Jesus Walks on Water – Mark 6:45-56
Good morning! If you have a Bible, I invite you to turn to the Gospel according to Mark. If you don’t have a Bible, there should be a Bible under the row of chairs in front of you. If you can turn to the Gospel according to Mark, we are going to be in Mark 6:45-56, this morning.
After taking a break for Advent, we are back in our sermon series on Mark. And just as a reminder for us, we paused our sermon series with Jesus feeding the five thousand from five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus essentially fed a multitude of people with a boy’s lunchable.
And what is so interesting about this miracle is that it immediately follows the death of John the Baptist, who was beheaded for standing upon his conviction of the Word of God.
And what we realize is that the Christian life is peaks and valleys, where there will be these highs and lows that we regularly experience, but that we can hold on to Jesus in the midst of these times, because He alone truly satisfies.
And it is here where we pick it up, in Mark 6. I’m just going to read our passage for us, and then we will dive in. Mark 6, beginning in verse 45: “Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, 52 for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
“53 When they had crossed over, they came to land at Gennesaret and moored to the shore. 54 And when they got out of the boat, the people immediately recognized him 55 and ran about the whole region and began to bring the sick people on their beds to wherever they heard he was. 56 And wherever he came, in villages, cities, or countryside, they laid the sick in the marketplaces and implored him that they might touch even the fringe of his garment. And as many as touched it were made well.”
A few years ago, I was talking with a woman who had been attending a church, where the pastor didn’t believe in the miracles of Jesus. Whenever there were instances in Scripture that alluded to something beyond the natural to something supernatural, he would point out that there must be a logical explanation for what happened. According to him, these instances weren’t miraculous, because these kinds of things just don’t happen.
And we find in our text an instance that alludes to something supernatural—something that is difficult to explain logically. What do we do with that? Do we conclude like so many others that this instance is logically explainable and that Jesus didn’t actually walk on water, or do we read the text to mean what it says?
This weekend supposedly featured one of the strongest meteor shower peaks of the year. I say supposedly because I can’t actually see shooting stars, but that’s what I heard. Apparently the Quadrantids meteor shower kicks out 120 shooting stars per hour during its peak, which to me sounds like a lot.
But the reason I mention that is because, if you believe Jesus to be the Creator of the universe and Ruler over all things, there should be no problem here with Jesus walking on the water. If you believe that Jesus is in control of the galaxy and when and where shooting stars appear, then walking on the Sea of Galilee should be no problem for Jesus.
And so, I want us to look at three things in our text that reveal who Jesus is and how we can be confident that Jesus is who He said He was.
1. And the first thing we see is that the disciples find themselves in danger.
In verse 45, Jesus sends the disciples away in the boat and immediately dismisses the crowd. In John’s account of the feeding of the five thousand, in John 6, the crowd tries to take Jesus by force to make Him their king, because the Roman Empire was so oppressive and they wanted to overthrow it by way of the promised Messiah, which they believed to be Jesus.
And just when we would expect Jesus, who is the promised Messiah, to be crowned king, He sends the disciples away and dismisses the crowd and goes to the mountain to pray. Where we would expect Jesus to do one thing, He does another. And it’s because the disciples recognize that Jesus is from God, and that He has power, and that He has just miraculously fed hungry people so that they could be satisfied, but they don’t actually know Jesus.
And so, Jesus is about to show them who He is, but in order to do that, He has to send them away. He has to spend some time with His heavenly Father in prayer before He can reveal Himself to them.
And so, the disciples set out in the boat to the other side of the sea, which one commentator said, “Even in poor conditions the Sea of Galilee could normally be crossed in six to eight hours.” And all of a sudden, the disciples find themselves in danger. We’re told, in verse 48, that the disciples “were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them.”
This was a storm that lasted all night long. They’re exhausted. They’re not making any headway. They’re straining at the oars. They’re in real danger. But notice that they’re in danger because they did what Jesus told them to do.
