World English Bible translation
6:45Immediately he made his disciples enter into the boat, and to go ahead to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he himself sent the multitude away. 6:46 After he had taken leave of them, he departed into the mountain to pray.
6:47When evening had come, the boat was in the midst of the sea, and he was alone on the land. 6:48 Seeing them distressed in rowing, for the wind was contrary to them; and about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea, and he would have passed by them, 6:49 but they, when they saw him walking on the sea, supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; 6:50 for they all saw him, and were troubled. But he immediately spoke with them, and said to them, "Cheer up! It is I! Don't be afraid." 6:51 He went up to them into the boat; and the wind ceased, and they were very amazed among themselves, and marveled; 6:52 for they hadn't understood about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
This is a time in the ministry of Jesus when things were happening at a rapid pace. He had sent the Twelve apostles out to preach and to heal. After their great successes, He had taken them to a remote area only to be followed by the multitude. He had fed five thousand men because He had compassion on them because they were in the wilderness and they were hungry. Now comes another incident that would have shocked and amazed anyone who had witnesses it.
After feeding the five thousand, Jesus sent the disciples on ahead of Him to Bethsaida while He stayed behind and sent the people away. After sending the disciples on their way He dismissed the crowd and went up into the mountain to pray. The wind was against the disciples and rather than relying on sails to take them to the other side of the lake, they had to break out the oars and try to row against the wind. This was feasible given that many of them were experienced fishermen, but it would have been difficult and straining work.
Even though the text clearly tells us that they were in the midst (or an even better translation would be "the middle") of the lake, Mark tells us that Jesus "saw" them from the shore. They had been gone several hours by this time and it is very conceivable that they would have been in the middle of the sea. What is amazing is that Jesus could "see" them from this great distance at night. But if this is startling, what Jesus does next is even more so. He sees that they are distressed and so He simply starts walking out on the water to meet them in the middle of the lake.
We are perhaps a little jaded to the stunning effect this had on the disciples when they saw Jesus walking along on the waves. Most of us have seen trick photography in movies where they will show someone supposedly walking on the water. But, this is no trick for the sake of effect or showmanship. Jesus just walks on the water because He is concerned for them and does not wish them to be distressed any longer. He treats the natural elements as though He is intimately familiar with them and need not obey the physical laws if He did not desire.
The disciples were understandably upset seeing a man walking on the water towards them. They were scared to death because they thought that they were seeing a ghost. But Jesus approaches the boat and tells them, "Cheer up! It is I! Don't be afraid." This is one of the most often repeated phrases of the gospels. "Don't be afraid." The things that Jesus did and the things that happened around Him often frightened people. Jesus would often find Himself trying to calm a person who had just been confronted by another of the mysteries of God.
We might think that they should have been more prepared for the unexpected. Hadn't they healed the sick and cast out demons in His name? Hadn't they just this day seen Him feed five thousand men with five loaves and two fishes? But, these men were just like you and I. There are miraculous events taking place all around us and yet, for the most part, we refuse to see the world in any way other than normal.
When Jesus arrives at the boat, one of the things He says is, "It is I!" Literally, what He said was, "I am!" This word, even in the Aramaic that Jesus spoke, was considered to be the holiest name for God. Some devout Jews believed that they should never even say this word aloud. It was as though Jesus was saying, "There is no need to be afraid. God is here." And truly, God was there, even in the middle of that windy, desolate sea.
Do you know that God will be there for you? Even in your darkest hour? When Jesus tells you, "Don't be afraid," will you trust Him?
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