When a storm arises while the disciples are on the sea of Galilee, Jesus resolves to meet them exactly where they are: “Seeing them tormented in [their] rowing—for the wind was against them—at about the fourth watch of the night he went to them, walking on the sea” (Mark 6:48). At first glance, it’s not clear why Jesus feels the need to traverse the stormy waters. Not long before this night, Jesus had calmed the raging sea with no more than a word (see Mk 4:35-41)—why not do the same again? In this case, the Gospel highlights Jesus’ choice to walk on the waves as a deliberate recollection of what God did at creation. 

Mark’s Gospel states that Jesus “went (ἔρχομαι; ἔρχεται) to them, walking upon the sea (περιπατῶν ἐπὶ τῆς θαλάσσης; peripaton epì tes thálassa)” (6:48). Each of the highlighted Greek terms also appears when God questions Job as to what he knows about the cosmos. The Lord alludes to divine activity at creation, asking, “Have you went upon (ἦλθες… ἐπὶ) the springs of the sea (θαλάσσης; thalásses) or walked (περιεπάτησας; periepátesas) in the recesses of the deep?” (Job 38:16 LXX). The narrative earlier in Job affirms that God had traversed the oceans before humans were created, saying of God, “You alone stretched out the heavens and trampled on the waves of the sea” (Job 9:8).

Every description of Jesus’ life in the Gospels has theological meaning that is related to the story of the God and people portrayed in Israel’s Scriptures. Jesus decides to walk on water because this is what God did at the creation of the world. The disciples, of course, do not make the connection—to the contrary, they’re terrified because they think they’ve seen a ghost (Mk 6:49). However, the attuned Bible reader can know what the disciples missed in the moment; namely, that the Lord has conferred the authority over creation to Jesus the Son of God.

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23 COMMENTS

  1. As it was written, the disciples thought they saw a ghost when they saw Jesus walking on the water. What were the common ideas and beliefs about "ghosts"at this time? Does this mean that ghosts and spirits have a Biblical basis?
    • Thanks for your question, Bill. The language in Mark is φάντασμα (phantasma), which might be translated as "apparition" or "vision" or even "mirage," rather than "ghost." Rather than identifying Jesus as a "ghost" (i.e., someone who has died and haunts the living), Mark is saying that the disciples thought they were seeing things.
  2. It is not simply that the Creator stretched out the heavens at the first and walked upon the waves of the sea at Creation. The verse in Job is in the present tense - apparently Hashem is still doing so. Astronomers see an expanding universe!
  3. The 'springs of the sea' is an interesting phrase. Does it mean the primordial waters emerged from what is now the sea floor?
    • Thanks for your question, Mark. Ancient Israelite cosmology reflected the notion that the seas came from chaotic "depths," but below those depths is "Sheol," the realm of the dead. Thus, the ancient Israelites wouldn't have understood the sea floor in the same way that we do.
    • Israel Bible Center equips you with the tools you need to enter into the Jewish world of Scripture. We provide first-rate teaching, and the opportunity to learn from some of the world’s top scholars. As a student, you will be able to interact personally with our teaching faculty, and gain access to hundreds of hours of Bible courses, including The Jewish Gospel of Matthew and The Hebrew Psalms: How To Worship God. Become a part of the community of teachers and students at Israel Bible Center today!
  4. Jesus is letting his disciples see that he is a powerful transcendent being who controls all things above and below. The disciples lack of faith in his ability is evident in this situation ❤️
  5. Is this story figurative rather than literal? As a former chaplain to seafarers i've known tragic situations when seas overcame ships and crews in spite of desperate prayers. Jesus' trust is total - he sleeps while his seafarer disciples fear for their lives. Jesus doesn't control the world's waterways
    • To John Marcon my response: There are so many false expectations: that tragic situations shouldn't happen (the Bible records many) that our desperate prayers should always be answered with a 'Yes" & that the World's weather patterns are random (rather than governed by Laws set up by God)
  6. Jesus is getting to prove himself that He is the Christ that was propheciezed in the old testament.Ever since the disciples heart was hardened to believe in Him even after what they saw about a miracle work Jesus done to the 5 loaf and 2 fish.That is what I can understand about that from the reading. I would understand more and accurate fro your feedback. Thank you.
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