Take a Walk on the Water

Pastor Jo Grossheim

The gospel story this morning about Jesus walking on water occurs right after the feeding of the five thousand. Jesus sends his disciples on ahead and goes "up onto the mountain" to pray by himself. The disciples get into trouble. Did they call out to Him? We aren't told. We know from the scriptures that they had previously experienced Jesus calming the storm, so they could have been expressing among themselves the wish that Jesus were there. In Isaiah 65 we are told that God answers prayer before we utter it. Jesus was on earth to manifest God, so there is no doubt that Jesus did know the disciples had encountered a problem.

Usually we make a really big deal about Jesus walking on water. In no way do I discount that, but the point of the story is that Jesus comes to us no mater what the obstacles. In the Gospel story, the disciples don't recognize Him-now isn't that just like us? We get into some kind of difficulty, and we don't recognize our spiritual help when it is right in front of our face!!! It is Peter who says, "If it is really you Lord, let me walk on the water too." Can't you just envision the scene? Jesus may be a little amused at Peter's immature actions. He sees Jesus walking on the water and like a child, says, "Me too, me too, I want to walk on the water too." Jesus says, "OK, come to me." like a baby taking its first steps.

Think about that-how a baby will stand up and toddle to you. You stand with your arms outstretched to the child. The child, seeing those outstretched arms, has faith. As long as the child maintains eye contact, it steps toward you. However; if it becomes distracted, down it goes. That is the vision I have of Peter. He let his fear distract him from the Christ.

There are those, even great theologians, who explain away the miracle of walking on water. One such explanation is that Jesus was really swimming out to the disciples, grew tired, and was treading water to rest. The disciples saw a head bobbing on the water and were frightened--until Jesus called out to identify himself. When Peter jumped into the water, he couldn't swim and Jesus saved him. To that, I say, "Ho hum, here we go again, explaining away the miracles."

There is a problem with the story geographically and possibly with the translation of the Greek word for "on." It may not have meant on top of. In our own language we have a similar expression when we say that we own a house "on" the water, or that something "sits on the water." What we really mean is that it is next to the water, fronts on the water, is build on the beach, or something like that; so some say that Jesus was really walking along the edge of the water on the beach.

Our scripture today ended with verse 33. In verse 34 it says that they went to Gennesaret. That land is thought, by some, to have been north along the shore of the lake, not across the lake, so the disciples might have been rowing close to shore. A figure walking on the beach in the dark and rain could have looked ghostly and they would not have recognized Jesus.

To explain away stories with which most of us grew up is dismaying. It seems to rip away part of our childhood. It is sort of like learning there is no Santa Clause or Easter Bunny. But-like those wonderful myths, there is true meaning, no matter the truth to the story. I personally love the miracles of Jesus and I chose to believe He walked on top of the water. However; it doesn't really matter if it literally happened or not. In this lifetime we will never know what happened on that dark, stormy night over 2000 years ago. What is the use of even arguing or wondering about it? Every story in the Bible has a deep, spiritual meaning and this is what we must look for.

In this lesson we are assured that:

  • Jesus comes to us in our darkest, stormiest times.
  • He knows our problems and needs even before we call on Him.
  • There is no obstacle that Christ does not overcome.
  • When we recognize Him, we will see Him holding his arms toward us to keep us from sinking.
  • If we keep our eyes on Him and don't get distracted we will always be rescued and get to where we need to go.
  • And finally, when we reach out to another in Christ's name, we too, walk on water.


Read more sermons by Pastor Jo Grossheim