Pastor David B. Curtis


Media #834 MP3 Audio File Video File


John 6:16-21

Delivered 11/20/16

Last week we looked at the miracle of the feeding of the 20,000, and today we look at the miracle of walking on the water and teleporting. Why does Lazarus tell us about these miracles? Lazarus wrote this Gospel, and especially the miracles or signs that Yeshua did so we would believe:

but these have been written so that you may believe that Yeshua is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name. John 20:31 NASB

Seeing these incredible miracles had to make people realize that Yeshua was more than a man.

In Matthew and Mark's Gospel the walking on the water scene immediately follows the feeding of the five thousand, just as it does here in John. Following this event, Lazarus will return to the theme of bread and describe Yeshua as the Bread of Life, and provide a major discourse revealing the true significance of the multiplication of the loaves. But this miracle of Yeshua walking on the water, and the disciples being rescued from the wind and being teleported to their destination is not mentioned in the rest of the Gospel.

This causes many to question why this walking on the water story is here, the rest of the chapter centers around the Bread of life theme. Some say that the walking on the water story connects this to the Passover liturgy in Judaism. That liturgy also emphasized the "I am" phrase from God's self-disclosure in Exodus. They would say that the connection of Passover, passage through the Red Sea, and "I am" in the Passover liturgy seems to be clearly reflected in John 6. The feeding of the five thousand has Passover themes and the walking on the water climaxes with an "I am" saying of Yeshua. This view does have some merit to it. But I think that the significance of this walking on the water and teleporting to shore is mainly to help the disciples to understand exactly who Yeshua is. Remember where we left off last week? Yeshua had been healing the sick and teaching about the Kingdom of God. Then Yeshua fed 20,000 with bread and fish that He created. Then had His disciples gather up the food that was left over. They were probably elated, having participated in Christ's miracle, by distributing the bread and fish to hungry people. This miracle caused the people to say, "This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world."

So Yeshua, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone. John 6:15 NASB

Yeshua knows that the crowd is about to try to take Him by force, and make Him King. Remember Messianic fervor was high and these Jews concluded that Yeshua could provid the military leadership to liberate them from the oppression of Rome. And I don't think it's a stretch to see that the disciples may have been getting caught up in this whole thing to make Yeshua a king. And if we understand this, then Matthew and Mark's comment doesn't seem so strange:

There were about five thousand men who ate, besides women and children. Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. Matthew 14:21-22 NASB

They just finish eating and "immediately," before the disciple could get caught up in the make Yeshua a king frenzy He sends them away. He "made" them get into the boat. This is a very strong Greek word. The verb anagkazo means: "He forced/compelled them (to go ahead without Him)." Matthew says Yeshua "made" the disciples get into the boat, He coerced/compelled them to, possibly even against their will. Mark's account uses the same word at this point (6:45).

The disciples had placed all of their hopes in this rabbi, Yeshua. They had given up everything to follow Him. Making Him a king may have been what the disciples also wanted. So Yeshua forced them to get into the boat and head back toward Capernaum, while He sent the multitude away and went up on the mountain by Himself.

Yeshua came bringing a kingdom, but His kingdom was a Kingdom that would come by means of a cross. And His own disciples did not yet understand that. So He sends them out to sea to help them better understand who He is.

Lazarus gives us a very brief view of this miracle. Remember he is writing later and most likely assumes that his readers are familiar with this story, so his account is brief. We'll use the other Gospels to help fill in the details.

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. It had already become dark, and Yeshua had not yet come to them. John 6:16-17 NASB

We have seen from Matthew and Mark why they went and got in a boat, their Lord made them go. Lazarus says here that, "they started to cross the sea to Capernaum," but Mark says:

And immediately He made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the multitude away. Mark 6:45 NASB

So was their destination Capernaum or Bethsaida? I think the best way to understand this is to see Christ instructing the 12 to row north towards Bethsaida hugging the shore, then to turn west and follow the shore around to Capernaum on the northwest shore.

"Capernaum" was Yeshua's headquarters during His Galilean ministry because of the unbelief in His hometown of Nazareth (Luke 4:28-29). So they are headed back to Capernaum, Yeshua's base of operations.

