Studies in the Gospel of John- The Fifth Sign
I. Jesus Walking on Water
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” (John 6:16-29)
A. As we look at the signs recorded in the Gospel of John we will attempt to describe them, as Arthur Pink says, in three ways. 1. The Typical Significance 2. The Prophetic Application 3. The Practical Teaching.
B. When reading the Gospel of John always ask questions of the Holy Spirit, who is the author of the book through Apostle John. As this book records, He, the Holy Spirit, will lead us and guide us into all Truth.
II. The Practical Teaching
A. For us to understand all of the details of the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee we find the parallel story in Matthew 14:22-33. We discover that the reason the disciples left Jesus was because Jesus made His disciples get into the boat and go to the other side. (Matthew 14:22)
B. “…the seas arose because a great wind was blowing…” Such storms result from differences in temperatures between the seacoast and the mountains beyond. The Sea of Galilee lies 680 feet below sea level. It is bounded by hills, especially on the east side where they reach 2000 feet high. These heights are a source of cool, dry air. In contrast, directly around the sea, the climate is semi-tropical with warm, moist air. The large difference in height between surrounding land and the sea causes large temperature and pressure changes. This results in strong winds dropping to the sea, funneling through the hills. The Sea of Galilee is small, and these winds may descend directly to the center of the lake with violent results. When the contrasting air masses meet, a storm can arise quickly and without warning. Small boats caught out on the sea are in immediate danger. The Sea of Galilee is relatively shallow, just 200 feet at its greatest depth. A shallow lake is “whipped up” by wind more rapidly than deep water, where energy is more readily absorbed.
C. John tells us that they had rowed only three or four miles and Matthew tells us that it was in the fourth watch (3AM-6AM) of the night when Jesus went walking to them. The maximum length is 13 miles and the maximum width is 8 miles. They were right in the middle of the sea, and arguably had been rowing for more than 9 hours. The scripture tells us that the boat was tossed for the winds were contrary.
D. Jesus is walking on water. What we find in all of the signs in the Gospel of John is that Jesus is more powerful than the laws of nature and man, for He is the Creator of those Laws and therefore has authority over them. Jesus turns Water into Wine (Second Law of Thermodynamics), He heals by speaking the Word (Second Law of Motion), He commands healing on the Sabbath(Rabbinical Prohibition of Malakha), He feeds five thousand men with 5 loaves of Bread and two fish (First Law of Thermodynamics), and now He is walking on Water and upon arrival to the boat they are immediately at the other side (Archimedes’ Principle).
E. The disciples received Him into the boat and they were immediately on the other side.The people who were fed the day before came seeking for Jesus realizing that all the boats were accounted for, yet Jesus was not there. They got into boats and went to the other side and found Jesus. They questioned Him as to how He got there. Jesus then reveals their true motivation in seeking Him. They were hungry for more food, and it is within this context that He declares the “I am the Bread of Life!”
III. The Typical Significance
A. We are talking about the types and symbols of the event.
B. Boats or any vehicle for that matter tend to represent ministry taking place. It is the vehicle getting you to the purpose of God. The means by which you journey into His purpose.
C. Jesus made them get into the boat and cross the sea. The sea is representative of the multitudes of people. The disciples were headed to Capernaum Thayer Definition: Capernaum = “village of comfort”. As Abraham was on a pilgrimage looking for a city whose builder and maker was God so also the disciples were headed for the Village of Comfort where He dwells. We too are on that pilgrimage!
D. Great Winds and Waves came upon the Sea in the midst of their journey and it made it difficult to progress At times the disciples must have felt as if they would drown, but Jesus walked to them on the “troubled waters” of this life and saved them and delivered them to the other side.
E. Once again He used the phrase “It is I.” “eimi ego” The same phrase Jesus uses in John 8:58 where He declares that “before Abraham was, I AM.” He is Lord over the Winds and Waves and over the Seas of People and He is ever present to get them to the other side, His Village of Comfort!
F. Jesus tells the multitude that didn’t seek Him because they saw the signs but because they were hungry. He then tells them that the work of God is to believe on Him whom the Father has sent. That is the labor that brings food which endures!
IV. The Prophetic Application
A. With each sign we see the progression of the Gospel message within the time of the church age. We can track the events and significant markers that will take place during the time of Jesus’ heavenly intercessory ministry until the day He returns.
B. Within the sign of His walking on water, we see that Jesus commissions His disciples to venture out onto the Sea. While obeying the Living Christ they encounter trouble or tribulation. Though the origin of this tribulation starts in the heaven (wind) above them it affects the water upon which they are rowing. This is true of the disciples of Christ during the church age. In obedience to Jesus command, disciples will go out into the sea of humanity declaring the Gospel, as they do the enemy (principalities and powers in heavenly places) will blow, tempt, resist, and whip up the peoples of the earth to withstand the disciple’s progress. Jesus later tells the disciples “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)
C. Jesus manifests His power over the world by walking on it and then He comes to His disciples and takes them to the other side. Jesus will return in the midst of great tribulation and manifest His power over the Winds and Waves.
D. The only labor that will provide for the peoples is to believe in Jesus. Then they can enter the Village of Comfort too!