Sign #5 – Walking on the Water

Sign #5 – Walking on the Water

Sign #5 – Walking on the Water.

“Jesus called out to them, ‘Don’t be afraid! The I AM is here!’” (John 6:20).

King? After the miraculous feeding of the 5,000, which may have been twice that number because only men were counted for groups, the people were so impressed by the miracle that they wanted to take Jesus and make Him king. They had mistakenly thought that Jesus was the long-awaited Prophet highlighted by Moses in Deuteronomy 18, and that His mission was to win a victory for the Jews over Roman occupation. Not only was that NOT His mission, but also any word of a Jewish king in the making would attract Roman attention and risk arrest as treasonous. Execution would follow, and Jesus knew the time was not right for that to happen quite yet. While Jesus was on the mountain by Himself after the multiplication of bread and fish, no doubt praying and thinking and decompressing, the disciples grew impatient to row to the other side of the Lake. So they hopped into a boat and they began rowing across. The evening was falling, they wanted to get to the other side before it was totally dark, and Jesus seemed to be taking His time on the mountain.

Stormy Sea. The Sea of Galilee is 150 feet deep and surrounded by hills. So it is often subjected to sudden severe windstorms that would cause huge waves. These storms were frightening even to veteran fishermen, since the boats could easily be overcome in the turbulence. The disciples found themselves in just such a storm when they were only halfway across the Lake, about three or four miles from shore. The waves were tremendous, and they were understandably feeling vulnerable in their boat.

Ghost! What seemed to terrify the disciples even more was that they thought they saw a ghost walking on the water towards them. Between the strong winds and the apparition walking on the storm-tossed water, they were out of their minds with fear. After watching the multiplication of the wonder bread for thousands of people, maybe it shouldn’t have been so unexpected to see Jesus walk on the water as well. But it’s easy for us to say that, since we already know what happens.

I AM. a. It is at this dramatic point, with powerful winds blowing and a ghost standing on the rough waters, that Jesus identified Himself as I AM. Jesus decided to use the divine name that He loves to use in reference to Himself. He appropriates this term when He wants to point to His co-equal status with God, the Great I AM, from Exodus 3:14. As He balances Himself on the choppy waves near the boat so the disciples could hear Him, Jesus says, “Don’t be afraid! The I AM is here!” One translation put it, “Fear not! I AM!” He is telling them right then and there that He is the unique Son of God, and that He has control of nature, of all of creation.

b. Jesus loves to claim kinship with Yahweh, I AM What I AM, I Will Be What I Will Be, at all kinds of moments… with the frightened disciples, and with the high priest; with a mob ready to arrest Him, and with a Samaritan woman at a well; when He is teaching a crowd, and when He is arguing with the Pharisees; before the Resurrection, and after the Resurrection. In fact, there are, in the gospel of John alone, 23 different times Jesus claimed to be I AM, assuming the personal name of God. I AM was an important part of His identity, and so it was a verbal name tag He liked to wear. “Have no fear! The I AM is here!”

Presence. The disciples in the boat were satisfied with Jesus’ self-identification, and so they were eager to let Jesus climb into the boat with them. They were greatly relieved, so they welcomed Him to join the group. A strange thing happened once Jesus accepted the invitation to climb in. Scripture says that they instantly, immediately arrived at their destination across the Lake! They were somehow transported in the blinking of an eye. What happened here? Did Jesus use the powerful wind to hydroplane three or four miles in an instant? This is one of those whimsical events that have no explanation. This miracle gets little press, and was probably mentioned for our enjoyment.

Kept It Stormy. It’s interesting that Jesus didn’t calm the storm! He would say things like “Peace, be still!” in other storm stories, but in this case He didn’t calm those surging waves. He instead walked on those waves and let the storm continue. Sometimes Jesus doesn’t calm our storms. Sometimes He provides His presence, enables us to survive the storm and then helps us make the best of it instead. Perhaps this dramatic scene is an echo, a confirmation for us of the truth of Isaiah 43:1-5“But now, thus says Yahweh, your Creator, O Jacob, and He who formed you, O Israel. Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name. You are mine! When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; Do not fear, for I am with you.”

Smile. Perhaps this is the perfect time to sing that classic children’s gospel chorus:

With Jesus in the boat, I can smile in a storm, smile in a storm, smile in a storm

With Jesus in the boat I can smile in a storm, as we go sailing home.