Lazarus tells us, "It had already become dark, and Yeshua had not yet come to them"why wasn't Yeshua with them? Where was He? Mark tells us:

And after bidding them farewell, He departed to the mountain to pray. Mark 6:46 NASB

So Yeshua sends them away by boat and He goes to the mountain to pray. Yeshua's prayer life is repeatedly mentioned in the Gospels. Think about this, believer; Yeshua had just had a very busy day of ministry. He tried to escape the crowds, but they just got larger. He is no doubt tired, but instead of going to bed, He spends the night in prayer. He was an exhausted man, but He stayed up all night praying. That should tell us something of the importance of prayer. If the God-Man ,Yeshua, needed to pray, how much more do we need to?

"It had already become dark, and Yeshua had not yet come to them"—in this Gospel darkness is a common theme describing existence without Christ. Darkness of night and the absence of Yeshua are powerfully linked. By saying, "Yeshua had not yet come to them," Lazarus was informing his readers about the timing of Yeshua's walking on the water, out to the boat. This was an event his readers were already aware of, having read about it in the other 3 Gospels. He was simply telling them that Yeshua's walking on water hadn't happened yet at this point in the story.

The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing. John 6:18 NASB

So it's dark and Yeshua is not with them, and to make the occasion even worse, a strong wind came up and created a storm on the lake. The wind normally came from the west, the direction in which the disciples headed. The Sea of Galilee lies about six hundred feet below sea level. Cool air from the south-eastern tablelands can rush in to displace the warm moist air over the lake, churning up the water in a violent squall.

In his book, The Land and the Book, Thomson writes, "Small as the lake is, and placid in general as a molten mirror, I have repeatedly seen it quiver, and leap, and boil like a cauldron, when driven by fierce winds."

So the disciples are out in the boat in the midst of a storm, and Yeshua is up on a mountain praying. Mark fills in some more details here:

And when it was evening, the boat was in the midst of the sea, and He was alone on the land. 48 And 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. Mark 6:47-48 NASB

Mark tells us that they are in the "midst of the sea," and Yeshua is alone on the land. And Yeshua sees them "Straining at the oars" —this is a present passive participle that refers to distress or torment. They were rowing and getting nowhere, as a matter of fact, they were being blown off course. The passive voice tells us that this distress was put upon them by the wind, not by their inability to handle a fishing boat. The present tense tells us that the distress continued.

Yeshua sees their distress and heads toward them via a direct route across the water. He came to them on the water "about the fourth watch of the night" —the Romans divided the period of darkness into four watches of equal length beginning with the first, which fell between 6-9pm. The Jews divided it up into three equal periods, but, as it's the "fourth watch," we can immediately see that the Roman system is being used. This would be approximately 3-6am when the dawn was beginning to break. Remember they left at dusk so they had been out there rowing all night.

What is the miracle that Mark records here? Yeshua, who is up a mountain at least three and a half miles away from the disciples and in the darkness, sees the disciples "straining at the oars"! Now that's a miracle! This is not natural, it is supernatural.

Believers, there are times when we are in the midst of life's storms, and we wonder if our Lord knows what is happening to us. He does, He knows exactly what we are going through and He is there with us and for us:

Make sure that your character is free from the love of money, being content with what you have; for He Himself has said, "I WILL NEVER DESERT YOU, NOR WILL I EVER FORSAKE YOU," Hebrews 13:5 NASB

This is a very important text for us to understand, because there are times when Christians feel they're about to drown in their troubles, and that Yeshua isn't there for them. But He is always there for us.

Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Yeshua walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat; and they were frightened. John 6:19 NASB

"Then, when they had rowed about three or four miles"—in the Greek text it was 25 or 30 stadia, which is between two and three-quarter miles and three and one half miles. Matthew and Mark wrote that the disciples were in the "middle" of the lake, probably meaning that they were well out into it (Matt. 14:24; Mark 6:47). The Sea of Galilee was at its widest point 7 miles. So at this point the disciples were pretty much in the middle of the lake. Which is what Matthew tells us:

But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. Matthew 14:24 NASB

Their boat had gotten pushed out into the middle of the lake. When they would normally have wanted probably to stay pretty close to the shore. So it's dark, Yeshua is not with them, they are being battered by the waves, they are a long way from shore, and they have been at it all night. They have to be exhausted. And then:

"They saw Yeshua walking on the sea and drawing near to the boat"—and they all shouted for joy and said, "Boy, are we ever glad to see you." No, what happened when they saw Yeshua? "They were frightened"—why were they afraid? Mark tells us that they thought it was a ghost:

But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; 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." Mark 6:49-50 NASB

When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified and screamed like a bunch of little girls in fear. The natural forces of this world such as the wind and sea

can be frightening, but at least they are understandable. However, a close brush with the supernatural, which cannot be understood or controlled, is absolutely terrifying.

