This was the 5th Sign Jesus did in the Gospel of John.
v15 Therefore when Jesus perceived that they were about to come and take Him by force to make Him king, He departed again to the mountain by Himself alone (to pray, see Matt 14:23, Mark 6:46). There are times when we need to be alone with God to find His will, to give us strength to face the pressures.
v16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea,
v17 got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum.
(In Matthew 14:22, Mark 6:45 we are told that Jesus had told the disciples to cross the sea). And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them (this is a trial of faith, when we are doing His will and problems hit and it seems dark and we can’t feel His Presence). Jesus wasn't with His disciples, but He was praying for them, and now He intercedes for us at the right hand of God.
v18 Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing (against them and they were struggling and in some danger - see Mark 6:48, Matt 14:24). When we start doing something for God, spiritual winds from satan may oppose us. Suddenly, a storm came down upon the disciples in the boat and the waves pushed them back. The sea represents natural, visible problems and circumstances, stirred up by the invisible winds (spiritual forces). But, if God calls us to do something, He will help us accomplish it. If we call upon Him, we will overcome by His power and make it to the other side. I am sure they were praying for help and God heard them.
v19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles (they were in the middle of the lake - see Mark 6:47, but Jesus had seen them in the moonlight, getting nowhere by their own strength - Mark 6:48).
At 3.00am, He came to help them, walking on the water (Matthew 14:25). Jesus sees us and what we are going through. He knows what we are facing and He comes to us in the trials of life when we pray: “they saw Jesus walking on the sea (here comes the answer to their prayer!) and drawing near the boat (Mark 6:48 says “He was about to pass them by!” You see, when we pray God immediately sends the answer, but we must receive the answer ‘into our boat’ or it will pass us by. We must have the confidence in God, to believe we receive the answer in our spirit
when we pray (Mark 11:24; 1John 5:14,15; James 1:5-8), then we will have the answer manifested in due course. Often God sends the answer, but people do not see it or are afraid of it. Jesus would have passed them by, for He respects our freewill. He will only come into our boat (our life) if invited. If we prefer to struggle on our own, He will let us do that.
“and they were afraid” (fear and unbelief can hinder us from receiving our answer by faith). The disciples were full of fear, believing He was a ghost, and they cried out in fear (Mark 6:49,50; Matthew 14:26).
v20 But He said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." He also told them to “take courage” (Matt 14:27, Mark 6:50), for it takes confidence to believe God sends a supernatural answer to prayer and to believe you receive it. He says to us: "Take courage. It is I; do not be afraid." We do not fear when we know He is with us and will not leave or forsake us.
v21 Then they willingly received Him into the boat,
and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going.
This is a miracle (the 6th Sign), giving us a wonderful picture of salvation.
We were struggling in our own strength, on the sea of life, trying to reach the other side (eternal life in God’s Kingdom) but failing. All seemed dark and hopeless, but as we start looking for God’s help, we see Jesus coming to us, drawing near. He has seen us and our troubles and wants to save us. Jesus, walking over the water is a picture of the risen Christ, who has overcome the gravity (force) of sin, satan and death. Sin tries to pull us down, but Jesus has overcome it. We need to receive Christ and His overcoming, resurrection power into our boat (our heart and life). He often draws near to save people, but they do not see Him or are afraid to receive Him. There was a storm of fear in the disciple’s hearts, but Jesus is the Prince of Peace, and as soon as He spoke to them, "It is do be not afraid."
As we listen to His words of love and assurance our fear goes and we ‘willingly received Him’ into our heart. When we invite Him in, He always comes in (Rev3:20). When we receive Him, peace comes (the wind then died down - Matthew 14:32, Mark 6:51), for we cease from our own works (our struggles to reach the other side), for when we have Christ we have eternal life: "immediately the boat reached the other side.” A miracle of instantaneous transportation! When we receive Him, we are immediately translated into the Kingdom of God and given eternal life (Col 1:12-14)! Then we worship Him as the Son of God (Matt 14:33)
We overcome through Christ in us. When we struggle to fulfil God's call and do His will, the power of the world is real, but Jesus has greater power (John 16:33). We can now overcome because the Overcomer lives in us (1John 2:14; 4:4; 5:4,5). If we have received Jesus, we are overcomers, for by faith we are united to His
overcoming life and have victory over all the power of the enemy.
