Reading through a commentary on John by Theophylact (circa A.D. 1055-1107) I came across a proof of Jesus’ divinity that had escaped my attention many times (pp. 101-02 of the English translation of his “Explanation of the Holy Gospel According to John). Surely all the readers of this blog are already familiar with the event:
John 6:19 So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid.
(Matthew 14:25-26 And in the fourth watch of the night Jesus went unto them, walking on the sea. And when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were troubled, saying, It is a spirit; and they cried out for fear.)
This extremely marvelous miracle is so familiar, many of us may even have come to treat it almost as a matter of course. The expression “he walks on water” is idiomatic in English for a person being really wonderful. Nevertheless, it is truly an extraordinary event.
Theophylact reminds the reader that this miracle shows that Jesus is greater than Moses. Moses parted the Red Sea with his staff, so that he and the people could walk through it on dry ground. But Jesus doesn’t have to divide the sea, he can just walk across it.
Elijah and Elisha also parted the Jordan with Elijah’s mantle (2 King 2:8 And Elijah took his mantle, and wrapped it together, and smote the waters, and they were divided hither and thither, so that they two went over on dry ground. 2Ki 2:13-14 He took up also the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and went back, and stood by the bank of Jordan; and he took the mantle of Elijah that fell from him, and smote the waters, and said, Where is the LORD God of Elijah? and when he also had smitten the waters, they parted hither and thither: and Elisha went over.)
Joshua and the Levites bearing the ark also parted the Jordan.
And it came to pass, when the people removed from their tents, to pass over Jordan, and the priests bearing the ark of the covenant before the people; and as they that bare the ark were come unto Jordan, and the feet of the priests that bare the ark were dipped in the brim of the water, (for Jordan overfloweth all his banks all the time of harvest,) that the waters which came down from above stood and rose up upon an heap very far from the city Adam, that is beside Zaretan: and those that came down toward the sea of the plain, even the salt sea, failed, and were cut off: and the people passed over right against Jericho. And the priests that bare the ark of the covenant of the LORD stood firm on dry ground in the midst of Jordan, and all the Israelites passed over on dry ground, until all the people were passed clean over Jordan.
That shows that that Jesus is greater than Moses, Joshua, Elijah, and Elisha, but it doesn’t quite show that Jesus is divine. Why then conclude that Jesus is divine from this miracle? The reason is that we are given prophecy in Job. Job describes God this way:
Job 9:8 Which alone spreadeth out the heavens, and treadeth upon the waves of the sea.
Jesus’ walking on the water was a testimony to His divinity. God alone can do this. No ordinary man, not even Moses could do that. Simon Peter tried and could not:
And Peter answered him and said, Lord, if it be thou, bid me come unto thee on the water. And he said, Come. And when Peter was come down out of the ship, he walked on the water, to go to Jesus. But when he saw the wind boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink, he cried, saying, Lord, save me.
We’re not told that the disciples remembered the prophecy from Job, but we are told that the disciples worshiped Jesus in response:
And when they were come into the ship, the wind ceased. Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God.
Not only did the wind cease, but there was a further miracle:
So when they had rowed about five and twenty or thirty furlongs, they see Jesus walking on the sea, and drawing nigh unto the ship: and they were afraid. But he saith unto them, It is I; be not afraid. Then they willingly received him into the ship: and immediately the ship was at the land whither they went.
Notice that although they had gone about three and a half miles, once Jesus came into the ship the ship immediately arrived at the land where they were going. This too is a remarkable miracle. Who can move a ship instantly to its destination? Only God has this sort of power.
What mere prophet ever did a miracle like that? We can compare walking on water with dividing the water and walking through on dry ground, but to what will we compare this transportation of the ship? Jonah fled from the face of God in a boat, but on his account God kept the boat in the midst of the tempest despite the efforts of the sailors (Jonah 1:13 Nevertheless the men rowed hard to bring it to the land; but they could not: for the sea wrought, and was tempestuous against them.).
The Apostle himself was only able to his fellow travelers that none of the people on the ship would die, although the ship they were traveling on would be destroyed (Acts 27:22 And now I exhort you to be of good cheer: for there shall be no loss of any man’s life among you, but of the ship.)
Jesus was greater than the greatest apostles and prophets, for he could walk on water and could instantly transport a ship to its destination. No mere man has these abilities, but only God. God alone spreads out the heavens, and treads upon the waves of the sea.
Praise be to the Great God and our Lord Jesus Christ!