In verse 45, Jesus is the One who makes them get into the boat. The language here is rather forceful. The disciples aren’t going because they want to go; they’re going because Jesus is making them go.
This storm isn’t a result of disobedience. When the prophet Jonah finds himself in a storm on a boat, we’re told that it was a consequence of his rebellion. God was catching up with Jonah. We might expect that. But the disciples here are in danger through no fault of their own.
How many of us have ever found ourselves in a storm because we did exactly what God told us to do? How many of us, after praying for a closer walk with Jesus, have experienced a storm in our life?
I remember when I was baptized during the summer, after my first year of Bible College. When I went back to Bible College for my second year, I experienced a significant amount of spiritual warfare. And it wasn’t because I was disobedient to God and He was trying to get my attention. In fact, it was quite the opposite. I had made a commitment to Jesus by being baptized, and what followed was a series of attacks from the enemy to get my focus off of Jesus.
So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in a storm. If you are following Jesus, obeying what Jesus has commanded us to do, don’t be surprised if you find yourself in danger. That’s what this movie that we are showing this Friday night is about. It corrects the false teaching that we are promised a healthy and wealthy life. If we are in Christ, what we should expect is danger. We should expect Satan to send storms our way to get our focus off of Jesus.
2. And so, the disciples find themselves in danger, even though they were obedient to Jesus. But secondly, their hearts were hardened.
At about the fourth watch of the night, around 3 to 6 in the morning, Jesus comes to them, walking on the water. And in verse 51, after Jesus gets into the boat and calms the storm, it says that “they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.”
The hardness of heart of the disciples goes all the way back to the feeding of the five thousand. You see, they understood that Jesus broke bread so that hungry people could be satisfied, but they didn’t realize that Jesus was the bread of life who would be broken so that hungry souls could be satisfied. They understood that Jesus had power, but they didn’t realize that Jesus was power. They understood that Jesus was from God, but they didn’t realize that Jesus was God.
Their hearts had become hardened. They were around Jesus all the time. They listened to His teaching. They watched the miracles He did. And yet, they were still missing who He was. And so, what we’re seeing here is a picture. The danger of the storm that they were in is a picture of the storm that was going on inside their hearts.
They were in danger in a physical sense, but they were also in danger in a spiritual sense. And the reality is that we face the same danger. Sunday morning worship, Bible Studies, Prayer Meetings, Fellowship Meals are all good things. But there is a way for us to be consistently involved in all of these good things without ever knowing Jesus.
The danger is that we might serve Jesus and we might know all about Jesus, but we don’t actually know Jesus. That’s the point that Mark has been hitting at, throughout his entire Gospel. Over and over again, you see Mark emphasizing that this is who Jesus is, and if you don’t know this Jesus, if you are not following this Jesus, then you’re in danger.
It’s like you’re in a spiritual storm. You’re fighting and fighting and fighting, and you’re not making any headway, because your heart is hardened to who Jesus is. You might have a basic understanding of Jesus, but you don’t know Him. He hasn’t done a supernatural work in your heart to believe in Him. It’s why you have a hard time accepting that Jesus can do the supernatural, like walk on water and feed a multitude of people with five loaves of bread and two fish.
But here is something we can hold on to: Jesus sees us in our distress. Verse 48 says that “he saw that they were making headway painfully.”
And what that means is that Jesus sees the storm that you and I are in. Now, that might be a little hard for us to accept, because if Jesus can see the storm I’m in, why doesn’t He make it stop? That’s a great question. I don’t know. I don’t know your situation. I don’t even know my situation.
I’ll be honest. There were points in 2019, where I was just like, “Anytime, God. You can intervene anytime now and I would be so grateful.” But it doesn’t happen immediately like that. He sees your storm. He sees you making headway painfully. And I don’t know why He doesn’t make it end.
But I know what Jesus is doing in the midst of your storm. He’s interceding for you on your behalf. What's Jesus doing before He looks out at the sea and sees His disciples in the storm? He’s praying for them. Verse 46: “He went on the mountain to pray.” We can know that Jesus is praying for us in our storms.