Belief in human apparitions was a part of Yeshua's disciples' world view. The term used for "ghost" here is "phantasm." The verb phantazo, meaning: "to bring to manifestation," is often used in the sense "to appear" for supernatural phenomena; used as a noun, it literally means: "apparition" or "ghost." This isn't the Greek word for "demon" in the New Testament. The disciples had a category for "disembodied spirit of a dead person" (a ghost). They didn't just think in demonic terms.

Craig S. Keener, in his Commentary on John states, "In Mark's account, they are afraid because they assume Jesus to be a spirit, probably a night spirit or a spirit of one drowned at sea, which were thought particularly dangerous."

The sea was believed to have been the home of demons and ghosts. Remember when the pigs threw themselves over the cliffs into the water? They viewed this as the evil spirits were returning to the place from which they had come.

In the Tanakh the symbolism of water/sea is the image of evil and chaos, particularly in Isaiah. For Lazarus, this could carry similar significance: Yeshua's triumph over the sea represents His triumph over the forces of evil.

"They saw Yeshua walking on the sea"—the phrase "walking on water" is commonly used to express impossibilities. Even the ancient Egyptians used the emblem of two feet walking on the sea to express an impossible thing. But here is Yeshua doing the impossible. And not just a few yards, but over three miles out into a deep and turbulent sea. Some of the great Jewish prophets of the past had parted water so that others could walk through on dry ground—people like Moses and Joshua—but none had ever walked on top of water.

The disciples had previously watched Yeshua speak to the waves and wind as though He owned them, and they were silenced. Now He walked on the sea, and not a smooth sea at that! Only the One that created the seas can walk on them. But by treading on the sea, Yeshua now takes a role that the Hebrew Bible had reserved for God alone:

Who alone stretches out the heavens, And tramples down the waves of the sea; Job 9:8 NASB

Yeshua told them that He was equal to Yahweh in every way in the last chapter, but they still didn't get it. So He gives them another miracle that proves He is much more than a political Messiah, He is Yahweh.

Some scholars, wishing to depreciate this miracle, have translated the Greek preposition epi as "by" rather than "on." Bernard and Barclay, (a couple of liberal commentators) have suggested that the disciples rowed three miles or so hugging the shore (despite what Matthew and Mark say that they were "a long distance from the land" and "in the middle" of the lake), and the disciples saw Yeshua walking by the sea rather than walking on the sea. If the disciples simply saw Yeshua walking by the lake, it is hard to imagine why they were terrified. And it certainly doesn't explain what Matthew records as their response:

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!" Matthew 14:32-33 NASB

Without the miracle, this doesn't make much sense.

What is missing from Lazarus' account of this story of Yeshua walking on the water? Peter walking on the water. Matthew is the only writer of the Gospels who records the incident of Peter walking on the water towards Yeshua:

And Peter answered Him and said, "Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water." Matthew 14:28 NASB

The word "if" is a first class conditional, "since it is youcommand me":

And He said, "Come!" And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Yeshua. 30 But seeing the wind, he became afraid, and beginning to sink, he cried out, saying, "Lord, save me!" 31 And immediately Yeshua stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and said to him, "O you of little faith, why did you doubt?" Matthew 14:29-31 NASB

Let's give Peter some credit at this point, at least he got out of the boat. And he was doing well until he took his eyes off the Lord and focused on the storm. I love Peter's prayer, "Lord, save me." Peter's request is a present imperative, a command to keep on saving. The word "save" here is soteria which means: "rescue or safety, salvation, health, or save." This word has several different meanings. Peter uses it here in its usual meaning of "save from danger." After Peter prays, how long does it take for the Lord to help him? Immediately! Keep this word in mind, we'll come back to it.

So Yeshua the God-Man, and Peter the man both walked on water. This is a miracle. The observable laws of science declare that this shouldn't happen. But Yeshua did it! There's no other explanation than that this was an awesome miracle.

This leads me to ask, "Should science have any influence on what we believe about our faith? Or should our faith be based solely on the Scriptures? What is science?" The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines Science as: "knowledge about or study of the natural world based on facts learned through experiments and observation." If you did an experiment to see if someone could walk on the water, what would you find? Science would say man cannot walk on the water, and normally that is so. But Yeshua did, and so did Peter—this was miraculous.

