After a long night fighting the storm on the lake, the disciples saw a phantom-like figure walking across the water. They cried out in terror, “It is a ghost!” (Matthew 14:26). The Master said to them, “Take courage. Do not be afraid. It is I.” No sooner had the Master stepped into the boat than the waves calmed themselves, the wind fell silent, and the boat arrived at the docks of Capernaum.
The three-fold miracle of walking on water, calming the sea, and spatial displacement disconcerted the disciples. “They were greatly astonished” (Mark 6:51). The Gospel of Mark criticizes them for their astonishment: “For they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened” (6:52). Mark implies that if they had correctly understood the miracle of the dividing of the loaves, the ensuing miracles would not have surprised them at all. What was it about the dividing of the loaves that the disciples should have understood? In what way had their heart hardened?
The hardness of the disciples’ hearts alludes to the story of Pharaoh in Egypt. Though Moses performed miraculous signs and wonders, one after another, Pharaoh continually hardened his heart. That is to say, he refused to change his mind. The disciples needed to change their minds about the Master. The astonishing miracles they witnessed required them to reassess Yeshua. Their astonishment forced them to reconsider their previous assumptions about Yeshua and the popular messianic assumptions of the other Galileans. People thought of Yeshua as a revolutionary, as a great prophet, perhaps Elijah or one like Jeremiah. Some even thought he might be John the Immerser raised from the dead. All these guesses were off-target. Who was this man that “tramples down the waves of the sea?” (Job 9:8).
Who has ascended into heaven and descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has wrapped the waters in His garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name or His son's name? Surely you know! (Proverbs 30:4)
After the children of Israel crossed the Red Sea, the Torah says that “the people feared the LORD, and they believed in the LORD and in His servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31). Something similar happened to the disciples after that night at sea. They feared the LORD and put their trust in Him and in His servant Yeshua. They prostrated themselves onto the floor of the boat and declared, “You are certainly God’s Son!”