John is intentional about each story he tells. Consider the size of John’s gospel and then think about all the things Jesus did in three years. John had plenty of stories to pull from. So when we read his gospel we need to realize that John carefully chose each one of these stories to make a point.
That means every story is told to communicate something specific. John doesn’t haphazardly pick and choose. He deliberately recounts each story with Holy Spirit intention so that we his readers can know who Jesus is.
Today we talk about Jesus walking on water. This is part six you can find the first five here.
Let’s dig in.
Our sign is found in John 6:16-21. Stop and read it.
This miracle is intimately connected to the previous one; it happened in the same day. Jesus has demonstrated his ability to meet the needs of his disciples. He feeds a multitude with just a boy’s lunch. And now evening has come and, “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.” (John 6:16-17) It’s important to note here that Jesus is holding back.
He spent the day teaching and feeding thousands of people and now it’s late. John tells us a few verses earlier that Jesus has withdrawn to the mountain because the crowds wanted to take him by force and make him king. And that wasn’t part of Jesus’ plan. But being the good teacher that he is he uses every moment to instruct. Jesus is about to make a point. Earlier that day Jesus worked closely with his disciples but now he separates himself from them and this is the deeper meaning of the sign.
Jesus’ disciples find themselves at sea in a storm, “The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.” (John 6:18) This is a situation that the disciples wouldn’t like. In Jewish thought at the time bodies of water were seen as signs of chaos. Think back to the creation story when the earth was covered in water. It was described as empty and void until God’s spirit showed up. So bodies of water carried the idea of the wide, void, and empty place without God’s spirit.
So when John writes that the disciples were frightened he wasn’t being literary he was being literal.
And this is where John is being deliberate. He writes, “they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat.” (John 6:19) Go back to the creation story again. The water was a sign of chaos and just like the Holy Spirit, Jesus is walking over it. Jesus walks on the chaos through the storm. That’s the sign. Jesus is our peace.
But it’s more than that he calls us into his peace, “But he said to them, ‘It is I; do not be afraid’.” (John 6:20) Jesus calls the disciples to join him in not fearing the stormy sea. And likewise Jesus is inviting us not to fear the storms in our lives because he is with us.
John’s deeper truth is that even though at times it seems that Jesus is far from us. He is close by ready to lead us to safety. John is pointing to Jesus as our peace. This further deepens the connection between the feeding of the 5,000 and walking on the water. Jesus not only supplies our needs but also provides our peace.