The Seven Signs: Walking On Water (John 6:15-21)

More than 1200 species of animals have the ability to walk on water ( Some are classified as “gliders.” These are tiny creatures (such as: water striders, fisher spiders and mosquitoes.) Their bodies can be supported by the surface tension of the water. Others are classified as “slappers.” These are larger creatures (such as: basilisk lizards, water birds including the western grebe and ducks, and even dolphins.) Their feet or tail must be fast enough to keep them out of the water. The basilisk lizard actually moves its feet quickly enough to create a small air pocket beneath its feet which helps lessen psi. In the case of the dolphin, it must move its tail with enough force to lift its body up from the water.

Man cannot naturally walk on water. MythBusters Season 5 “Episode 9” made multiple attempts using various devises to try to successfully walk on water. All were total failures.

Now let us consider the fifth sign. Jesus walks on water.

The Setting

Jesus had miraculously fed over five thousand people (John 6:1-14 cf. Matthew 14:21). The sentiment of the multitude was “This is truly the prophet who is come into the world” [John 6:14 cf. 1:21; 1:25; 7:40-41 (The O.T. foretold of such a prophet Deuteronomy 18:15-19 cf. Acts 3:22-26)]. In fact, they wanted to take Jesus “by force and make him king” (John 6:15).

 Think of an earthly king with the powers of Jesus. What a welfare program! He could feed the people. Herbert Hoover once spoke of a “chicken in every pot”, such was popular. But this man, Jesus, could miraculously supply food. What military possibilities! An army needs food. It travels on it stomach. Perhaps, this man could liberate them from Rome. After all, hadn’t Moses fed their ancestors in the wilderness? And not only that, hadn’t Moses liberated them from Egypt? Who since Moses had miraculously feed so many?

Jesus knew their thoughts (John 6:15 cf. 2:25). Their thoughts were not in agreement with his ministry. He had not come into the world to serve as an earthly king (cf. John 18:36; Luke 17:21). He sent the twelve away by boat to Bethsaida, and he also dispersed the crowd (Mark 6:45). He went to pray (John 6:15 cf. Mark 6:46).

The twelve left at about 6 p.m. (John 6:16; Matthew 14:22-23). The distance across the Sea of Galilee was not far. It’s greatest width is eight miles, and it is only about thirteen miles in length. Yet, hours later, at least 3 a.m., they still had not made it to their destination (Matthew 14:25: “fourth-watch” is from 3 a.m. til 6 a.m.). A great wind and turbulent sea was against them and they had made only about four miles (John 6:18-19; Matthew 14:24; Mark 6:48). They were “straining at rowing” (Mark 6:48). [Fierce winds are common on the Sea of Galilee. Cool air rushes down the mountains and into the warm below sea-level areas of the Sea of Galilee. Oliver Greene has commented, “Historians tell us that in that day sudden, terrific violent storms would sweep down upon the Sea of Galilee almost without warning – and the same is true even today. The sea is surrounded by mountain gorges, which seem to act as a funnel to draw the wind down out of the hills upon the little sea” (The Gospel According to Mathew, vol. 2, p. 232)]. They may have been blown off course toward Capernaum (so explains Guy Woods, Commentary on John, p. 120). Remember that these men, include at least four who were experienced fisherman, were not novices.

The Sign

Jesus came to them walking on the sea (John 6:19). His appearance startled them (John 6:19 cf. Matthew 14:25-26; Mark 6:48-49). He comforted them saying, “It is I; do not be afraid” (John 6:19). He even permitted Peter to join him on the water (Matthew 14:28-ff). When he entered the boat, the wind ceased (Matthew 14:32; Mark 6:51) and “immediately the boat was at the land” (John 6:21). Previously, he had rebuked the winds and sea, producing a great calm, and they had said “who can this be, that even the winds obey him?” (Matthew 8:23-27). Now, they said “Truly you are the Son of God” (Matthew 14:33).


  1. Several times Jesus is pictured as withdrawing from others to be alone with God in prayer (Mark 6:46 cf. Luke 22:41). We all need time alone with our God (see Matthew 6:6). Let us pray frequently. Let us pray with unguarded openness to Him, the kind of prayer which can’t be done in public.
  2. Jesus once spent all night in prayer (Luke 6:12). This may be another occasion of many hours being spent in prayer (Matthew 14:23 cf. 14:25). We each should spend time with God, pouring out our hearts to Him. If Jesus thought that He needed this, how much more do we? Let us pray with purpose and fervor.
  3. Even nature was put in obedience to Jesus. King Canute was a Danish king who ruled over England (1016-1035 A.D.), Denmark (1019-1035) and Norway (1028-1035 A.D.). He grew tired of sycophants (yes-men) and decided to teach his officers a lesson. He had his chair brought down to the water at low tide. He asked “Do you think it will stop if I give the command?” They said “Give the order, O Great King, and it will obey”. The King answered “Very well Sea, I command you to come no further! Surf, stop your rolling! Surf, stop your pounding! Do not touch my feet!” Naturally, it didn’t work. The King then said “well, my friends, it seems I do not have quite so much power as you have believed. Perhaps, you have learned something today. Perhaps, now you will remember there is only one king who is all-powerful, and it is he who rules the sea and holds the ocean in the hollow of his hand. I suggest you reserve your praises for him” (William J. Bennett, The Book of Virtues, p. 67-68).

About Bryan Hodge

I am a minister and missionary to numerous countries around the world.
This entry was posted in Jesus, Miracles, Nature, Seven signs, Signs, Textual study and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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