“He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake” (Mark 6:48).
The sixth chapter of Mark tells the remarkable – and rather famous – story of Jesus walking on water to get to His disciples in the middle of a tempestuous storm.
After feeding the crowd of five thousand, Jesus instructed the disciples to get into the boat and go ahead of Him to Bethsaida, while He went on a mountaintop to pray.
While Jesus was still on land, the disciples began struggling in the water as the wind grew stronger. They were clearly in distress; they could not go forward in their rowing in the midst of the sea, tossed about by waves and contrary winds.
Here may arise the question of why Jesus sent the disciples out into a storm by themselves, while He retreated to a mountaintop. Three things are important to note about the account thus far: one, that Jesus dismissed everyone so that He could be by Himself to pray. As believers, it is important for us to leave behind all the distracting cares and concerns of this world before we come before God in prayer.
Second, Jesus was most likely praying for the disciples as they entered this trial on the tempestuous waters. Although God in His wisdom sometimes allows His children to suffer great distresses, we can be assured to know that Jesus is always making intercession for us.
Third, the Lord’s intent at that time was probably to train the diciples for the enduring hardships and persecution that would surely fall on them as His followers, as they would soon go abroad to preach the gospel.
It was only when the fourth watch of the night came, probably between 3:00 a.m. and 6:00 a.m., that Jesus decided to intervene. They had been rowing for a time, and were no doubt exhausted. He stepped out onto the water, and here we see yet another facet of the Lord’s endearing nature – for, although He could have stilled the winds from where He was on the mountain, or even sent an angel to their aid, He chose to visit them Himself.
Gravity was suspended as He came, walking upon the water, in a wondrous display of His unlimited, sovereign power. It was only when the disciples called out that He took notice of them, and words of comfort were the first things offered to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
The wind died down when He climbed into the boat with them, and here is another interesting display of Christ’s complete control over nature. Unlike the miracle of Christ rebuking the storm in the boat, this time, no words are even necessary for the winds to submit to His Lordship over nature. He crossed the water, and now in the presence of His followers, not even the most furious of storms was able to keep Him from delivering them.
The disciples, incredibly, are “completely amazed” at the witness of yet another miracle, for Mark 6:52 says, “their hearts were hardened.” They had forgotten about the miracle of Jesus feeding the crowd with the loaves of bread, and, apparently, even the miracle of Jesus calming the storm, or else they would not have been so incredulous at the display of His divine authority over nature.
Are you in the middle of a storm in life? Does it seem as if God has left you to fend for yourself in a raging sea? The story of this miracle speaks volumes to us, as Christ’s believers, to always remember that He is with us, even in the most perilous or difficult of times. Though deliverance may not always come as quickly as we would like, we can be encouraged to know that He is always “making intercession for the saints according to the will of God” (Romans 8:27).