When we talk about science, I think that most people understand science as an objective and largely empirical process involving observation, analysis, hypothesizing, and testing. This is what Charles Thaxton, Walter Bradley, and Roger Olsen identified as "operations science." Yet, when it comes to the study of origins, earth history, and cosmology, science works in a very different way. The process is much more subjective, involves many unprovable assumptions, and is based on a great deal of extrapolation rather than direct observation. Thaxton, Bradley and Olsen call this "origins science." Unfortunately, most people—including most Scientists—do not understand or acknowledge this difference.

In reality, many conclusions of modern science are neither purely scientific nor genuinely empirical. The common perception that science deals only with verifiable facts and direct observation is utterly naive, as is the notion that Scientists are purely objective truth seekers.

Albert Einstein wrote, "Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire world, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution. It is, strictly speaking, a real factor in scientific research."

Despite this, many continue to think that what Scientists tell us is always true and reliable. Scientific analysis is assumed to be balanced and objective, and conclusions are presumed to be tested and proven. Indeed, many Christians appear to believe that what Scientists say is on par to what Yahweh says! It is not! There are times when operations science goes against Scripture. In my thinking, Scripture should always trump science.

So the disciples are out to sea in a bad storm. Why were they at sea? Yeshua made them get in the boat and go to sea. So I think we can see that sometimes the storm comes even when we have obeyed the Lord. And sometimes we are caught in a storm because we have disobeyed the Lord. Jonah is a good example.

But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." John 6:20 NASB

"It is I"—is a translation of ego eimi, which literally means, "I AM." Now some say that ego eime is just the normal way of identifying oneself, of saying, "It's me." It can be taken that way, but in this Gospel Lazarus uses this expression to make it clear that Yeshua is Yahweh. As we have seen, Lazarus is a master at hinting at the meaning below the surface. And the words Yeshua uses here to identify Himself could very legitimately be translated as "I am."Yeshua will use the words "I am" 23 times in this Gospel; in 7 metaphors [i.e., "I am the Bread of Life"], and five times in the claim of the divine name for Himself [ 6:20; 8:24; 8:58; 13:19; 18:6].

Out of the storm comes the comforting words, ego eimi, "Yahweh is here, do not be afraid." Yeshua manifests to His disciples that He is much more than a political messiah. What He is can be summed up only by the phrase "I am." These disciples, of course, knew that; they had placed their trust in Yeshua as Messiah; but they needed a reminder that their ideas about the person and work of the Messiah were not to be conditioned by the ideas of the general population, to which they had just been witness.

We need to realize that, to the Jewish mind, these were the very words that Yahweh used to introduce Himself to Moses. How was Yeshua from Nazareth able to perform these astounding, amazing, nature-controlling miracles? It was because He was Yahweh. This man was none other than God in human flesh; fully man, fully God.

Matthew tells us that Christ stopped the storm:

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!" Matthew 14:32-33 NASB

Lazarus' readers who knew their Scriptures might well remember that the sea often stands for chaos and disorder, and it is Yahweh who controls it and stills it (Job. 38:8-11; Psalm 29:3-4, 10-11; 65:5-7; 89:9; and 107:23-32).

Unlike the other 3 Gospels, Luke's account of the events that occurred on this night, is immediately followed by Yeshua's asking His disciples, "Who do you say that I am?" This incident should answer that question for them.

Notice what Mark tells us:

for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened. Mark 6:52 NASB

"Their heart was hardened"—hardened is the Greek word poroo, metaphorically it means: "to make the heart dull; to grow hard, callous, become dull, lose the power of understanding." This is a very strong word. It is used 5 times in the New Testament and 3 of them are referring to non-believers. And remember He is saying this of His apostles.

In spite of all that Yeshua had done earlier that day, heal the sick and feed 20,000 people, literally creating food, it didn't do it for the disciples they still didn't get it. So Yeshua gives them a private miracle to demonstrate to them who He was. He was the "I am" Yahweh.

Both Matthew and Mark end the incident here with Yeshua getting into the boat, the wind ceasing and calm being brought into the situation. Lazarus adds that the boat arrived immediately on the west side of the Lake:

So they were willing to receive Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. John 6:21 NASB

No wonder Matthew says, "And those who were in the boat worshiped Him, saying, 'You are certainly God's Son!'" Think about it. They see Yeshua walking on the water; He gets into the boat and every thing is calm, and suddenly they are no longer in the middle of the lake, but are at their destination. That is amazing. This is not your normal everyday stuff.

Some try to explain "immediately" by saying, "Perhaps with Yeshua in the boat, the remaining trip appeared to them to be a short one, or with the wind subdued, it did not take them long to reach land." Any of these explanations could account for John's description.