In John 17, as Jesus is praying to His heavenly Father, in verses 14-15, Jesus prays, “I have given them your word, and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world. I do not ask that you take them out of the world, but that you keep them from the evil one.”
In Luke 22:31-32, Jesus says to Peter, “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail.”
Hebrews 7:25 says that Jesus “is able to save to the uttermost those who draw near to God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them.”
Make no mistake: Jesus is not watching you go down with the ship. We must not assume that Jesus’ absence means that He is not doing anything. He is doing something and it’s interceding for you on your behalf, pleading with His heavenly Father that you will not perish and that Satan will not have you. Don’t believe it for a minute that Jesus is silent, because He is doing a work in your life. As we will see in these next few verses, He is revealing Himself to you.
3. The disciples find themselves in danger and their hearts are hardened. But lastly, in their weakness, the disciples witness Jesus’ divinity.
Look at verse 48. “And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them, 49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’ 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased.”
The disciples are physically drained from fighting this storm all night long. Suddenly, Jesus comes to them walking on the water. Now, this naturally freaks them out, right? You don’t expect to see someone walking on the water. There is no logical explanation for how Jesus is able to do what He’s doing here, other than He is God. And that’s exactly what Jesus is revealing to His disciples.
You see, Jesus is answering the question the disciples asked the last time they were in this predicament. If you remember, back in Mark 4, Jesus was with His disciples in the boat this time, and this massive storm comes upon them, and they don’t know what to do, and Jesus is sleeping in the bottom of the boat.
And they go to wake Jesus up, saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And Jesus gets up, calms the storm, and says to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And it says that the disciples said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
And our text answers this question, “Who then is this, that calms the storm and is even able to walk on the water?” It’s God. No one is able to do that but God. Only the Creator of the universe can do what Jesus just did. And so, Jesus is showing us that He is in fact God.
But Mark is actually doing something a little bit more intentional than that by using the language that he uses. In verse 48, Mark notes that Jesus “meant to pass by them.” And I’ve always found that phrase interesting. Like, where was Jesus going, if it wasn’t to His disciples? But in my sermon preparation this week, I discovered that Mark is actually using the same language that is used in Exodus 33 uses when God passed by Moses.
If you turn to Exodus 33, Moses is meeting with God. And God tells Moses that He knows him by name and that he has found favour in His sight. And Moses makes this audacious request. He asks God to show him His glory. In Exodus 33:18, Moses says, “Please show me your glory.”
And God says to him, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord.’ And I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.”
So, Moses asks God to show him His glory, and God answers him by doing two things:
1. First, God says to Moses, “I will make all my goodness pass before you.” The exact same word is used by Mark when talking about Jesus passing by the disciples in the boat. Jesus passes by them in all His glory, and they are terrified, thinking that they saw a ghost. It wasn’t a ghost; it was Jesus in His glory.
2. But the second thing God does is He says to Moses, “I will proclaim before you my name.” His name is the LORD, Yahweh, which literally means, “I am.”
Look back at Mark 6:50. What did Jesus say to the disciples after He had passed by them in His glory? “But immediately he spoke to them and said, ‘Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.’”
Jesus tells them, “It is I,” which literally means, “I am.” So, you see, Jesus walking on the water isn’t just showing off that He can do miracles. He wasn’t just showing them that He was God just because He could walk on water. He was letting the disciples see His glory as He passed by them and He was proclaiming to them His name, that He is the great “I am.”
What Jesus is doing here is revealing His divinity to the disciples, even when their hearts were hardened. Jesus was with them the last time they were in a storm, so as the disciples struggled, they feared that He was far off. And sometimes when we struggle, we fear that Jesus is far from us. He was with us the last time, but this time, we fear that He is absent.
But the good news for us is that nothing can separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. The difference between God showing His glory to Moses and Jesus showing His glory to the disciples is that Moses only got to see a glimpse of God’s glory, while Jesus revealed His glory to the disciples and gets into the boat with them.
