Have you ever walked on water?
After the Feeding of the 5,000, which appears in all four gospels, we learn of the time that Jesus walked on water.
Take a few moments and read all four accounts for yourself:
Matthew 14:13-33; Mark 6:30-52; Luke 9:10-25; John 6:1-21
What do you notice about each one?
What questions come to mind?
When I was in high school, I heard a pastor say that he had seen a man walk on water before, across a frozen lake and that people do it all the time. His point, as I remember it, was not to say that Jesus walked across a frozen Sea of Galilee, but that when we look for scientific explanations, sometimes we just get different miracles. It would be quite a miracle for the Sea of Galilee to suddenly freeze over so that Jesus could walk on it. I’m not suggesting that’s what happened, I suspect that if that happened, even Luke might have included it!
A few years ago, we were teaching this lesson with the kids and youth and thought it would be fun to let them walk on water. We filled a plastic swimming pool with water and cornstarch and made Oobleck and the kids were able to run across it without sinking (you have to move fast in order to make it work). I am not suggesting that the Sea of Galilee was suddenly filled with cornstarch and then miraculously removed, although I can tell you that disposing of just a few gallows of that mess wasn’t easy.
What would you think if you saw someone walking on water?
The disciples were freaked out by seeing Jesus walk across the water and rightfully so. They’d already seen lots of signs and wonders but walking across the sea had to be a pretty incredible sight to witness. Imagine how witnessing that for yourself would change your understanding of who Jesus is. Do you think you would ever doubt again?
What kind of faith would you have if you actually watched Jesus walk on the water right in front of you? No ice or cornstarch or paddle boards or submarines or hidden sand bars. You’re there and witness it with your own eyes.
The disciples walked with Jesus every day and they still struggled. They had doubts. They were the eyewitnesses whose testimonies we rely on for what happened, but part of their accounts involves their lack of faith and their lack of understanding of what Jesus was doing. Their first instinct was to assume he was a ghost.
Do you suppose that Thomas was in the boat and witnessed what happened? What about Judas? I just always assumed they were.
Imagine being Peter. Would you step out on the water? How far would you make it?
Why does only Matthew tell us about Peter? That bothers me a little bit. I’ve come to believe that Peter stepping out onto the water is the perfect analogy for what it means to share faith. Peter didn’t believe he could walk on water, but he believed Jesus could. He stepped out because his faith was in Jesus’s faith that he could.
Maybe you’re not sure about whether Jesus actually walked on water. Maybe just because it’s in the Bible isn’t enough.
Ultimately, like the disciples, our faith comes down to our own encounters with Jesus. We’re not meant to rely solely on the faith and witness of others. We have to step out and walk with Jesus ourselves, on the waters and on the dusty roads, only then does it become real.
I first heard that Jesus walked on water from the Bible, but I choose to believe that Jesus walked on the water that night because I have met Jesus. I have felt the presence of the living God, I have heard the still, small voice, I have experienced the peace that passes understanding, and I have felt my heart strangely warmed.
So, it doesn’t matter to me if they were heading to Bethsaida or Capernaum that night, or that Luke left the whole story out, or that only Matthew includes the part about Peter. Building a life of faith is more than believing in words on a page. The Word of God was made flesh and invites us out of the security of what we know into the storms of what we don’t and says that it’s okay when our faith is weak as he reaches his hand to hold us up.