him teach. “They need not go away; you give them something to eat” (Matthew 14:16 ESV; Mark 6:37; Luke 9:13; John 6:5). After miraculously feeding the five thousand, Jesus sends away His disciples in a boat and He climbs a mountain to pray. Coming down from the mountain, Jesus sees there is a pounding storm and high waves on the lake. His disciples are fighting in their boat against waves that are tossing them around. “But the ship was now in the midst of the sea, tossed with waves: for the wind was contrary” (Matthew 14:24 ESV). Peter, Andrew, James and John are there, experienced fishermen, who intimately knew the lake and the weather that roiled the waves and the sea.

Daylight is coming. The fourth watch of the night is just before sunrise. It is no longer dark and the disciples can see in the gloaming light the fury of the storm. They also see Jesus walking on the lake. Or, they see something coming toward them on top of the water. In the natural world, following the natural laws emplaced by God, all objects not designed to float will sink in water. Boats, designed by people to float will sink when the structure is damaged and no longer does what it was created to do. Some birds, created by God, sit on top of the water and swim, floating and moving about. What the men saw was a shape of an object they knew was not designed to float.

Gripped by fear of the unknown, they thought they were seeing a ghost. “And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear” (Matthew 14:26 ESV). This troubled them, agitated by the fear of the unknown and anxious for their own safety. They were superstitious, thinking what they saw was an apparition or specter, a ghost or phantom. A ghost is the essence of a person after they die. A dead person was approaching them and they dreaded the encounter. Contained in a boat on rough seas, far from shore, they had nowhere to run or escape from that which was approaching them.

Did they not know their Master? How He looked? How He walked? His mannerisms and shape? Jesus was walking on the water, doing something their minds could not conceive as possible. But, hadn’t they seen Him do miracles? Had He not just fed over 5,000 men, and women and children, from a pitiful, handful of bread and fish? Jesus was doing the impossible. They still did not know who He was, though all the evidence pointed to His being the Creator of the world.

When Man, Adam and Eve, was created, they were given dominion over the earth. “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth” (Genesis 1:26 ESV). Dominion means control, to rule over and tread down.  Just as God had control over the universe, He created Man as His authority to have control over the earth, not just over those living things on the planet. The whole of the planet was under their authority and control.

Jesus’ walking on water was an exhibition of His authority and control over the earth. He, who is eternal God, came as a physical Man, having all of the qualities and characteristics of man the way God originally intended. Jesus was a Servant of God being found in the form and likeness of a man. “Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form” (Philippians 2:5-8 ESV). He walked on water because He was in control.

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