He gets into the boat. Jesus doesn’t stop the storm and then come out to them; He comes out to them in the midst of the storm, gets into the boat with them, and then calms the storm.
Jesus doesn’t just watch our suffering from afar; He enters into our suffering. He hurts when we hurt. He faces disgrace when we face disgrace. He feels every harsh word that is spoken to us. Why? Because He already bore it all for us on the cross. And He bore it all, while we were yet sinners.
Romans 5:8 says that “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.”
In our weakness and hardness of heart, we experience the love of God towards us. Jesus softens our heart to believe in Him. He gets into the boat with us. He reveals to us His divinity. He shows that He is God and that He is in control of our storms. And Jesus lets us in on what He’s doing in the world.
After Jesus calms the storm and gets into the boat with His disciples, they go to this place called Gennesaret, where Jesus continues to show them more of who He is, by healing sick people from all over that region. All people needed to do was just touch the fringe of His garment and it made them well. It’s like the unknown woman who had the issue of bleeding, back in Mark 5. All she did was touch Jesus’ garment and she was healed of her disease.
But the disciples had the opportunity to be in on what Jesus was doing. This doesn’t happen if Jesus doesn’t soften their hearts to believe in Him. If you are here this morning, and your heart is hardened to Jesus, if you don’t know where you land on the Person of Jesus Christ, He will meet you where you're at.
In a few weeks, we will encounter a man who believes, and yet, at the same time, struggles to believe. If this is where you are at, Jesus wants to meet you here. I encourage you to come to the altar, as it were, and lay before Him the weight of your sin and receive forgiveness of your sins, today.
And if you are a follower of Jesus, you can know that Jesus will not let you go. He will come to you. He will meet you in the middle of whatever storm you are facing, and He will show you His glory, and He will guide you through the storm to safety. We never need to fear our security, because if we are in Christ, He will walk on water to come to us, over and over again.
In the book, The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, C.S. Lewis’ third installment in his famed Chronicles of Narnia, you read of a seafaring journey by King Caspian and his crew, and Edmund and Lucy and Eustace, to the Eastern Islands, in search of the seven lords of old.
And on their journey, they come to the Dark Island, where there is nothing but utter blackness in front of them. Everyone is afraid and they decide to turn back, until Reepicheep, the tiny mouse with a lion’s heart, encourages them to not turn back in the presence of fear, but to face it, in search of honour and adventure. So, they sail on.
Once in the darkness, they sail and sail, until a voice calls for help and they pull a man aboard. He immediately tells them to go — “Fly! Fly! About with your ship and fly! Row, row, row for your lives away from this accursed shore.”
The island to which they sail, he says, is the island where dreams come true. Not daydreams of happiness and delight, but the dreams that make you afraid of going to sleep again. Now fearing for their lives, the Dawn Treader turns about and sails away from the island. But no matter how long they sail, they remain in darkness.
In complete desperation, Lucy whispers, “Aslan, Aslan, if you ever loved us at all, send us help now.” Shortly thereafter, a speck of light appears, and an albatross circles the mast and leads them toward safety.
Then Lewis penned these words: “But no one except Lucy knew that as it circled the mast it had whispered to her, ‘Courage, dear heart,’ and the voice, she felt sure, was Aslan’s, and with the voice a delicious smell breathed in her face. In a few moments the darkness turned into a grayness ahead, and then, almost before they dared to begin hoping, they had shot out into the sunlight and were in the warm, blue world again. And all at once everybody realized that there was nothing to be afraid of and never had been.”
Jesus said to His disciples, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Isaiah 41:10 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.” John 14:1 says, “Let not your hearts be troubled. Believe in God; believe also in me.”
Is this what your heart needs this morning? The reassuring words of Jesus. Is this what you need to hear in the middle of the trial or difficulty or trouble that you are facing. The good news is that we can have courage and need not be afraid of the storms of this life that come our way, because we have a sovereign Saviour, who loves us and cares for us and who has promised to be with us, even to the end of the age, and who will walk on water to get to us. Let’s pray…