In my last blog, Jesus Walked on Water in Matthew, Mark, and John, I tried to make the point the each of the three gospels told parts of the story of Jesus walking on water, and omitted other parts.
In this blog, I want to explore how this story demonstrates that the Old and New Testaments are incredibly interwoven, and that the Bible’s contents are rich with symbolism and layers of spiritual meaning.
Remember prior to this miracle, Jesus had just finished feeding the five thousand people with a small amount of bread and fish. The people were so awed by this miracle that they were talking of making Him King of Israel, by force if necessary. Here is what happened next:
“Immediately Jesus made his disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him….” (Mark 6:45 NIV)
Notice that Jesus compelled the disciples to leave. They didn’t want to go. He made them go. We are not told why they didn’t want to go. Maybe they saw the approaching storm, the late hour, and were therefore frightened to venture out in the water. Another possibility is that they were concerned for Jesus’ safety, and didn’t want to leave Him alone.
Why did Jesus make them go? Surely, Jesus knew that a storm was approaching. I think Jesus planned to do this miracle for His disciples in order to teach them a very important lesson about who He really was. It is possible that some of the disciples were of a like mind with the crowd, and thought He should become King of Israel. Maybe they thought He was a great prophet, and nothing more. Nevertheless, let’s continue with the story:
“When evening came, the boat was in the middle of the lake, and he was alone on land. He 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.” (Mark 6:47-48 NIV)
When evening came, Jesus saw the disciples struggling out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee. Evening is somewhere around 6-8 PM. Jesus went out to them about the fourth watch. The fourth watch is the time of night between 3-6 AM. Therefore, Jesus delayed several hours before going out to the disciples and rescuing them. Why the delay? Why let them struggle so long?
I think this happened because He wanted them to try and save themselves first, before He saved them. So Jesus walks three to four mile on the surface of the stormy water the disciple’s boat. He then makes a very simple statement to them:
“… It is I. Don’t be afraid.” (Mark 6:47) NIV
Some Bible scholars say that when Jesus spoke to the disciples on the boat, His words were not translated well in many Bibles. Most translations write His words as "It is I; don't be afraid." In the original Greek, the words are “ego eimi”, better translated as “I AM He“ That would change His words to the following:
“'I am he
This might seem like an unimportant distinction, but it is not.
Saying “I AM He” is more than just identifying Himself. It was a claim to divinity, because those are words God used when He spoke to Moses from the burning bush:
“God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'" (Exodus 3:14 NIV)
The Bible tells us that the disciples’ hearts were hardened and they didn’t comprehend His miraculous feeding of the five thousand. They didn’t understand with whom they were dealing. He was telling them that He was not just a strong leader or prophet. He was more than a potential King of Israel. He was God. He was the Lord God of Israel. He was “I AM“.
When the disciples heard Him say these words, they realized who He really was. It was then that they welcomed Him on the boat. The reply of His disciples also makes more sense when His words are translated as “I AM He”.
…. “Truly you are the Son of God.” (Matthew 14:33 NIV)
Jesus would use the words “I AM” twenty-three times in John. He would use the words “I AM” four more times in the Gospel of John to claim divinity for Himself.
“That is why I told you that you will die in your sins, for unless you believe that I AM, you will die in your sins.“ (John 8:24 ISV)
“Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58 KJV)
“From henceforth I tell you before it come to pass, that, when it is come to pass, ye may believe that I am he.” (John 13:19 ASV)
“When Jesus said, "I am he," they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:6 NIV)