Jesus Walks on Water
45 Immediately after this, Jesus insisted that his disciples get back into the boat and head across the lake to Bethsaida, while he sent the people home. 46 After telling everyone good-bye, he went up into the hills by himself to pray.
47 Late that night, the disciples were in their boat in the middle of the lake, and Jesus was alone on land. 48 He saw that they were in serious trouble, rowing hard and struggling against the wind and waves. About three o'clock in the morning Jesus came toward them, walking on the water. He intended to go past them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the water, they cried out in terror, thinking he was a ghost. 50 They were all terrified when they saw him.
But Jesus spoke to them at once. "Don't be afraid," he said. "Take courage! I am here!" 51 Then he climbed into the boat, and the wind stopped. They were totally amazed, 52 for they still didn't understand the significance of the miracle of the loaves. Their hearts were too hard to take it in.
53 After they had crossed the lake, they landed at Gennesaret. They brought the boat to shore 54 and climbed out. The people recognized Jesus at once, 55 and they ran throughout the whole area, carrying sick people on mats to wherever they heard he was. 56 Wherever he went-in villages, cities, or the countryside - they brought the sick out to the marketplaces. They begged him to let the sick touch at least the fringe of his robe, and all who touched him were healed.
Jesus sends his disciples away so that he can dismiss the crowds and spend time alone with God. A fierce storm arises, placing the disciples in harm's way as they struggle to row their boat to the shore. Jesus sees their dilemma and walks across the water to get to them. Jesus calms their fears and then calms the storm. On reaching the other side of the lake, Jesus encounters a sea of sick people in need of help, and he heals them.
To pray (Mark 6:46)
Three times Mark records how Jesus withdrew to pray (Mark 1:35; 6:46; 14:32), the pattern being a crisis event to which Jesus responded by withdrawing in order to commune with his Father. We know from John's version of the feeding of the five-thousand that afterward the crowd sought to forcefully install Jesus as their king (John 6:15).488 "There was a movement to start a revolution against Roman rule in Palestine by proclaiming Jesus King and driving away Pilate."489 This, of course, would have resulted in much bloodshed and, moreover, would have been contrary to Christ's kingdom, which is not of this world (John 18:36).490 As one source puts it: "No one really understood Jesus, not the crowds, not the disciples. Jesus needed the Father to stay and steady him."491
Walking on the water (Mark 6:48, 49)
It was early in the morning (3:00 - 6:00 a.m.492) and the exhausted disciples were trapped in one of the lake's renowned storms that had "swept over the water and lashed it into furious waves."493 Literally, the boat (Matthew) and the men rowing it (Mark) were being "tortured" (Greek basanizo: "to punish by physical torture or torment"494).495 Suddenly they looked up and saw what they could only assume to be a ghost - an omen of impending death.496 They literally screamed in terror.497 Jesus "intended to go past" the disciples, perhaps in a way reminiscent of God's "passing beside" in the OT as a means of offering miraculous reassurance (see Exodus 33:19, 22; 1 Kings 19:11).498 Jesus identified himself to them and the disciples received him into the boat. When he rebuked the storm, however, they were utterly amazed - literally, they were amazed "exceedingly beyond measure."499 Why? Because they still had not fully recognized Jesus for who he was.
It is worth asking why Mark chose to omit the fact that Peter walked on the water. After all, Mark is supposed to have been recording Peter's recollections. What's more, this is actually but one of three incidents in which Peter figures prominently that are recorded by Matthew but not Mark. As one source explains:
These are Peter's walking on the water (Matthew 14:28–33), the paying of the temple tax (Matthew 17:24–27), and the statement about the keys to the kingdom of heaven (Matthew 16:19). These omissions may reasonably be explained as due to modesty on Peter's part. In his preaching he was concerned to exalt Christ, not himself. It is worth noting that in Mark's gospel Peter is never mentioned alone except in connection with his being rebuked by Jesus. This is the kind of humility that one would expect to find in Peter after Pentecost.500
Walking on the water is something only God can do: "He alone has spread out the heavens and marches on the waves of the sea" (Job 9:8, NLT).501 Jesus greeted the terrified disciples with a command to "Take courage!" Meaning "to have confidence and firmness of purpose in the face of danger or testing,"502 this phrase (Greek tharseo) is found seven times in the NT and is always associated with Jesus (Matthew 9:2, 22; 14:27; Mark 6:50; 10:49; John 16:33; Acts 23:11).503
The people (Mark 6:54)
Mark contrasts the disciples with the crowd who immediately recognized Jesus. The sick people who came to Jesus were convinced that he was from God and could heal them. The mention of "the fringe of his robe" recalls the miraculous healing of the bleeding woman. As was true in her case, "[h]ealing was not effected by a touch but by the gracious action of Jesus who honored this means of expressing their faith in Him."504 Mark shows his readers that there was no limit to the numbers of people Jesus could heal.505
The Pilot's Face
Scottish author Robert Louis Stevenson told a story in which a ship was caught in a terrible storm. The rocky coast nearby threatened to smash the ship to pieces and kill everyone aboard.
One brave soul from among the passengers fought his way to the pilot-house, where he saw the pilot strapped to the wheel and slowly turning it bit by bit out into the open sea. The pilot saw the look of sheer terror on the passengers face, and he gave him a reassuring smile.
The man then ran back to the other passengers and reported the good news. "'I have seen the face of the pilot and he smiled. All is well.' The sight of that smiling face averted panic and converted despair into hope."506
God will allow us to endure turbulent times. When we do, we can, should, and must trust him to keep us safe and on course.
??? What can this passage teach us about overcoming our fears and trusting in Christ?