Most people are aware that Jesus of Nazareth supposedly walked on water but I dare say the vast majority don’t know much more about it. I would even venture that most Christians pretty much ignore this story in the Bible because they’ve heard it so many times. Zzzzz.
But if you stop and examine this event closely it’s simply staggering to contemplate. Not only did Christ temporarily suspend the laws of nature then, He still wants to see his children trust Him enough to walk on the water towards him in the midst of the storms we battle.
Here’s some basic information about the Sea of Galilee He walked on. There are several places in the New Testament that speak of violent storms arising unexpectently on this body of water. How in the world could there be such raging storms so fierce that they’re considered dangerous? It’s not like the disciples were out on some huge ocean!
The Sea of Galilee is the lowest fresh water lake on earth, sitting at 680 feet below sea level. Its surface area is 64 square miles with 33 miles of shoreline. It is 13 miles long and at most, 8 miles wide and only 150 feet at its deepest point. Although it’s not a huge body of water, the lake would still be quite a challenge to row a sizable boat across, filled with men and fishing equipment, even in calm waters.
On the day told of in Matthew 14:22-31, Jesus had preached to a huge crowd for hours and miraculously fed all the people before sending them home for the evening. Verse 22 says that Jesus ‘constrained’ his disciples to get into a ship and go before him to the other side of the lake. He entreated them. In other words, ‘Guys, I’m tired and need to be alone for a while without anyone talking or wanting something from me.’
The disciples complied. It was late afternoon when they parted company with Jesus and climbed into a good sized boat to begin rowing toward the other side of the lake. Verse 23 says Jesus went ‘into’ a mountain to pray and when evening came, he was there alone. Sounds like maybe he found a cave in the cliffs to hide away in solitude.
Meanwhile, let’s switch back to the disciples in their boat. It was night when a storm started up and they struggled against head winds, the Bible says, right in the middle of the lake. No motors, remember. All hands were probably rowing like mad or bailing water to keep from sinking. By this time, they had to be weary from their long day, handing out food to 5000+ men, women and children, cleaning up the scraps only to end the day fighting the rain and wind.
The Bible speaks of perilous storms occurring on the Sea of Galilee that seemingly come out of nowhere and are particularly nasty. How is this possible on a relatively small lake? Well again, it sits 680 feet below sea level in a basin-like area surrounded by hills, some up to 2000 feet high. The air at the top of these hills is cool and dry while the atmosphere on the lake is semitropical with warm, moist air.
The difference in height between the lake surface and the surrounding cliffs causes surprisingly large temperature and pressure changes. Strong winds funnel through the hills dropping down on the surface of the water and when the cool air meets the warm tropical air, violent storms rise quickly without warning.
Because the lake is relatively shallow, the waters get whipped up higher than if the water were deeper; in deep water, the energy is better absorbed and it takes much more to cause large waves. These unique topographical features are the cause of these unusual storms.
During the 4th watch of the night, which would have been between 3 and 6am, they looked up and saw some man-like figure walking ON the waves! It’s kind of humorous how the Bible describes this scene: Verse 26, “And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were ‘troubled,’ saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.” They were troubled. Troubled?? How about freaked out!
The Greek word for ‘troubled’ means ‘agitated’ or to ‘strike fear or dread.’ Can you image? They’re exhausted and wet, struggling against this storm bailing water for all they’re worth, only to look up to see some bizarre thing coming towards them on top of the waves. They cried out. More like screamed their heads off! Can you blame them?
Matthew 14:27, “But straightway Jesus spake unto them saying, Be of good cheer, it is I; be not afraid.” Excuse me? Whatta you mean, don’t be afraid? You say you’re Jesus but dude, you’re walking ON water! Naturally, impetuous Peter just had to check it out.
Verse 28-31, “And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me. And immediately, Jesus stretched forth his hand, and caught him, and said to him, O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?”
Jesus, seriously. Why did he doubt? He was defying the very laws of nature by walking on water! And it was storming like crazy! And he saw the wind!
Just how does one ‘see’ wind? The Greek for ‘saw’ in this verse means to turn the eyes towards something. Peter took his eyes off Jesus because he saw the storm in his peripheral vision and he got scared. Perfectly understandable, right?
He was distracted from the unspeakably miraculous thing he was doing, saw the waves, felt the wind whipped spray hit his face and that was all she wrote.
He lost heart and faith and started sinking. Hey, he made it further than I would have! I wouldn’t have gotten out of the boat in the first place! Yet even under those extraordinary circumstances, Jesus gently chided him for being afraid. “Wherefore didst thou doubt?”
Peter tried to keep his eyes on Jesus while doing the impossible and enduring a storm. Today, we also struggle to keep our eyes on our Lord while we contend with much more dangerous situations. Looming economic collapse. Terrorism perpetrated by those who kill us because we don’t believe in their false god.
Can’t trust our own government to have our best interests in mind. Exponential rise in violent crimes, which now apparently includes cannibalism. Abominable lifestyles forced on all aspects of society, including our children. The list goes on and on.
Since God never changes, Jesus must expect us to keep our eyes on Him as we walk on top of the sewage and filth of this world and that is as big a miracle in our day and age as walking on that lake was for Peter!
How much easier it would be to just sink into the muck and take part in all the garbage the overwhelming majority of people seemingly enjoy. No struggle. No fight.
It’s not easy for my flesh and bone to walk on water. If it were not for the supernatural strength of the Holy Spirit, gained from spending time in my ‘cave’ like Jesus did, praying to the Father and staying in the Word, I’d sink to the bottom very quickly. Even so, there are still days I sink to my knees.
Sometimes, this corrupted world is just too overwhelming and I naturally take my eyes off of Christ, look around me at all the dangers and I get scared. The only thing this accomplishes is getting sewage on my legs. Yuck!
Yet somehow, the touch of God cleans the filth off and pulls me back up to eye level with Him. It’s a very difficult thing to practice on a consistent basis!
There is so much hurt and betrayal and disappointment in our lives to add to the things of this world. How any Christian can wish that Jesus would wait just a while longer to snatch us home simply amazes me! I don’t WANT to swim in the sewage.
I’d rather fight the good fight it takes to walk ON it and concentrate my attention on my Savior until I can shed this body and step into the pristine place Jesus has been preparing for me. The sewage will stay here.