Why Did Jesus Walk on the Water?

“…whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

That’s Jesus’ commentary and explanation for why he fed 5,000 people with a couple loaves and two fish. Jesus uses the most vivid physical metaphor possible to make the point that He can satisfy even the most voracious appetites in Himself.

But if Jesus is wrong – that’s terrifying.

What if He isn’t enough? What if eating Jesus doesn’t make my stomach full? What if, in believing in Jesus and doing what He says, we miss out on greater pleasures and other tasty, sensuous treats? What if there is a cost to trusting him? Will the price of turning away from sin be matched by the riches of Jesus? Will He really satisfy us if we give up what we consider most fundamental to our wellbeing and identity? Everywhere we look we are promised satisfaction, fulfilment, and happiness – right now and right away. So does the satisfaction Jesus offers compete with our comfort? Pursuing an alternate sexual orientation? Getting rich? Will He protect my family if we become missionaries among the unreached? When we hear Jesus’ bold claim from the book of John, we have to ask: “Really? Will He really be enough? Is His ‘bread’ really that satisfying?”

For 66 verses, John chapter 6 unpacks the feeding of the 5,000: its implications and its fallout. But there are only five verses devoted to Jesus walking on water. There is no commentary on them, no explanation. It just happens.

This is what we know: the disciples waited until the evening, got into their boats and started to head for Capernaum (on the opposite shore). A storm came up about three miles in and they were scared. Jesus walked on the water towards them. Jesus got in the boat, and immediately the boat was back on dry land (6:16-21). The End. No more explanation. Jesus walked on the water, got in the boat, and the whole miracle was over…

But what if that’s exactly the point?

Jesus just fed 5,000 people, and He gave each one of His twelve disciples one of those twelve baskets of leftovers to carry. Almost a personal message – I will provide for you a personally, tailor-made basket of provision. “I am not just the bread of life; I am your bread of life! I didn’t just come to give bread, but to be your bread!”

How convenient that right after hearing this truth (the truth that God will provide for us what we need in His Son), a storm comes. And the questions we all instinctively ask in the midst of our own storms were surely asked by each of those disciples on the boat…

Does the message of the loaves work on the water? Does it work in real life? Will God provide in the storm? Will He provide when it’s hard? Will He provide if our chronic anxiety comes back? If we never get married? If we never have kids? If we never make enough money? If our kids can’t go to college? Will Jesus provide? Will He give me what I need?

And the answer to those terrifying questions is – Jesus always gets in the boat.

That’s why He walked on the water. In doing so, He demonstrates that He literally crosses oceans to be in our boat, that He will never leave us, that we will not be lost to the sea. He will always provide. He will always satisfy.

If you notice, in John’s account, the storm doesn’t end. In both Matthew and Mark, we are told the storm ends, but not in John. Why? I think John is trying to tell us that even when the storm does not end and we’re still in the middle of the waves, it doesn’t mean Jesus isn’t in the boat with us. He is, and He will satisfy our needs no matter the circumstance. John wants us to know that Jesus can be our “Bread of Life,” even on our worst day, when we are most in need, and life seems most difficult. The storm doesn’t end in John’s gospel because for a lot of us, the reality is it hasn’t ended and won’t.

Recently, a stream of students have confessed to self-harm and cutting. Parents feel ill-equipped to swim in these waters and students feel like their drowning. I’m a little more used to dealing with these issues, yet it can still seem like there are weights tied to my feet pulling me under. But this miracle promises a Jesus who calls parents to walk on these horrifying waters, boldly trusting the ability of the One who called them. It promises students a God who will most certainly walk alongside their self-harm, a God who was harmed Himself to bring them out of it. It promises student pastors a Jesus who will never let us see the bottom of the lake, but rather equip us with personal baskets of provision for our students and their parents.

We don’t need to hear that Jesus will always get us out of the storm, we need to hear that He will always be in the boat! We don’t need to hear that Jesus will always give us bread we need to hear that He is our bread.

“…whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst.” (John 6:35)

¹ John Piper says many of these thoughts far more beautifully here: http://www.desiringgod.org/messages/jesus-came-not-to-give-bread-but-to-be-bread


Seth Stewart is a husband and a dad, and after a decade in student ministry is now working as the Editor-in-Chief at Spoken Gospel. Spoken Gospel creates online resources that point to Jesus from every passage of Scripture. Seth spends his day writing, speaking, and being his family's chef.

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