45 Immediately Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side to Bethsaida, while He Himself was sending the crowd away. 46 After bidding them farewell, He left for the mountain to pray. 47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. 48 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. 49 But when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; 50 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.” 51 Then He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, 52 for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.
Surprisingly, during Mark’s account of Jesus walking on water we do not read about the interaction between Him and Peter. It is, however, well documented in Matthew and you can read about it here. Two interesting things are mentioned in this account that we don’t normally pay attention to.
The first part is that Jesus was going to walk on by! He really had no intention of getting in the boat; after all He was walking on the water, He didn’t need a boat! But why would He just walk past the boat and not join His disciples? It was a test. Jesus was testing their resolve, their faith, and their spiritual strength. Not only was Jesus walking by the boat, but it was a difficult night of boating. The Sea of Galilee, because of the surrounding terrain, is known for it’s choppy waters, windy conditions, and sudden storms. The disciples were struggling in their boat because they were relying upon their own physical strength instead of God’s. The disciples believed that Jesus was a ghost walking on the water and were terrified. Should sons and daughters of the One True God be afraid of ghosts?
Mark records that when Jesus calmed the winds they were utterly astonished for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves. This is a very revealing sentence. The disciples were astonished because they have not yet learned to trust God and therefore cannot see His Kingdom. This at least gives us hope in the realization that living in the Kingdom of God and seeing it is a growth process. It’s not like if it doesn’t happen at your rebirth you just have to go without that level of faith. In Matthew’s account (he was actually in the boat when this happened), he records Jesus exhorting Peter for having too little of faith which is why he started sinking out in the water.
Mark’s closing statement about this incident is that the disciples’ heart was hardened. Notice the language tense? He mentions 1 heart for the group of men. It wasn’t that their individual hearts were hardened; it wasn’t even that they were all a bunch of jerks (another way of interpreting it). The issue here is that their collective belief and faith in God was dull. The original Greek word used here is poroo, which is meant to signify to lose the power of understanding. The disciples at this point still were not getting it. Now let us think about what has transpired so far:
- Jesus preached the Kingdom of God has come, to repent and believe
- He has cast out demons in their presence
- They asked Jesus to heal a sick woman and watched her be healed
- He cleansed a leper, the sickest of the sick in their society
- He forgave the sins of the paralytic and they watched him walk away from his mat
- He dumbfounded the Pharisaical order with wisdom and power
- He healed a man’s withered hand
- Unclean spirits bowed in His presence
- They witnessed Him calming storms in the very sea they now were in
- He commissioned these same men to go out and heal the sick and cast out demons
- They had just left the incident of feeding the 5,000
That is a whole lot of proof of the power of God and they still don’t get it? What does this reveal to us? The Kingdom of God isn’t just magic tricks. His Kingdom isn’t about healing, casting out demons, and calming storms. The Kingdom of God is about trusting Him. It is about recognizing, honoring, and being obedient to the King! Our lack of understanding is a direct result of continually trying to see things with our physical eyes and processing them with our worldly minds. We need to recognize that God’s Kingdom is not of this world. We need to understand that God isn’t subject to the rules of this world (time, gravity, fluid dynamics, meteorology, etc.) because He created it all! They are subject to His will. We need to do more than just recognize this principle; we need to live it out. We need to understand that there is a higher order and power to this world than we see. How do we do that? James, the brother of Jesus, wrote:
[quote]5 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him. 6 But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind[/quote].
We want the wisdom to understand these things, so we must ask God to reveal them to us and trust that He will do it. I have a feeling that when James wrote that, he was speaking from experience, as he didn’t always believe Jesus was the Christ. But, being raised in a faithful home, he sought God’s wisdom and God revealed to him who Jesus really is. Let us fight to no longer be hardened of heart, but full of God’s wisdom. Let us no longer be of little faith but trust God for more and understand that He is not just a figment of our imagination, but truly the creator of everything. If we do that, if we realize there is a realm and understanding above our own, we just might be able to walk on water.