Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Beth-sa’ida, while he dismissed the crowd.  And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray.  And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land.  And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them,  but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out;  for they all saw him, and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart, it is I; have no fear.”  And he got into the boat with them and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded,  for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.
Without some careful reading (and guidance from the Church), one could miss much of the great deeper meaning of Jesus’ actions as He seeks to convince the hard-hearted disciples. Consider:
- The disciples have just witnessed the miracle of feeding the 5000 (Mark 6:34-44). Despite the fact that Jesus had made them realize that there was no food (making them produce their meager rations), the 5000 ate their fill (that the disciples, themselves, distributed) and there was much left over (that the disciples collected in 12 baskets, one for each), the disciples “did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened” (Mark 6:52). The disciples do not believe their own eyes.
- More background: It is Passover time, Jesus had just climbed a mountain like Moses and taught like Moses (Ex 19:20), fed the people in the wilderness like Moses, using bread instead of manna (Ex 16) and withdrew to a mountain like Moses (Ex 32:30). Somehow, the disciples still miss the parallels to Moses.
- Realizing that the disciples are still not getting it, and perhaps to make sure that they never forget, Jesus has them take an all-night boat trip across the stormy Sea of Galilee.
- Jesus again echoes Moses, but Divinely surpasses Moses: in the darkest part of the night (the fourth watch: 3-6 a.m.), Jesus comes to the disciples by walking on water. This is a replay of Moses leading Israel out of Pharaoh’s grasp by parting the Red Sea (Ex 14), but with a kicker: Jesus doesn’t part the water, He walks on top of it!
- One note: how did the disciples actually see Jesus walking on the water during the darkest part of the night, thinking He was a ghost? Perhaps Jesus is demonstrating the great Light that occurs during His Transfiguration.
- Jesus calms the storm (remarkable in itself) and when the disciples are afraid, He says: “It is I”; which can also be translated “I AM” (Mark 6:50). Recall that Moses met God (but didn’t get to see God’s face) in the burning bush and that God says that His name is “I AM” (Ex 3:14). It is in Jesus that the Old Testament and all of Salvation History has it’s meaning!
Jesus has complete omniscience and omnipotence, knowing that the disciples are hard-hearted. Jesus perhaps also knows that many today (including us!) can be quite hard-hearted. So He leaves us a amazing record in the Gospels where He demonstrates His Divinity, surpassing the great Moses.
Like the disciples, we too should be astounded!