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Jesus Walks on Water – John 6:16-21

This post is part of an ongoing series in the study of John we are doing during January. Subscribe to the blog for daily updates in the Bible Study posts. Subscribe to the podcasts to hear our discussion of the book of John throughout this month. Join us in your daily devotions as we travel through this fascinating account of the life of Christ.

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16 Now when evening came, His disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into the boat, and went over the sea toward Capernaum. And it was already dark, and Jesus had not come to them. 18 Then the sea arose because a great wind was blowing. 19 So when they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and drawing near the boat; and they were afraid. 20 But He said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they willingly received Him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land where they were going. John 6:15-21 (NKJV) 

In reading John 6, this passage contrasts the response of the disciples of Christ who believed with their heart versus the fair-weather followers later in the chapter who believed because their eyes saw His miracles. Interestingly, those who believed from their heart saw greater works than those who only sought great miracles. The massive crowd whom Jesus miraculously fed at the beginning of this chapter is deserting him by the end of the chapter. The close and intimate followers who maintained their devotion to Him despite the hard sayings and requirements ended up seeing even far more significant signs and wonders.

The key is that the genuinely devoted disciples were not following Him for the signs. They followed Christ because they believed. What else could they do? They faced the personal choice to follow after what their heart knew was true or deny the revelation altogether.

The Risky Places

Christ never promised those who followed Him a life of comfort and ease. Quite the opposite:

Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. Matthew 16:24 (NKJV)

The nature of the adventure of following Christ is full of risk, self-denial, and pushing beyond the limits of what we once considered possible. This is the model that these first close followers of Christ demonstrated for us in their lives with Jesus and after His ascension. But those who follow after Him beyond the boundaries where others stop, they see the great works and wonders of the Lord.

Psalm 107 captures this reality.

Those who go down to the sea in ships,

Who do business on great waters,

They see the works of the LORD,

And His wonders in the deep.

For He commands and raises the stormy wind,

Which lifts up the waves of the sea.

They mount up to the heavens,

They go down again to the depths;

Their soul melts because of trouble.

They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,

And are at their wits’ end.

Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble,

And He brings them out of their distresses.

He calms the storm,

So that its waves are still.

Then they are glad because they are quiet;

So He guides them to their desired haven.

Psalms 107:23-30 (NKJV)

These words and reflections were written when most believed the earth was flat. In the deep waters, they believed great sea creatures lurked. It was a place of danger, risk, and frequent terror to the soul. But:

Those who go down to the sea in ships,

Who do business on great waters,

They see the works of the LORD,

And His wonders in the deep.

I love that reality. A reward awaits those willing to go beyond the boundaries where reasonable people pause and turn back. Those willing to venture into the unknown, into the risky waters of life, into the dangerous places where our only option is to trust in the Lord – They will see the works of the Lord and His wonders in the deep.

The Followers of Christ

Up to this point in our study of the gospel of John, His followers have seen terrific works and heard fascinating words. But by the end of this chapter, many among the masses who follow Christ will turn back. His demands become too much for them.

As we get into these accounts, it is worth asking ourselves where we would have stood at that moment? How far are we willing to go with Christ? Where is the point of turning back, and where is the point of no return in our hearts?

Subscribe to the blog as we continue our walk through the book of John tomorrow.

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Find the podcast devotionals for this complete series here.

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JB Shreve

JB Shreve is the host of the JB Shreve podcast and the End of History podcast channels. He is the author of multiple books.

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