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Walking on Water, by Ivan Aivazovsky (1888)

Walking on water is one of the miracles of Jesus in the Gospels. Accounts of the miracle appear in the Gospels of John (John 6:16–21), of Matthew[1 ] and of Mark.[2] According to the Biblical narratives, Jesus sent the disciples in a boat, ahead of him, to Bethsaida, but when they were half way across the Sea of Galilee, Jesus walked over the lake water and met them. The narrative states that the disciples were frightened at first, thinking they were seeing a ghost, but when Jesus revealed himself and climbed into the boat, they were reassured. According to Matthew, Peter also walked out onto the water towards Jesus, but when Peter saw the wind and the waves, he became afraid and began to sink, and Jesus rescued him.[3 ]


Christian interpretation

Jesus takes Peter who failed to walk on water. Lluís Borrassà, 1411 (Terrassa)

The walking on water miracle has specific interpretations within Christian teachings. Merrill Tenney states that the incident centered on the relationship of Jesus with his apostles, rather than their peril or the miracle itself.[4] Similarly, authors Dwight Pentecost and John Danilson argue that this miracle was deliberately designed by Jesus to instruct his apostles and increase their faith.[5]

Pentecost and Danilson note that according to the Gospel of John (John 6:19) the apostles had only been able to row slightly over three miles after several hours as they were buffeted by the waves and the storm. However, although the storm had prohibited them from fulfilling the command of Jesus, they did not give up and continued to exert themselves, straining at the oars (Mark 6:48).

In the early morning as Christ walked towards them, they realized that the sea that had impeded their movement was no obstacle to Christ, and all that they feared brought no fear to Jesus.

Apostle Peter initially showed great faith by walking on the water towards Jesus, but as he walked fear grasped him as he began to sink. Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him, saying: "You of little faith, why did you doubt?" Here Jesus indicated that the temporary doubt in the power of Christ was the source of Peter's sinking.

Only after Christ had brought Peter back to the boat, the wind died down (Matthew 14:32). At the end of the incident, the response of the Apostles was to cry: "Truly you are the Son of God".

Pentecost and Danilson thus suggest that the miracle was designed to teach the apostles that when encountering obstacles, they need to rely on their faith in Christ, first and foremost.

Colloquial and historical use

Walking on water has subsequently become a colloquialism used when someone achieves the seemingly impossible. In ancient Greek mythology the giant hunter and son of the gods Orion walked on water. The Aeneid has Orion walking on the ocean floor and other traditions have Orion being so swift as to be able to run across the sea. Hindu, Buddhist,[6] and Greek[7] traditions have stories about characters walking on water.

Other interpretations

Those who do not believe in the Gospel accounts contend that a natural means of support such as a sand bar may have existed or that the Gospel accounts may be a legend. There is also a suggestion that Jesus performed the miracle by skating or walking on surface ice on the lake, formed by a freak cold spell. [8][9][10] However, author Dawn Wilhelm dismisses the need for theories about reefs or surface ice, and states that if one believes the Gospels at all, one also believes that Jesus had the power to overcome the forces of nature in any case.[11] R.T. France states that the three evangelists go out of their way to note that the boat was a long way from the shore to remove doubts for believers in the New Testament that Jesus was walking on a reef or sand bar, and that the incident must have seemed very impressive to fishermen who were used to the lake. And that the portrayal of Peter sinking is intended as a confirmation of the depth of the water, and no other means of support.[12]

See also


  1. ^ Matthew 14:22–33
  2. ^ Mark 6:45–52
  3. ^ Matthew 14:22–33
  4. ^ Merrill Chapin Tenney 1997 John: Gospel of Belief ISBN 0802843514 page 114
  5. ^ Dwight Pentecost 2000 The words and works of Jesus Christ ISBN 0310309409 page 234
  6. ^ Walking On Water
  7. ^ The Mythology of the Constellations: Orion
  8. ^
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^ Dawn Ottoni Wilhelm, 2008 Preaching the Gospel of Mark ISBN 0664229212 page 115
  12. ^ R. T. France 2007 The Gospel of Matthew ISBN 080282501X page 567
Walking on water
Preceded by
Feeding the Multitudes
Miracles of Jesus
New Testament
Succeeded by
Blind Man of Bethsaida
Miracles of Jesus


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