Friday, December 2, 2016
Weaving together Jesus' Walking on the Water in Matthew, Mark and John
John 6:19-20 Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. 20 But He *said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going."
Oftentimes it is very illuminating to take one episode in one of the four Gospels and compare how the other Gospels record that same event. Jesus' miracle of walking on the water in John 6:15-21 represents the fifth of seven total miraculous signs in John's Gospel. Matthew 14:22-33 and Mark 6:47-51 record the same event as we find in John 6:15-21. Each Gospel writer includes details not found in the others. Whenever we weave Matthew, Mark and John together (Luke does not include this episode in his Gospel), we can see the whole picture. For the sake of the reader's convenience, I will color-code Matthew's details in orange; John's details in blue and use Mark's record as the base text (Mark's text will be in black), since it is the shortest of the three per word count in the underlying Greek text.
Jesus walks on the water
Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:47-51; John 6:15-21
So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum.
After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray when it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles.
Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them, at about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea; and He intended to pass by them. But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea.
When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” And He said, “Come!” And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened.
For they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” For they all saw Him and were terrified. But immediately He spoke with them and said to them, “Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.” But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.”
Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished. When they got into the boat, the wind stopped. And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son!” So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
What we learn from weaving together the Gospel accounts of Jesus' walking on the water
Whenever we can view the episode from Matthew, Mark and John, we discover the following lessons:
1. Jesus' motive, per Matthew's Gospel, for sending the disciples ahead of himself was to deal with the crowds who were wanting to make him king. This growing desire on the part of the crowd was what also prompted Jesus to be alone and apart from the disciples.
2. Once Jesus was alone, Matthew's version records that he went to pray. John adds the detail that the disciples had rowed between three and four miles, or about half of the total width of 8 miles (the sea of Galilee is 8 miles wide and 13 miles long). This would place the disciple's exactly in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, as recorded by Mark.
3. This storm was an extraordinarily powerful one. Mark has the disciples straining at the oar and Matthew records the boat being battered by the waves.
4. Jesus sees the disciples and walks out to them in all three versions. Matthew includes a detailed response, discussion and Peter himself walking out to meet Jesus. Peter's fear and sinking in the waves is also recorded by Matthew. Mark and John give the more abbreviated version. Once Jesus gets into the boat, Mark's version records the disciples were astonished at the fact of the sudden stoppage of the wind. Matthew records the manner of their astonishment, an astonishment that led to their worship of Jesus and declaration of Him as the Son of God. John emphasizes the willingness of the disciples to receive Jesus in to the boat.
5. The outcome of the miracle is that due to the stoppage of the wind, John alone records how quickly the disciples were able to make it to the other side.
Today we aimed to view Jesus' miracle of walking on the water in light of the three Gospels in which it is found: Matthew, Mark and John. Why this miracle? Why does it matter?
1. Jesus is Divinely powerful enough to calm the storms of life.
Jesus' miracle was an active demonstration of His Deity and divine authority over the created order. Certain Old Testament scriptures assert the Sovereignty of Yahweh over the sea (Psalm 65:7; 89:9; 107:28-30).
2. Jesus' humanity enabled Him to walk into the midst of the storm.
The disciples were already frightened enough. Per the Gospel records, they perceived him at first to be a "spirit". Only as a flesh and blood human being could Jesus effectively minister to His disciples. Interestingly enough, by calming the storm, He shows His disciples how as man He could bring into subjection the created order, thus demonstrating Himself to be the New Adam. More to the point though, as man, Jesus empathized with His followers by entering into the fray.
3. Trust in this Jesus will enable you to get to where He is leading you in life.
John especially notes how quickly the boat got to the other shore.