Yesterday (as I write this), I had a Sabbath School class on the miracle of walking on water. One of the aspects of walking on water that I have long found to be highly interesting is the way that it is viewed in general culture. For example, an entire top ten song in the 1980’s by Eddie Money  was devoted to the question of whether it would take a miracle like walking on water for the narrator’s beloved to trust him again. In other cases, such as Dua Lipa’s “New Rules” or the Cars’ “Magic,” walking on water is viewed as being a sign of power or even something magical. When I commented on this use of walking on water in pop culture one of the children in my class commented on an item in a computer game her father plays called the Boots of Walking On Water, which pretty much summed up the general idea that popular culture has of walking on water, as something magical and something that can be exploited for a variety of purposes.
What was the point of Jesus walking on water, though? In both the accounts in Matthew and Mark, the response of the disciples to seeing Jesus Christ walk on water was one of terror, as if he was a ghost. Mark 6:47-50 tells us some interesting details, though: Now when evening came, the boat was in the middle of the sea; and He was alone on the land. Then He saw them straining at rowing, for the wind was against them. Now about the fourth watch of the night He came to them, walking on the sea, and would have passed them by. And when they saw Him walking on the sea, they supposed it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw Him and were troubled. But immediately He talked with them and said to them, “Be of good cheer! It is I; do not be afraid.”
There are at least a couple of aspects of this that I find particularly interesting. For one, Jesus’ command to the disciples to be not afraid is notable because the disciples themselves seemed to be afraid of all kinds of things that night–the storm, Jesus Himself, and so on. In addition, the commandment to be not afraid is the most common commandment that is repeated in the Bible, and perhaps the most necessary. Admittedly, of course, the disciples did not act differently from the way that most people would want. More poignantly, though, it is rather unfortunate that even though Jesus walked on water in order to encourage the disciples, he ended up having to encourage them for more than just the storm because His own presence, instead of reassuring them with the show of his power over the rules, ended up only making them more afraid. This is lamentable, but all too common of an example of how God’s efforts at helping others to build faith do not always work as expected. That is something we could all stand to reflect upon.