The Gospel of John

The Miraculous Event Goes Wrong,
Jesus Walks Upon The Water,

J. Deering,

The Gospel of John – Text Based Studies


The Miraculous Event Goes Wrong,
Jesus Walks Upon The Water,


Jesus Walks Upon The Water, 6:15-25

Jesus Withdraws, 6:15

15 So Jesus, perceiving that they were intending to come and take Him by force to make Him king, withdrew again to the mountain by Himself alone.

At the end of the meal that Jesus provided for the 5000+ men who had followed Him to Bethsaida (East), the people had proclaimed of Jesus, “This is truly the Prophet who is to come into the world” [6:14b]. Everyone had been excited with the late afternoon miracle, but it had been a very long day for Jesus. Sometime earlier, perhaps even that day, Jesus had received word of the death of His cousin, John the Baptist[1], and Jesus had withdrawn from the following crowd to rest and mourn. It was then that He felt compassion for the crowd and sought to miraculously feed them their supper.

At the end of the event, after their proclamation of His Messiahship, The crowd desires to hoist Him upon their shoulders and march to Jerusalem in order to proclaim Him king of Israel. But, Jesus has not finished His ministry. He has not fully evidenced or documented His right to be King, nor has He yet been able to fully proclaim His Gospel of Salvation to not only the Jew, but to the whole world – that every man, woman, and child, could – if they would – receive Him as the Christ. He has not yet even revealed the plan for His suffering and death upon the Cross. Without that death, there would be no bodily resurrection from the dead – and no salvation.

The crowd will yet call upon Him to enter into the city of Jerusalem, riding upon a donkey, with cheering crowds, thrown flowers, and palm branches laid upon the path before him – but not now.

Matthew alone records that Jesus, when they tried to force Him to go with them and make Him King, had sent them away.

Jesus sends the crowd and the disciples away, Matthew 14:22-23

22 Immediately He made the disciples get into the boat and go ahead of Him to the other side, while He sent the crowds away. 23 After He had sent the crowds away, He went up on the mountain by Himself to pray; and when it was evening, He was there alone.

And it is now, the end of the day, He is truly exhausted. Jesus withdraws to the high ground to be away from the crowd to rest, pray, and mourn for John the Baptist.


Jesus’ Disciples Leave for Capernaum in a boat – Without Him, 6:16-18

16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 and after getting into a boat, they started to cross the sea to Capernaum. It had already become dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. 18 The sea began to be stirred up because a strong wind was blowing.

John, the writer, weaves his story through a pattern of days of activity and periods of nighttime suspense. When John refers to “evening,” “night,” or “and it was dark,” he is emphasizing the suspenseful qualities that come with darkness. I’m sure we all can tell stories of events in our own lives where the suspense was heightened by including the fact that the event happened at night, in the dark. So it is with John. Throughout the remainder of his book keep your eyes open for these “clues” to impending suspenseful events.

And so, “when evening came,” and Jesus had lingered behind and sent the disciples back to Capernaum [on the western shore] in the boat in which they had arrived on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.


The Miracles of Walking on the water and Immediate Transport, during a storm at sea.

We’ll take a small diversion here and follow this story from the writings of Matthew, and Mark as they tell us of the power of faith.


Jesus is totally aware of His charges, Mark 6:16-48a

47 When it was evening, the boat was in the middle of the sea, and He was alone on the land. 48 Seeing them straining at the oars, for the wind was against them.

Jesus had yet to leave in order to join with His disciples. He had stayed behind to rest and pray. We should also notice that even while resting and praying He is visually conscious of His disciples – now at sea in a storm. If we would just believe this our lives could be transformed. To know He’s watching – always – can liberate us from our fears and enable us to overcome even those little sins which disable us every day.


The Disciples on their own in the midst of a storm, Matthew 14:24-27

24 But the boat was already a long distance from the land, battered by the waves; for the wind was contrary. 25 And in the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea. 26 When the disciples saw Him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” And they cried out in fear. 27 But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”

He’s always there, always caring, always with you in every situation. “Take courage, it is I; do not be afraid.”


Peter and “The Cost Of Discipleship,” Matthew 14:28-29a

28 Peter said to Him, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to You on the water.” 29 And He said, “Come!”…

Many years ago I was introduced to the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, and specifically his book “The Cost of Discipleship.” [2] The following excerpt starts on page 70 of the edition footnoted below. We join the book in the midst of a discussion of the importance to seeing that belief and obedience share a unity that should never be broken.


