Click on the texts to read the texts: 1 Jn 4:11-18; Mk 6:45-52
With the exception of Luke who does not narrate the miracle of walking, the other three evangelists do. In Mark, the story is linked to the previous miracle of feeding the five thousand. Jesus dismisses the crowd and goes to pray. Mark portrays Jesus as praying three times in his Gospel. The first time is in 1:35-38, the second time here and the third time in the garden of Gethsemane (14:32-42). In each of these three occasions the prayer is prompted by something significant that Jesus has to discern about. If in the first instance it is whether he must stay in Capernaum or move to other parts of Galilee, here it is about his role as shepherd to the people and in Gethsemane it is about his fidelity to his Father’s will and his acceptance of the Cross.
Three pointers indicate that this miracle is to be interpreted as a “theophany” (a revelation of God). The first is of Jesus walking on the water. While Mark does not intend to portray Jesus as defying the law of gravity by walking on the water, he does intend to show Jesus as subduing the forces of evil. In the Old Testament only God has the power to walk on the water (Job 9:8; 38:16). The second pointer is in the phrase, “he intended to pass them by” which is a reference most probably to God as the One who passed by Moses (Exod 33:19–23; 34:6) and Elijah (1 Kgs 19:11) in a moment of self revelation. The third pointer is the manner in which Jesus identifies himself: I am”. This is the name which God gives to Moses in Exod 3:14 when Moses asks for it in order to tell the people with whose authority he would speak. The fact that the disciples are struggling against the wind is an indication that Jesus approaches them to help them in their hour of distress.
The disciples in Mark are unable to understand this theophany and respond not out of faith but fear.
It is not always the case that the tide is with us and we are rowing in the same direction as it. There are times when we are rowing against the wind. It is at times like these when the going is tough, when there seems to be no respite in sight that Jesus comes to us walking on the water and assuring us that he has and is able to conquer all the negative forces that threaten to pull us down. He comes to us in the darkest part of the night when nothing seems clear and visibility is low to assure us of his presence in the boat of our lives. He comes to us with words of comfort and hope: “Courage! I am. Do not be afraid”.