When Jesus told his apostles to enter into the boat and go ahead of him to the other side, they thought his purpose was to join them by land, since there was no other boat there. But it is a night of miracles. From the mountain height by the lake, Christ rose from his knees and looked out over the water after that little company in the boat which embodied and represented his church. There was indescribable sorrow and longing in his heart, for he could see the boat glowing in the moonlight like burnished silver and gold, and it was heading into a rising headwind.
Storm on the Sea
Abruptly the wind freshened into a violent, contrary storm. Peters energies were spent in keeping the ships bow towards the far shore and the others were busy bailing water, but they could make no progress. At last the sail was torn and the disciples were driven off course.
The Twelve were agitated by mixed feelings. Against their will they had been told by Jesus to embark to the other side of the lake, while the multitude under the influence of the great miracle was surrounding him with violent insistence to proclaim him the Messianic King of Israel. Here they were greatly distressed, thinking to themselves, Did the Lord send us out here to drown?
Now the Savior must come to their help across the water. It was needful teaching about his great power and deliverance in addition to the miraculous supply of food with all that it implied.
Walking on Water
Sea of Galilee was about six miles wide at that point, and they had reached little more than half the distance. Already it was three oclock during the morning watch. In the track that lay behind them all at once a figure appeared. It seemed to be passing them, walking upon the sea. It passed onwards over the water, seemingly borne up by the waves as they rose, not disappearing as they fell, but carried on as they rolled. The silvery moon laid upon the trembling waters the shadow of that form as it moved along the track with their ship. In the pale light, those in the boat fearfully gazed at the apparition as it neared still closer and closer. As he walked on the storm-tossed waves, the disciples screamed in terror, thinking he was a ghost, an apparition in accordance with popular Jewish notions. If they had not cried out, he would have passed by them without giving his identity.
Then came a ringing call in the voice they knew so well. Be of good cheer; it is I; be not afraid. It was the voice of their beloved Lord, but was it truly he?
In the bow of the water laden boat, Peter called out, Lord, if it is really you, tell me to come to you by walking on water.
The beautiful, shining moving figure answered, Come.
Peter, the impetuous child, caught right out of himself with love and longing, dropped down out of the boat, set his feet bravely upon the water, and took a few buoyant steps forward. But with the cold water sucking at his feet and the spray blinding his eyes so that he could no longer see that shining figure, second thoughts came to him and he was afraid. As his courage left him so did his buoyancy, and he began to sink. Lord, save me! he cried, stretching out his hand into the darkness with blinded eyes as the water was about to close over his head.
Suddenly a hand seized his and he felt himself being lifted into the boat as easily as if he were only a childthough his weight was half again that of the Master. He lay upon on the bottom, panting from his own shame in failing yet another time. When he finally recovered enough to look about him, he saw that the raging of the storm had been stilled.
Jesus was close beside him and asked, Why did you hesitate? How little faith you have!
The apostles looked around at perfectly calm water with the moon reflecting in it, and remembered the time when Christ shouted, Peace, be still! They knelt at his feet and worshiped him exclaiming, You must be the Son of God! Immediately the boat arrived on the western shore at Gennesaret, near Bethsaida Galilee and Capernaum.
The great miracle of the feeding of the multitude had not touched their hearts as this had done, but their Lords compassion that had brought him from his prayer right across the sea to save them, opened their hearts to understanding.
How Did You Get Here?
At dawn, the crowd remaining on the eastern side of the lake began to gather near the shore waiting to see Jesus. When they saw that Christ and his disciples were not there, they were confused. The multitude knew that on the previous day only one boat had come over bringing the Master and his disciples. Then in the evening, they had seen them depart back across the lake without Jesus, who remained behind to dismiss the people. They reasoned he had returned on foot by land, being ignorant of the miracle of that night. The wind that had been contrary to the disciples the night before had also driven a number of fishing boats from Tiberias over to the eastern shore. The remaining crowd now hired these and returned to Capernaum looking for the Teacher. Where was he?
When they finally found him, they asked, Rabbi, how did you get here? They were still perplexed about the miracle of his return.
Jesus ignored their question and directed them to the heart of the matter. The truth is, you seek me because I fed you and you were filled, not because you saw the miraculous sign. Do not worry about perishable things like food. Seek the eternal food which sustains one forever. The Son of Man can give you this food, for God the Father has sent me for that purpose.
What does God want us to do? they asked.
This is what God expects of you: believe in the One he has sent, Jesus answered. The true bread from heaven is given by my Father only. The bread which God gives not only comes out of heaven, but gives life to the whole world. And now he offers it to you.
Oh, thats the bread we want, they said, Lord, give us that bread continually. Like the woman at the well who at first only thought of actual water, they could only think about asking for actual food.
Jesus explained further, I am the Bread of Life. No one who comes to me will ever be hungry again. Those who believe in me will never be thirsty. Those the Father gives me will come to me and I will never turn anyone away. For I have come down from heaven to do the will of God who sent me, not to act independently on my own initiative. It is the will of God that I should not lose even one of those he has given me, and I shall raise them to eternal life at the last day. Only the Spirit gives eternal life. Human effort accomplishes nothing. The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they bring life.
Then the people began to murmur in disagreement because he had said, I am the bread from heaven. They asked one another, This is Jesus, the son of Joseph. We know his father and mother. How can he say that?
Christ assured them, Yes, I am the Bread of Life! Anyone who believes in me already has eternal life, and at the last day I will raise them from the dead.
On learning the Bread of Life was a spiritual Messiah and not a breadbasket, the crowd and some of his discipleswho only one day before had wanted to make him their kingdeserted him.
But the Twelve were still there. Will you also go away? he asked. They were bewildered by the strange things that he had said, and must have known that he was putting some great choice before them. Would they go on with him to the end or not?
Peter answered for them all, Lord, to whom shall we go? You alone have the words of eternal life! They did not understand the half of what he said; they did not know where he was taking them or what was going to happen next; but they did understand this muchnow that they had been with him they did not want to be with anyone else, for now he was their life!