Why Did Jesus Walk on the Water?

by Lester Young

Now take careful note, that question is not asking anything about how the Lord Jesus walked on water. Today we’re just going to focus on the much simpler concept of why He did it. Because, to be totally honest, I don’t have the first clue as to how such a phenomenon was accomplished; physically, scientifically or intellectually speaking. But then, when you get right down to it, what does that matter anyway? Why waste time wondering ‘how’ when ‘why’ is a much more relevant and useful topic to discuss?

In order to obtain a reliable initial direction in our search, we need to remind ourselves of one very important fundamental that Jesus always adhered to: He said and did only what He was directed to by His heavenly Father (John 5:19, 30; 8:28-29). Nothing more, nothing less. It’s how He lived – and continues to live – His life (and as children and imitators of God it’s how we should be living ours, too [Ephesians 5:1]).

Okay then, using that logic, we can answer your question directly and say that Jesus walked on the water because His Father told Him to. Well, yes, you could. But if you simply jump straight over to that conclusion from where we are right now, there’s a strong possibility you’d miss another very important point. Instead, let’s ease off the gas just a little bit and take a few moments to thoroughly enjoy the journey.

Think back on the circumstances of that most unusual day. Actually, the “walking-on-water” thing was indeed just the culmination of a 24-hour period chock full of miracles. If you remember, Jesus and His twelve-man ministry staff had started the day just trying to take a bit of a breather. But the people of the area found out where they’d gone and proceeded to descend upon them in outrageous numbers. Of course, when He saw them coming, Jesus received them graciously and (as usual) started teaching them about the Kingdom of God. Well, low and behold – and as was wont to happen when He was around – a massive and miraculous healing session broke out which continued throughout the day and on into the evening! (Matthew 14:13-15; Mark 6:30-35; Luke 9:10-12)

Well, that was just the beginning; because when dinnertime arrived, there was a crowd of at least 5,000 hungry stomachs surrounding the Lord. And you know Him: He certainly wasn’t going to turn anybody away in that state. Now, we can rightly conjecture the actual number of folks in attendance at that impromptu teaching service-turned-healing revival-and-now-outdoor banquet was much more likely to be in the 15,000-to-20,000-or-more range, since that official registry of 5,000 was attributed only to adult men and didn’t take into account the women and children there also. And that just makes the multiplication of those few fish sandwiches they had on hand even more astounding (Matthew 14:15-21; Mark 6:35-44; Luke 9:12-17).

It’s here that we should take particular notice of a verse that might at times get glossed over because of all the action going on before and after it. In Matthew 14:22 (also Mark 6:45), Jesus issues a direct order to His disciples to get into a boat and go on ahead of Him over to the other side of the sea. Why would He do that? Well, we already know that He only did what His Father told Him to do. So we can surmise here that the Father told Jesus He wanted Him and His boys over on the other side of the water. And Jesus therefore relayed that order to His crew. Simple.

While the guys went on ahead of Him, Jesus broke the camp meeting and sent the people away in peace. Then He took the opportunity of quiet and solitude that had presented itself and spent several hours in prayer (Matthew 14:23). Now here’s where the plot thickens: It’s around three o’clock in the morning by the time Jesus has finished praying and is ready to head over to where God told Him to go. But there are no more boats on hand to ferry Him across; as a matter of fact, the disciples had taken the only boat that had been in the vicinity the whole day (John 6:22-25). And at this time of night, there was no calling a taxi and the city bus had already made its final run of the day. In other words, there was no way for Jesus to get where He needed to go.

But for some odd reason, the Lord didn’t let that stop Him. He knew what His Father had told Him to do, and He had made up His mind to do it. He’d decided it didn’t matter that there were no boats, taxis or buses to get Him there. God told Him to go to the other side and that’s where He was going, period! Jesus knew that if He obeyed God’s direction and trusted Him for the outcome (including His own welfare), God would see to it that His Plan would be successfully carried out (Philippians 2:13). He knew that the Father would meet Him where His own physical strength ended and take care of anything else that needed doing, regardless of whether or not it was “possible” in the natural (Psalm 138:8; Jeremiah 32:17; Zechariah 4:6; John 14:10). The fact that He had to physically walk across some water to get where He needed to go was of no real relevance to Him obediently doing what He was told to do. “God told Me to go over there to the other side, and right across this water is the straightest route to get there. Who cares that there isn’t a boat to take me?! My Father said ‘Go to the other side!’ and made no stipulation about how I’m to get there. He gave Me His Word that He’d hold Me up in this water, so here I go!” (Isaiah 43:2) And there He went.

Now certainly, the Lord used that incident as an opportunity for Peter and a teaching tool for all the rest of us to learn about and put our faith into action (Matthew 14:28-29). After all, He’s exceptionally good at using all kinds of stuff to teach us with. But I’m fully convinced that it was not His main impetus for striking out across the sea on foot. No: Jesus’ primary reason for that was pure, simple, faithful obedience to get done what God had told Him to do. As a matter of fact, if His boys in the boat hadn’t become completely episodic when they saw Him walking around out there, He would’ve passed right by them on His way to the other side – and been sitting there (probably with just a hint of irritation) waiting for them when they finally arrived (Matthew 14:26, 31; Mark 6:48-50).

Do you see the picture? We’re authorized and empowered to live our lives the same way Jesus did (Mark 16:15; John 14:12; 1 John 4:17). When God directs you to do something, the natural circumstances you may find that happen to be totally against you actually become totally irrelevant. God knows what He’s doing, and He never planned for you to accomplish it in your own strength or your own wisdom. When He tells you to do something, He means for you to step out on His Word and direction in pure, simple, faithful obedience and do what you can toward the objective (James 2:17) – and then trust Him to handle all the rest, the stuff that’s beyond your natural ability. That very prescription is what opens the door for miracles to happen! (John 2:5)

So why did Jesus walk on the water?

Simple: the same reason the chicken crossed the road.


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2 Comments to “Why Did Jesus Walk on the Water?”

  1. Fantastic as always – as always! Don’t ever stop teaching – you have a gift. I’ve been in the church all my life, and I’m grateful to my family. I am several generation Christian – and again I’m grateful BUT we forget the miracles. Jesus was taught to me as gentle, full of miracles to the point that we just accept that’s who He is. We see them as miracles and lift our hands in praise and that’s great – but we forget WHO is revealing Himself and why. I NEVER asked why! I just accepted the act as another miracle. Crazy because if I stop and think about it – the act may be more like showing off rather than a lesson in obedience. Thank-you, I really need this today – thank-you.

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