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Jesus Walks on the Water

45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46After saying farewell to them, he went up on the mountain to pray.

47 When evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48When he saw that they were straining at the oars against an adverse wind, he came towards them early in the morning, walking on the sea. He intended to pass them by. 49But when they saw him walking on the sea, they thought it was a ghost and cried out; 50for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; do not be afraid.” 51Then he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.

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Jesus Recrosses to the Western side of the Lake Walking on the Sea (Mr 6:45-56).

One very important particular given by John alone (Joh 6:15) introduces this portion: "When Jesus therefore perceived that they would take Him by force, to make Him a king, He departed again into a mountain Himself alone."

45. And straightway he constrained his disciples to get into the ship, and to go to the other side before—Him.

unto Bethsaida—Bethsaida of Galilee (Joh 12:21). John (Joh 6:17) says they "went over the sea towards Capernaum"—the wind, probably, occasioning this slight deviation from the direction of Bethsaida.

while he sent away the people—"the multitude." His object in this was to put an end to the misdirected excitement in His favor (Joh 6:15), into which the disciples themselves may have been somewhat drawn. The word "constrained" implies reluctance on their part, perhaps from unwillingness to part with their Master and embark at night, leaving Him alone on the mountain.

46. And when he had sent them away, he departed into a mountain to pray—thus at length getting that privacy and rest which He had vainly sought during the earlier part of the day; opportunity also to pour out His soul in connection with the extraordinary excitement in His favor that evening—which appears to have marked the zenith of His reputation, for it began to decline the very next day; and a place whence He might watch the disciples on the lake, pray for them in their extremity, and observe the right time for coming to them, in a new manifestation of His glory, on the sea.

47. And when even was come—the later evening (see on Mr 6:35). It had come even when the disciples embarked (Mt 14:23; Joh 6:16).

the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land—John says (Joh 6:17), "It was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them." Perhaps they made no great effort to push across at first, having a lingering hope that their Master would yet join them, and so allowed the darkness to come on. "And the sea arose" (adds the beloved disciple, Joh 6:18), "by reason of a great wind that blew."

48. And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them—putting forth all their strength to buffet the waves and bear on against a head wind, but to little effect. He "saw" this from His mountain top, and through the darkness of the night, for His heart was all with them: yet would He not go to their relief till His own time came.

and about the fourth watch of the night—The Jews, who used to divide the night into three watches, latterly adopted the Roman division into four watches, as here. So that, at the rate of three hours to each, the fourth watch, reckoning from six P.M., would be three o'clock in the morning. "So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs" (Joh 6:19)—rather more than halfway across. The lake is about seven miles broad at its widest part. So that in eight or nine hours they had only made some three and a half miles. By this time, therefore, they must have been in a state of exhaustion and despondency bordering on despair; and now at length, having tried them long enough.

he cometh unto them, walking upon the sea—"and draweth nigh unto the ship" (Joh 6:19).

and would have passed by them—but only in the sense of Lu 24:28; Ge 32:26; compare Ge 18:3, 5; 42:7.

49. But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit, and cried out—"for fear" (Mt 14:26). He would appear to them at first like a dark moving speck upon the waters; then as a human figure; but in the dark tempestuous sky, and not dreaming that it could be their Lord, they take it for a spirit. Compare Lu 24:37.

50. For they all saw him, and were troubled. And immediately he talked with them, and saith unto them, Be of good cheer: It is I; be not afraid—There is something in these two little words—given by Matthew, Mark and John (Mt 14:27; Mr 6:50; Joh 6:20)—"It is I," which from the mouth that spake it and the circumstances in which it was uttered, passes the power of language to express. Here were they in the midst of a raging sea, their little bark the sport of the elements, and with just enough of light to descry an object on the waters which only aggravated their fears. But Jesus deems it enough to dispel all apprehension to let them know that He was there. From other lips that "I am" would have merely meant that the person speaking was such a one and not another person. That, surely, would have done little to calm the fears of men expecting every minute, it may be, to go to the bottom. But spoken by One who at that moment was "treading upon the waves of the sea," and was about to hush the raging elements with His word, what was it but the Voice which cried of old in the ears of Israel, even from the days of Moses, "I AM"; "I, EVEN I, AM He!" Compare Joh 18:5, 6; 8:58. Now, that Word is "made flesh, and dwells among us," uttering itself from beside us in dear familiar tones—"It is the Voice of my Beloved!" How far was this apprehended by these frightened disciples? There was one, we know, in the boat who outstripped all the rest in susceptibility to such sublime appeals. It was not the deep-toned writer of the Fourth Gospel, who, though he lived to soar beyond all the apostles, was as yet too young for prominence, and all unripe. It was Simon Barjonas. Here follows a very remarkable and instructive episode, recorded by Matthew alone:

Peter Ventures to Walk upon the Sea (Mt 14:28-32).

Mt 14:28:

And Peter answered Him, and said, Lord, If it be Thou, bid me come unto Thee on the water—not "let me," but "give me the word of command"—"command," or "order me to come unto Thee upon the waters."

Mt 14:29:

And He said, Come—Sublime word, issuing from One conscious of power over the raging element, to bid it serve both Himself and whomsoever else He pleased!

And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked upon the water—"waters."

to come to Jesus—"It was a bold spirit," says Bishop Hall, "that could wish it; more bold that could act it—not fearing either the softness or the roughness of that uncouth passage."

Mt 14:30:

But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid: and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me—The wind was as boisterous before, but Peter "saw" it not, seeing only the power of Christ, in the lively exercise of faith. Now he "sees" the fury of the elements, and immediately the power of Christ to bear him up fades before his view, and this makes him "afraid"—as how could he be otherwise, without any felt power to keep him up? He then "begins to sink"; and finally, conscious that his experiment had failed, he casts himself, in a sort of desperate confidence, upon his "Lord" for deliverance!

Mt 14:31:

And immediately Jesus stretched forth His hand, and caught him, and said unto him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?This rebuke was not administered while Peter was sinking, nor till Christ had him by the hand: first reinvigorating his faith, and then with it enabling him again to walk upon the crested wave. Useless else had been this loving reproof, which owns the faith that had ventured on the deep upon the bare word of Christ, but asks why that distrust which so quickly marred it.

Mt 14:32:

And when they—Jesus and Peter.

were come into the ship, the wind ceased.

51. And he went up unto them into the ship—John (Joh 6:21) says, "Then they willingly received him into the ship"—or rather, "Then were they willing to receive Him" (with reference to their previous terror); but implying also a glad welcome, their first fears now converted into wonder and delight. "And immediately," adds the beloved disciple, "they were at the land whither they went," or "were bound." This additional miracle, for as such it is manifestly related, is recorded by the fourth Evangelist alone. As the storm was suddenly calmed, so the little bark—propelled by the secret power of the Lord of nature now sailing in it—glided through the now unruffled waters, and, while they were wrapt in wonder at what had happened, not heeding their rapid motion, was found at port, to their still further surprise.

"Then are they glad, because at rest

And quiet now they be;

So to the haven He them brings

Which they desired to see."

Matthew (Mt 14:33) says, "Then they that were in the ship came [that is, ere they got to land] and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth Thou art the Son of God." But our Evangelist is wonderfully striking.

and the wind ceased and they were sore amazed in themselves beyond measure, and wondered—The Evangelist seems hardly to find language strong enough to express their astonishment.

52. For they considered not the miracle of the loaves; for their heart was hardened—What a singular statement! The meaning seems to be that if they had but "considered [reflected upon] the miracle of the loaves," wrought but a few hours before, they would have wondered at nothing which He might do within the whole circle of power and grace.