Jesus Walks on Water (Matthew 14:23-33; Mark 6:46-52; John 6:16-21)

Submitted by admin on Fri, 2008-02-15 12:23.

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Late at night Jesus finished praying and looked down on the Sea of Galilee. A considerable distance from the shore, he saw the boat in which the disciples were. With a strong, unfavorable wind creating a rough sea, the boat made little progress. (Matthew 14:23, 24; Mark 6:46-48; John 6:18) Jesus descended from the mountainside and began to walk on the water.

During the fourth night watch (between three and six in the morning), the boat was about three or three and a half miles from the shore, and the disciples were struggling to row it against the wind. Fright seized them when they saw someone walking on the water in their direction and about to pass them by. Thinking that they were beholding a phantom, they cried out in fear. Then they heard Jesus’ reassuring words, “Take courage. [It is] I. Fear not.” (Matthew 14:25-27; Mark 6:48-50; John 6:19, 20; see the Notes section for comments on John 6:19.)

“Lord, if it is you,” Peter spoke up, “tell me to come to you upon the waters.” “Come!” said Jesus, and Peter stepped out upon the sea. When, however, his attention shifted from Jesus to the wind and its effect on the water, he became fearful, began to sink, and then shouted, “Lord, save me!” Jesus at once reached out with his hand, took hold of him, and said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?” (Matthew 14:28-31; see the Notes section for additional comments.)

After Jesus and Peter entered the boat, the storm ended. Amazed and deeply moved by what they had witnessed, the disciples fell to their knees, prostrated themselves before Jesus, and said, “Truly you are the Son of God.” From then onward, they no longer struggled with the oars while making little progress. (Matthew 16:32, 33; Mark 6:51) In no time, they reached the western shore. (John 6:21; see the Notes section for additional comments.)

Mark 6:52 indicates that the disciples had not comprehended the significance of the miracle involving the loaves. Their “heart” or mental perception remained dull. It appears that the apostles saw each miracle as a separate event and did not draw conclusions about other areas in which Jesus would be able to manifest divine power. Although they had witnessed the miraculous feeding of thousands with just five loaves and two fishes, it did not occur to them that the sea could not prevent Jesus from joining them. Therefore, for them to see Jesus walking on water should not have been something completely unimaginable.


According to John 6:19, the boat was about “twenty-five or thirty stadia” from the shore. A stadium is a linear measure of about 607 feet, and so the distance would have been between approximately three and three and a half miles.

Peter’s experience reveals that faith is maintained by keeping focused on Jesus, fully trusting him. Whenever troubling external factors begin to divert one’s attention, fear can take over and displace faith. Still, as in Peter’s case, the Son of God will not abandon us when we cry out in our distress.

A weak faith can easily be supplanted by fear and superstition. Whenever Jesus passes by (as when the truth about him comes to one’s attention) and there is no positive response to his voice, something that could strengthen faith may be perceived as unpleasant, troubling, or even terrifying. If, however, individuals hear his voice and then recognize and welcome him, they are freed from fear, superstition, and misapprehension. Like the apostles, they are moved to acknowledge, “Truly you are the Son of God.”

According to John 6:21, the boat “immediately” arrived at the land or the western shore. Because of viewing the term “immediately” in a very literal sense, numerous commentators have concluded that this was yet another miracle. It is more likely, however, that the term describes the progress of the trip in relation to the situation before Jesus joined the apostles.