Step-1, The External first step of works (Bonhoeffer)

“Since, then, we cannot adequately speak of obedience as the consequence of faith, and since we must never forget the indissoluble unity of the two, we must place the one proposition that only he who believes is obedient alongside the other, the only he who is obedient believes. In the one case faith is the condition of obedience, and in the other obedience the condition of faith. In exactly the same way in which obedience is called the consequence of faith, it must also be called the presupposition of faith.

Only the obedient believe. If we are to believe, we must obey a concrete command. Without this preliminary step of obedience, our faith will only be pious humbug, and lead us to the grace which is not costly.

Everything depends on the first step. It has a unique quality of its own. The first step of obedience makes Peter leave his nets, and later get out of the ship; it calls upon the young man to leave his riches. Only this new existence, created through obedience, can make faith possible.

Step-2, The Internal step of Faith through Obedience (Bonhoeffer)

“Peter knows he dare not climb out of the ship in his own strength—his very first step would be his undoing. And so he cries, "Lord, bid me come to thee upon the waters," and Jesus answers: "Come." Christ must first call him, for the step can only be taken at his word.

This call is His grace, which calls him out of death into the new life of obedience. But when once Christ has called him, Peter has no alternative—he must leave the ship and come to him. In the end, the first step of obedience proves to be an act of faith in the word of Christ. But we should completely misunderstand the nature of grace if we were to suppose that there was no need to take the first step, because faith was already there. Against that we must boldly assert that the step of obedience must be taken before faith can be possible. Unless he obeys, a man cannot believe.


Matthew 14:28-29a, "And Peter answered Him and said, “Lord, if it is You, command me to come to you on the water,” and Jesus answered: "Come."

For Peter’s desire to become Faith, Peter needs to be obedient to Jesus’ call to him, Peter “Come!” Peter needs to GET OUT OF THE BOAT and COME. Then Obedience unites with belief and the two in unity are proclaimed as FAITH.

Whenever Jesus calls, remember Peter and the boat in the storm – “Peter, you need to get out of the boat in order to come to Me.” An old Bible professor of mine used to say concerning people seated in church, “in order to get away from your own stink, you need to get out of your pew!” God can do miraculous things with you, if….

 Peter’s Transition to Faith, Matthew 29b-31

And Peter got out of the boat, and walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But seeing the wind, he became frightened, and beginning to sink, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” 31 Immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and took hold of him, and *said to him, “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”

 Jesus Joins the Disciples In The Boat, Mark 6:51a

And He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped:


The Miracle of Immediate Transport, John 6:21b

and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.

Mark 6:51b-52

and they were greatly astonished, 52 for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened.

Matthew 6:33

And those who were in the boat worshipped Him, saying, “You are certainly God’s Son”

Through this experience the disciples advanced one more step in their appreciation of Jesus’ person. The double miracle of walking upon the water, and the instant delivery that brought them to shore of Capernaum, acknowledged Jesus to be “such a person as the Son of God.” I would be a while yet before they would confess Him to be “The Son of the Living God,” however [Matthew 16:16].

 John 6:22-24, Back on the Eastern Shore of the Sea of Galilee

22 The next day the crowd that stood on the other side of the sea saw that there was no other small boat there, except one, and that Jesus had not entered with His disciples into the boat, but that His disciples had gone away alone. 23 There came other small boats from Tiberias near to the place where they ate the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor His disciples, they themselves got into the small boats, and came to Capernaum seeking Jesus.

Healings at Gennesaret, Mark 6:53-56 [Matthew 14:34-36]
53 When they had crossed over they came to land at Gennesaret, and moored to the shore. 54 When they got out of the boat, immediately the people recognized Him, 55 and ran about that whole country and began to carry here and there on their pallets those who were sick, to the place they heard He was. 56 Wherever He entered villages, or cities, or countryside, they were laying the sick in the market places, and imploring Him that they might just touch the fringe of His cloak; and as many as touched it were being cured.

Gennesaret is a village between Capernaum and Besthsaida, apparently the landing site for Jesus’ boat full of desciples. These villages are quite near each other and it didn’t take long for the report of the location of Jesus in Gennesaret.

[1] Matthew 14:3-12, and Mark 6:17-29 report the imprisonment and death of John The Baptist.

[2] Bonhoeffer, Dietrich, February 4, 1906 – April 9, 1945, “The Cost of Discipleship,” The Macmillan Company, NYNY, 1973 – edited for this study. He was a German Lutheran pastor, theologian and anti-Nazi dissident. He was imprisoned in the Flossenburg Concentration Camp and executed on April 9, 1945 – only a few days before the camp was freed by allied forces.