Read John 6:16-24
John’s version of Jesus walking on water is concise. We have to look around for some more details, but we shouldn’t miss the point that Jesus is Lord of all and wants us to know that we should not be afraid as we fight the battles in this life.
John sets up the story by emphasizing the disciples were acting as a group separated from Jesus.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the lake, where they got into a boat and set off across the lake for Capernaum. By now it was dark, and Jesus had not yet joined them. John 6:16-17
Looking back at verse 15 we remember that Jesus “withdrew again to a mountain by himself.” This is somewhat remarkable to me, not only did He find time by Himself–He did it again! This isn’t the first or last time that Jesus will separate Himself from others.
Why didn’t they wait for Jesus?
Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. Matthew 14:22
Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. Mark 6:45
Now it makes sense why they were in the boat without Jesus. Perhaps John leaves this detail out to focus on the miracle itself. In other words, it’s more important to focus on the idea that they were miles out in rough waves when Jesus appeared to them.
But he said to them, “It is I; don’t be afraid.” John 6:20
Try and imagine the scene. The day began with crowds gathering and Jesus teaching the masses. They witnessed the miracle of feeding thousands with a few loaves and fishes, then Jesus slipped away. He sent these select few away, told them to take a boat and go. They obeyed their Master. Shortly before dawn, in the darkest of times, the disciples are in the middle of the lake, a storm is tossing them about, and they see someone walking toward them. I’m delirious just thinking about the scene.
How is it possible that Jesus is walking on the water towards them?
It is not possible, except for this: Jesus is God incarnate. He is Lord of all. He demonstrated His power by feeding thousands, now He shows His authority over nature. Who saw this? A handful of faithful followers. What was His main message?
Do not be afraid.
All three accounts of the story agree on this point. Jesus is teaching lots of things at one time, but the most important lesson is to not be afraid. To say this in a positive way, be courageous.
We’re going to have to be courageous to follow His command to seek and save the lost, to go and make disciples. We will likely have trouble in earthly terms like wind and waves, but the battle in the spiritual realm is far greater, much riskier, and far more deadly. We rage war against the Prince of Darkness. We need to hear the words: don’t be afraid!
One of the most frightening thoughts I’ve had in the last few days is that of the evil that is present in every city, every town, and shows up relentlessly on a daily basis. I don’t watch the news, but I do look at news sources online. I’m saddened by accidents on highways that claim lives, but I’m moved much deeper by accounts of men and women perpetrating crimes.
The ones we read about are the ones that get caught. Others happen that we know nothing about. What we do know is that they are inspired by a force that we are told to fight against.
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven, and whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Matthew 16:18-19
Don’t be afraid. There is a lot to be afraid of in this world, but we who are called to be followers of the One who walks on water, who feeds thousands with a word, who heals the infirmed, must not be afraid. The short time we walk on earth is an opportunity to be a people that stand against the gates of hell and we will not lose!
Each of us is called into the battle, into the fight. If you hear nothing else, hear this: Don’t be afraid. Jesus promises to be with us in this battle.