After the miracles of the loaves, Jesus went to a mountain alone, and the disciples went ahead of him by boat across the sea. There the disciples find rowing to be a difficult task because a high wind was stirred up and pushed against them. The difficulty of rowing against the wind and waves were taking their toll on the body and the mind. Finally, Jesus comes to them walking on water.
And when even was now come, his disciples went down unto the sea, And entered into a ship, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was now dark, and Jesus was not come to them. And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew. So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.
Do you notice anything that is missing in John’s account? First off, don’t confuse this with the time Jesus was asleep in the boat. That is a time before that miraculous calming of the sea if we compare to the other Gospel writer’s accounts. John doesn’t record Peter walking on water. John also doesn’t mention the storm calming.
However, the miracle of Jesus walking on water is centered in the middle of Jesus miracle of 5 loaves of bread and His teaching that he is the bread of life.
I don’t think this was a random miracle placed in this chapter’s central theme of bread. When Jesus teaches about being the bread of life, He teaches that the bread symbolizes His abiding presence. When we take communion, this is the idea, that the bread symbolizes his physical presence next to us.
I think the purpose John uses this water walking miracle first is that it is a personal miracle, not to the crowds but to the disciples. Sometimes God does things in our life that is just for our own experience and faith. Second, no one understood the miracle of the loaves (cf. v. 26 and Mark 6:52). The previous miracle of the bread and its further explanation is that Jesus is the only thing that will actually sustain our life. Now, the disciples who missed it, who even had a hand in the miracle of the loaves by each holding one of the 12 baskets full, were given another opportunity to understand, Jesus’ presence will sustain us. Jesus sustains us in times of hunger. Jesus sustains us in times of peril. He is our bread on land and on the boat.
The presence of Jesus is the greatest thing we can possess.
You are one of Jesus’ disciples and your life similar to the journey on the boat. You must gladly receive the presence of Jesus into your life or else you will find difficulties that you cannot overcome. In a crisis, Christ’s presence overwhelms us with comfort when according to His timing and purpose. Sometimes he does not calm the storm, but he will always calm us. He gives us peace to where we can sing it is well with my soul.
Notice how far they made it on their own and then see the other half of this miracle. Jesus walks on water, enters the boat almost immediately it seems they are on the other side. Without Christ’ we will fall short, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Sin work death in us but because of Jesus, we receive the gift of eternal life. Only he can get us to the other side of living.