Halim Suh speaks on Mark 6:45-52
Series: The Gospel of Mark
The miracle of Jesus walking on water is not just something biblical scholars and devout Christians know. It’s a story that almost everyone knows. Here’s the problem with famous miracles like this one. We tend to focus on the act itself. However, every time you read the Bible and see Jesus doing something amazing, you have to ask yourself why he did it. Jesus had a purpose for everything that he did, including miracles. They are called signs, because they’re pointing us to truth.
There are two purposes to why Jesus walked on water:
• To reveal His divinity
• To bring His divinity near to us.
Revealing His Divinity
First purpose was to show us His divinity. He wanted to show His disciples He was God. This was a truth they still didn’t understand.
The disciples were out on the middle of a four-mile wide lake. On a normal day, it would take four hours to row across it. It was the fourth watch of the night, which means it’s between 3am and 6am. The disciples had set out right after dinner. Most likely they had been rowing for nearly eight hours and still found themselves in the middle of the lake.
The storm they’re painfully trying to make headway on is a picture of the storm that was going on in their hearts and minds.
Verse 52 tells us they couldn’t understand about the loaves (from the previous miracle of Jesus feeding the five thousand) and their hearts were hardened.
They understood Jesus miraculously broke the loaves so hungry people would be satisfied. They didn’t understand that Jesus Himself was the bread of life and He Himself must be broken so hungry souls would be satisfied. They understood Jesus had power, but didn’t understand He was power. They understood Jesus was from God, but didn’t understand Jesus Himself was God.
So they found themselves in danger. The external danger of the storm is just a picture of the internal danger of not really knowing Jesus. Their physical struggling and painful attempt to make headway through the storm was a picture of their spiritual struggle in trying to understand who Jesus really was.
That is a common danger we face today.
The disciples were always around Jesus, His teaching, and His kingdom work. However, they were still missing who He was. That is the danger we face. There is a way to always be around Jesus without ever really knowing Him.
Sunday worship service, Bible studies, missional communities are all good things. But, there’s a way for us to be around these good things without ever really getting to know the best thing, Jesus Himself.
The danger is maybe we’re serving Jesus and you know all about Him, but you don’t really know Him. In a very real way, we’re in the boat with the disciples, painfully trying to make headway from the storm.
But then, in the midst of the disciples not understanding and their hearts being hardened, Jesus walked on water.
We too need Jesus to walk on water.
And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them. Mark 6:48 (ESV)
The disciples were physically drained from rowing against the wind and waves. They were spiritually drained for having no categories for understanding who this person Jesus was. Suddenly, Jesus came walking on water and meant to pass by them.
We must ask the question why did Jesus walk on water? We know He had a purpose behind everything He did.
Jesus wanted to show them His divinity. He wanted to show them He was God in all the fullness of His glory.
Jesus was answering the question the disciples had asked the last time they were in a boat and caught in a storm. They were caught in a storm, afraid for their lives. They woke Jesus up and He rebuked the wind and waves. The storm was made calm. The disciples then ask whom this guy even the wind and waves obeyed. He was answering that question. He was saying, “I am God.”
Mark was intentionally doing something here when he states Jesus meant to pass by them. He was using the same language used in Exodus 33:19, when God passed by Moses.
Moses was having a meeting with God. God told him he had found favor in His sight and He knew him by name. Moses made an astonishing request. He asked God to show him His glory.
Moses said, “Please show me your glory.” 19 And he said, “I will make all my goodness pass before you and will proclaim before you my name ‘The Lord’... Exodus 33:18-19 (ESV)
Moses asked God to show him His glory. God answered by doing two things.
First, He said He would make all His goodness pass before him. The exact same word is used by Mark when talking about Jesus passing by the disciples in the boat.
Second, He said He would proclaim His name before him. His name is the LORD. Which literally means Yahweh, which means. “I am”.
What did Jesus say to the disciples after He had passed by them in all His glory?
but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Mark 6:49-50 (ESV, emphasis added)
He said, “It is I”. The Greek meaning is I AM.