Immediately! If these words are to be taken literally, which I believe they are, then over three miles were traveled in an instant. Just as immediately as Yeshua reached out and saved Peter from drowning, just that quick they were at land. A miracle that defied the observable laws of space and time! Think of what this did to the disciples.

Is this teleporting? This may be hard to believe, but teleporting appeared in Jewish legends, probably ordinally rooted in biblical traditions about Elijah. Obadiah said to Elijah:

"It will come about when I leave you that the Spirit of the LORD will carry you where I do not know; so when I come and tell Ahab and he cannot find you, he will kill me, although I your servant have feared the LORD from my youth. 1 Kings 18:12 NASB

Obadiah believed that Yahweh would teleport Elijah to a different location:

So the Spirit lifted me up and took me away; and I went embittered in the rage of my spirit, and the hand of the LORD was strong on me. Ezekiel 3:14 NASB

The hand of Yahweh controls Ezekiel's movement. It also detaches him from his surroundings and transports him by the spirit to faraway places:

When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; and the eunuch no longer saw him, but went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he passed through he kept preaching the gospel to all the cities until he came to Caesarea. Acts 8:39-40 NASB

Azotus is about 34 miles from Gaza, and it was near Gaze that Philip met the eunuch.

So how many miracles do we have in this text? Miracle number one, Yeshua knows from over three miles away that the disciples are stuck in a fierce storm; Miracle number two, Yeshua walks on the water. Miracle number three, Peter walks on the water. Miracle number four, the storm stops when Yeshua gets in the boat. Miracle number five, they are immediately teleported to Capernaum. All of these miracles demonstrated Yeshua's equality with the Father, whom the writers of the Tanakh described as doing these very things. What a night for the disciples. Matthew records their response to these events:

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!" Matthew 14:32-33 NASB

What's unusual in this verse? Who was in this boat? Jewish men. And these Jewish men are "worshiping Him." For a Jew to worship anyone but Yahweh was a capital offence:

"You shall fear only the LORD your God; and you shall worship Him and swear by His name. Deuteronomy 6:13 NASB

Yeshua Himself said:

Then Yeshua said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, 'YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.'" Matthew 4:10 NASB

If the disciples are worshiping Yeshua, I think they understand that He is much more than a political messiah that the crowd thought He was. I think that they get that He is Yahweh. Yeshua has said it earlier:

so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. John 5:23 NASB

They didn't get this earlier, now they do. They are honoring the Son and therefor honoring the Father.

I think that we can safely say that the Exodus motif (following the Passover) was in the mind of Lazarus as he selected the details of this narrative. Notice the parallels of our text with Psalm 107:

They wandered in the wilderness in a desert region; They did not find a way to an inhabited city. They were hungry and thirsty; Their soul fainted within them. Psalms 107:4-5 NASB
For He has satisfied the thirsty soul, And the hungry soul He has filled with what is good. Psalms 107:9 NASB
Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters; Psalms 107:23 NASB
They have seen the works of the LORD, And His wonders in the deep. Psalms 107:24 NASB
For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, Which lifted up the waves of the sea. Psalms 107:25 NASB
They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits' end. Psalms 107:27 NASB
Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. Psalms 107:28 NASB
He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Psalms 107:29 NASB
Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven. Psalms 107:30 NASB

The disciples would have been familiar with this Psalm. What here is attributed to Yahweh is performed in front of them by Yeshua, the God-Man.

This is an awesome story of the deliverance of God from storm. But I must remind you that it is not always Yahweh's will to deliver His people from life's trials. He rescued His disciples from the fierce storm, and got them safely to their destination. But this is not always the case. God's servant John the Baptist lost his head to Herod. Yahweh delivered Peter from prison, but James was put to death. The writer of Hebrews put it this way:

who by faith conquered kingdoms, performed acts of righteousness, obtained promises, shut the mouths of lions, quenched the power of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, from weakness were made strong, became mighty in war, put foreign armies to flight. Women received back their dead by resurrection; and others were tortured, not accepting their release, so that they might obtain a better resurrection; Hebrews 11:33-35 NASB

The rapid transition to the thought of unrelieved suffering is very effective. Faith is not always rewarded in this life. Here is a group of people that didn't gain great victories out on the battlefield. They didn't perform great feats for God, but in my opinion, these are the real heroes. They trusted God when the day was dark, when the night was long, the suffering was great, and when there was no deliverance for them at all.

Believers, when deliverance in this life doesn't come, we need to trust Him and praise Him in the storm.

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