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The Hundred-Fifty-Ninth (Walking on Water)

You’re probably familiar with the account of Yeshua and Simon Peter walking on water, but perhaps it was only through hearing it in a sermon or reading a summarized version where the writer used it to make a spiritual point. In fact, it is one of the more common New Testament events to be used in these types of messages. This week we’re going to take another look at this event, because sometimes as you’re studying deeper, or possibly more abstract, scriptural topics it’s good to come back to “home base” to ground yourself once again in core topics like these.

As we review, we’re going to look at the different versions of this event held in not only the Greek New Testament, but also in the Hebrew Sepharad books of Matthew, Mark and John. There are some interesting differences between all these accounts. When you have multiple witnesses of the same event, each of those individuals will see or remember it slightly differently. By putting each of their viewpoints together, a fuller picture of the event can be seen. In the case of scripture, the different versions can sometimes lead us to bigger spiritual lessons.

This particular event occurred after Yeshua taught quite a large number of people and held their attention so long He and the disciples ended up having to feed them via a miracle (Matthew 14:13-21, Mark 6:30-44, John 6:1-13). Following this, the disciples got in a boat and started across the sea to go toward Bethsaida. As they crossed in their small boat, the wind picked up and it started to storm violently. Having stayed behind, Yeshua saw this unfold and started out, walking towards them on the water (Matthew 14:22-25, Mark 6:45-48, John 6:16-19).

At this point, we’ve already come to a few differences between the different accounts. The first is the location to which the disciples were attempting to travel. Without getting into too much detail, there is a perfectly good explanation for this. We see that Yeshua and the disciples started in Nazareth (Mark 6:1), and the general direction of travel for the group was towards Bethsaida (Mark 6:45). Looking at a map of the region, along the way is Capernaum and Gennesaret, so while their ultimate destination was Bethsaida, they were heading toward the direction of Capernaum and the storm knocked them off course and they ended up landing in Gennesaret.

We also see there’s an additional piece of detail that’s only in John’s account about why Yeshua and the disciples ended up being apart for this event. It turns out that upon seeing the miracle of feeding them with a miniscule amount of food, the crowd wanted to make Him king by force. Of course, this was not in the plan, so Yeshua went away by himself to prevent this from happening (John 6:15).

Another difference is that the Greek version of Mark is the only one that states Yeshua “intended to pass by them.” This statement didn’t sit right with me because it doesn’t make sense. Why would Yeshua, seeing His disciples struggle against the wind of the storm, want to just pass them by and head to the destination by Himself? As it turns out, the Hebrew Sepharad version of Mark does not include this phrase, but whether or not it was in the original text I don’t think matters too much. The reason is because the Greek word for pass by is a compound of para, or “by the side of,” and erchomai, or “to come/go.” So, really if this phrase was in the original writing, it seems the intention would be that He wanted to come beside them rather than pass them by.

All accounts agree that upon seeing Him the disciples were very fearful. Some versions say they thought He was a ghost, or more specifically in the Greek a manifestation/apparition, while another says they thought He was an evil spirit. Either way, Yeshua had to try to comfort them (Matthew 14:26-27, Mark 6:49-50, John 6:20), and this is where we come to the crux of the event.

We learn only in Matthew’s account that before there was a doubting Thomas, there was a doubting Simon (Matthew 14:28-31). When Yeshua identified Himself, Simon challenged Yeshua to order him to come on the water. Before we get too far down that path though, it is interesting to note that in the Hebrew Sepharad version of Matthew, when comforting, Yeshua also said, “Have good trust in God.” Putting this together with Simon’s challenge, it’s clear that Yeshua wanted them to trust in YHWH to gain courage during the situation. He manipulated the molecules of the water such that through Simon’s faith, he could walk on it.

Peter had the required amount of faith and trust initially upon hearing Yeshua. When he took more notice of what was going on around him, the events in the natural, he lost that faith and trust, and as a result, the water no longer held him. His instinct in this situation was good in that he immediately called upon Yeshua to save him, however this is a prime example of the challenge we face in our current times.

It’s relatively easy for us to have faith when things are easy or when things in the natural are not scary enough for us to question whether or not we believe YHWH will take care of us. It was likely also relatively easy for Peter to call on Yeshua for help given He was right there with him, but today we don’t have Yeshua physically present to remind us to do that like Peter did. We have to remember in these challenging and stressful situations that He is there for us if we call out to Him. This is much the same as believers in the Old Testament, as is evident by some Psalms and the book of Job that include calling out to YHWH during trials and tribulations and the struggle of maintaining faith in His help.

The other challenge this creates is that it leaves some room to not know for sure where your help is coming from. Peter and the disciples, once they heard and saw it was Yeshua, had no doubt it was Him. As soon as He said something, they knew they could let Him in the boat, and when Peter saw the hand reach out and grab him, he knew whose hand was helping him. There are so many things out there these days advertising themselves as good, even claiming to be from YHWH, yet they offer something fake, or worse, something outright evil.

You may seek out help as you’re drowning like Peter was and find one of these solutions of deception, so how do you make sure you don’t fall for them? In the case of the disciples, they lived, traveled with, and learned from Yeshua nearly every day. He was there to guide them, warning of Pharisee leaven (Matthew 16:6) and reminding them of the miracles they have witnessed (Matthew 16:8).

The only way we can come close to this same experience is by being in prayer and His Word every day. Studying events like the walking on water, what they means to us and how we can apply them to our lives, grounds us in the truth. With the help of the Holy Spirit, we develop and grow our relationship with Yeshua, learning how to tell when something is from Him or not. So, carve out some time each day for you, Him, and His Word. From experience, I know your eyes will be opened to more truth in the Word and in the world than you ever thought existed!

Shabbat shalom and YHWH bless you!

-Rob and Sara Gene

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