Jesus walking on water was not just Him showing off. He was letting His entire divine glory pass by the disciples, just as God did for Moses. Just as God proclaimed His name as Yahweh, as I AM, Jesus also proclaimed His name as I AM.
Jesus walked on water to reveal His divinity.
Bringing His Divinity Near to Us
When you look at what God does for Moses in Exodus and what Jesus does for His disciples in Mark, its incredibly similar. Both Moses and the disciples are being shown God’s glory and divinity. But it’s also wonderfully different. It’s different in two ways.
1. Belief vs. Unbelief
God revealed the glory of His divinity to Moses when he was walking in the best manner he knew. Moses wasn’t perfect, but he was living in faith, obedience and intimacy with God.
Jesus revealed His divinity to the disciples when they were unbelieving, when their hearts were hardened.
This is good news for us.
Sometimes we think the only way God is going to come near to us is when we’re living in perfect faith and obedience, if we’re having time in the Word everyday, sharing the gospel with others and not sinning.
Jesus will cross any barrier to meet with us.
Not just when we’re living in obedience, but also when we’re in the darkest of times and struggles.
As the disciples were struggling with unbelief, they thought Jesus was impossibly far off. They knew He was with them the last time they were struggling against a storm, because He was sleeping in the boat. However, this time, they feared He was far off. It’s the same for us. Sometimes when we struggle, we know Jesus is right there with us. However, other times, we fear that He’s absent and impossibly far off.
The reality is that nothing can separate you from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. He will walk on water to come to you. He does this to show you that there’s no barrier, no amount of shame or sin that will separate you from His love.
The thing that is wonderfully different between the story of Moses and the disciples is Jesus is willing to come near to them. To us. Not just when we’re filled with faith and obedience, but also when we’re filled with unbelief and doubt.
2. Far versus Near
The second way the two stories are different is how they revealed Their divinity. In Exodus, God takes Moses, hides and shields him and then passes by him. Then He removes His hand and allows Moses to get a glimpse of Him after He’s passed by. God only showed Moses His back.
But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for man shall not see me and live.” 21 And the Lord said, “Behold, there is a place by me where you shall stand on the rock, 22 and while my glory passes by I will put you in a cleft of the rock, and I will cover you with my hand until I have passed by. 23 Then I will take away my hand, and you shall see my back, but my face shall not be seen.” Exodus 33:20-23( ESV)
God passed by and revealed His divinity to Moses at a distance and only in part.
for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounde. Mark 6:50-51 (ESV)
Jesus revealed His divinity by coming near to them. He walked on water, proclaimed His name, “I AM”, and then got into the boat with them.
No matter how hard life gets or what you’re struggling with, Jesus has walked on water for you. He has crossed that impossible barrier that separates you from him. He is the perfect high priest who can empathize with you in all of your weaknesses.
Not only that, but He has stepped into the boat with you.
Jesus walked on water for two purposes:
1. To reveal His divinity.
2. To bring His divinity near to us.
What happens to a person when Jesus reveals Himself in that way? John 6 tells us. When Jesus and his disciples finally make it to the shore, the people that have just been fed have walked across the lake and are waiting for them. Jesus tells them something very difficult. He says they didn’t come seeking Him because of who He was. Rather they came seeking Him because of what He did for them.. He tells them if they really want to follow Him, they have to believe and know that He is the true bread of heaven. Unless they eat of His flesh and drink of His blood, they can have no part of Him.
Read John 6:41-66.
People refused to see Jesus as God. They walked away and He let them. The condition of the disciples out on the lake, not understanding the power of who Jesus was, was the same as the people who had previously walked away. But since they were His, He didn’t let them walk away. He walked on water and came to them.
So Jesus said to the Twelve, “Do you want to go away as well?” 68 Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life, 69 and we have believed, and have come to know, that you are the Holy One of God.” John 6:67-69 (ESV)
Jesus met with His disciples on that stormy lake in such a way that caused those who once were hard of heart to be able to say, “Jesus, where else are we going to go?” It caused them, who were once unbelieving, to be able to believe.
If you’re in Christ, he will not let you go. He will come to you. Our security is not dependent upon our ability to never doubt or struggle, but His ability to walk on water and come to us over and over.