Mark 6: 47When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. 48He saw the disciples straining at the oars, because the wind was against them. About the fourth watch of the night he went out to them, walking on the lake. He was about to pass by them, 49but when they saw him walking on the lake, they thought he was a ghost. They cried out, 50because they all saw him and were terrified. Immediately he spoke to them and said, "Take courage! It is I. Don't be afraid." 51Then he climbed into the boat with them, and the wind died down. They were completely amazed, 52for they had not understood about the loaves; their hearts were hardened.
In today's Gospel passage we see some very frustrated disciples, rowing like mad one dark night against a very frustrating headwind. What must make it even more frustrating is that they're doing exactly what Jesus told them to do: to get in the boat and row back to Bethsaida, Peter's home town. If this is what they're supposed to do, what Jesus wants them to do, if its the will of God, then why in the heavens is it so infuriatingly hard? Why doesn't the Maker of heaven and earth, the Lord of land, water and sky, whose will is that we be out here doing this, do something about this frustratingly stiff headwind? We're supposed to go somewhere, and we're barely holding our place!
Then, toward the latest hours of the night, and the wee hours of the morning, after muscles are aching and hands are cramping from so many hours of rowing into the wind, Jesus shows up, walking on the water, gets in the boat, and the winds die down.
But its not a trick. Its not a divine dog-and-pony show to show off his power as greater than theirs. Like all the other miracles Jesus does, its a demonstration of the nature of the Kingdom of God. Its also a deeper revelation of his own nature and identity. And its a lesson for the disciples about their calling and ministry, something they'll have to remember later on, after Pentecost, when Jesus is present with them, everywhere, in the Holy Spirit, and not just in Galilee, in a body. What lesson that was, I try to get at in my message from Sunday, October 26, which you can access at Download walking_on_water.doc
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