The story of Jesus walking on water is not a story to show you he can do miracles, it’s not even a story to show you he’s God, but it’s a story to show you he is undoing the old law and putting the gospel in its place.
In order to help us see the connection to the law, there are four references to the law of Moses in Mark 6:45-52. The first reference is in verse 46, “And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.” Just as Moses went up on a mountain by himself to pray and left the people, so did Jesus. The second reference is in verse 50, “for they all saw him and were terrified.” Just as the disciples were terrified of Jesus, the people were terrified of Moses, because the glowing, holy presence of God was upon him when he came down from the mountain. Next, also in verse 50, Jesus referred to himself by the exact name God used when talking with Moses, “I am.” When Jesus said, “It is I,” you could also translate it, “I am,” which is the name the Lord told to Moses. The fourth reference to the Moses story is in verse 52, “for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” Just like God hardened the hearts of Pharaoh and others who didn’t believe him, so were the hearts of the disciples hardened.
Why these four references to Moses and the law? Because God wants you to see he is going to defy the reign and terror of the old law in your life. He accomplishes this by strutting out on the water in bold defiance of the laws of nature. When you see Jesus walking on the water, you’re not meant to think, “Cool trick!” but, rather, “Who is this God who defies the law in order to come to me in my helplessness?”
The story of Jesus walking on the water is meant to show us just as Jesus defies physical laws, so does he defy moral and spiritual laws to be with us.
The laws of religion have always gone something like this: I must give to God, then he will give to me. In other words, I must live a good life, make sacrifices, and do certain rituals or behaviors to manipulate God and get him to accept me. I must give to God in order to make God happy.
But Jesus breaks that law just as much as he breaks the law that says he’ll sink in the water if he steps on it.
In its place, Jesus boldly brings an un-law, which says, God will give to me, even when I don’t deserve it: I do not have to live a good life, because he will live a good life for me; I do not have to make a sacrifice, because he will sacrifice himself for me; I do not have to do a ritual to earn his favor, because he has brought all rituals to an end. This is the un-law of Jesus who walks on water.
The disciples didn’t understand the new message Jesus was bringing to them, probably because they were so used to the old law, “For they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (52). Do you remember the lesson of the loaves from the last section? It was this, When you finally realize you’re not enough, that’s when you become more than enough. That’s the lesson Jesus was trying to teach his disciples when he fed 5,000 people with just five loaves of bread. But the hearts of the disciples were still hardened by law mentality, which taught them you have to have in order to have: you have to have enough food in order to feed a lot of people; you have to have a sufficient amount of good works in order to make a good impression on God; and you have to have a good moral record in order to be rewarded for a good life.
But the un-law of Jesus was teaching them to walk on water, not good works. You do not have to have a solid standing on good works in order to stand before God. As it turns out, the good news of the gospel teaches we don’t have to have in order to have. You don’t have to have good works and a perfect life in order to have blessing, honor, righteousness, and peace with God.
Jesus walking on water was not meant to be proof that he is God, but it’s meant to be proof that we are righteous, no matter what the devil whispers in your ear at 3 A.M., the hour of the wolf.
It’s not meant to show that Jesus must be all powerful, because only an all powerful person could walk on water; rather, it’s meant to show you that God is doing away with the old law and instituting an un-law in your life, which makes you free from the law.
I want you to picture Jesus walking on the water to you when you’re at your weariest. Every time you imagine this, I want you to realize you are clean, forgiven, and righteous before God. When you finally realize you don’t have enough, that’s when you become more than enough. When you go to God and say, “I don’t have,” that’s when you’ll receive. When you come to him with your faults and sins, he’ll give you his grace and love.
Satan will continue to throw the old law in your face to get you to despair of your life and God’s love for you, but let your mind go back to the moment when Jesus did the impossible and walked on the water, defying the law in order to come to your rescue.
Jesus has to defy the law in order to rescue you from your plight. He came down from the mountain not to tell you your damned, but to say to you, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid” (50).
Repeat Jesus’s words to yourself, over and over; see him walking on the water, trampling on your expectations of what you deserve because of your sins, and welcome him into the boat. Just as Jesus will not sink in the water, you will not sink in your sin.
One more thing, sometimes we think that when bad things happen to us, it’s because we broke the law and God is punishing us, but this cannot be, because it’s using the logic of the law. Remember, Jesus defies our law thinking and gives us the un-law of grace. So when bad things happen to you, don’t think God is punishing you for breaking the law, but instead realize Jesus will do whatever it takes to come to you on your scary voyage. The law asks the question, “Why?” but Jesus’s new and better question is “What?”
What will Jesus do? He will comfort you. What will Jesus do? He will die on the cross for all sin. What will Jesus do? He will stand by your side though all hell break out against you, and will not leave you. What will Jesus do? He will love you more than you love your sin and even when you doubt him.
Sound impossible? Well, he can walk on water.
- In what areas do you keep sinking in sin?
- What do you think of the last sentence, “Just as Jesus will not sink in the water, you will not sink in your sin”? How does this buoy (no pun intended) your faith?
- The last verse says, “For they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” What’s the connection between Jesus walking on the water and the feeding of the 5,000? Hint: the connection is NOT that Jesus demonstrates his power as God, think deeper than that!