Jesus walking on the water is a picture of His overcoming life. As He walked, it was God's power was holding Him up, not the water. It is impossible to walk on water and He did not really walk on the water, but on the Word and the Spirit of God. Jesus was not ‘under’ circumstances, He was an Overcomer - He walked by faith OVER the water. As He took each step by faith, He was upheld by a power greater than gravity.
Matthew 14:28-31 tells us how Peter also walked on the water. He shows us that we can share the overcoming life of Christ, and walk over the water like Jesus. Of course, Peter did not walk on the water, but on the Word of Christ. The power of the Word was holding him up (the world was made and is upheld by the Word of God). He is a picture of believers walking by faith on the Word. Peter realised that if it was Jesus walking on the water, He could transfer this power to His disciples, so that they could walk in the same way (v28). Peter knew that he too could walk by faith, if he had the Word from Jesus, for then he could walk on the Word. Peter was willing to put his faith into action, to leave the boat (the place of safety) and step out, and his faith pleased God. Presumption is to step out without a word from God but Peter knew he needed the Word to walk by faith.
Jesus gave him the word: “Come” (v29). One Word from God is all we need. The Word gave him faith (Romans 10:17). Peter stepped out on one word from Jesus and started to walk on the water toward Jesus (v29). His eyes were on Jesus and every step was a step of faith. As he made each step, the power of the Spirit was released to uphold him, as it is to us when we trust and obey God’s Word. We are all called to walk on the Word of God, and as we take each step by faith, God's power is released. We can put pressure on the Word of God and when we lean on it as we walk in faith, it will hold us up. There is a law (force) of sin and death trying to pull us down, but as we walk by faith there is a greater force (God's power) holding us up, a higher law in us (the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus) which sets us free from (overcomes) that law (Rom 8:2).
Peter’s faith He was fine while He looked at Jesus and trusted in His Word, but when he started looking at the wind and waves, he was afraid and began to sink (v30). This was foolish because he had already seen God’s power was greater.
In any case what difference did it make if the wind was blowing? It is not as if he could walk on calm water! Natural circumstances are irrelevant to whether the Word and Power of God will work or not, and they will overcome whatever the winds and waves are. Peter’s faith in Christ and His Word connected Him to the power of God which upheld him. But when his attention went off Jesus onto the natural problems and circumstances, when he saw the power of the wind, then unbelief and fear came in and he began to sink. He still had faith in his heart, as evidenced by the fact that he did not suddenly sink. The power of God was still flowing (in a measure) holding him up, but his unbelief (preoccupation with the natural realities, exalting them higher than God’s Word) and fear (expectation of evil based on unbelief that God’s power is insufficient) short-circuited God’s power. Of course as he began to sink, Christ’s Word faded out further from his consciousness and his unbelief and fear increased, accelerating the process. Peter’s sinking was not due to any lack in the Word or power of God, but because he allowed unbelief to come in and disconnect him from the Word of Christ and the power of the Spirit. There are evil forces in the world but God’s power is greater and we overcome by just keeping our eyes on Jesus. If we sink it is not because of the power of the opposing wind, but because of unbelief.
If we start to sink, like Peter, we should turn our eyes back to Jesus and call to Him for help (v30). He will lift us up to walk again (v31). Jesus said to him: “You of little faith, why did you allow doubt (thoughts that differ from God’s promise) into your heart” (v30). Peter did better than the others who did not walk by faith, but stayed in the boat! The problem was that the Word was not sufficiently established in Peter's heart. We need not only to know the Word, but to have it established strongly in us through constant meditation (Psalm 1), so that when the winds blow and the waves beat against our lives we are not moved from the Word in our heart and our eyes stay fixed on Jesus. With weak faith, we walk a bit, but when problems hit we start to sink. With strong faith we have decided to believe the Word whatever the circumstances. The Word is rooted in us and so when the wind blows we are not moved. When God gives us a Word , we need to establish it in our hearts, and then walk on it, acting as if it were true. As we do, God's power will uphold us. We we will walk on God's power, overcoming the gravity of sin, the winds of satan and the waves of opposition, as we look to Jesus, saying, "In all these things, we are more than conquerors through Christ who loves us" (Romans 8:37).