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The Feeding of the Five Thousand and Walking on Water Explained

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This post is the third in a series that explains the seven signs in the gospel of John. This one is about the feeding of the five thousand.

Important in this series is the difference between a sign and a miracle. See this previous post to understand that difference. To summarize, a “sign” is something that has the elements of an analogy or a metaphor. While analogies and metaphors are verbal parallels to an outside reality, signs involve tangible parallels to an outside reality.

In the gospel of John, there are seven signs of Jesus:

This post has four main parts (plus a little bonus as a conclusion):

  1. The Feeding of the Five Thousand in the Gospel of John
  2. Why Did Jesus Not Want to Be Made King?
  3. The Cosmic Geographical Symbolism of Jesus Walking on Water
  4. How the Feeding of the Five Thousand and Walking on Water Fit Together in One Symbolic Sign
  5. Conclusion

All of these are highly symbolic and highly intwined with the history of Israel. The picture that is being created is a picture of God himself providing for Israel, and then

1. The Feeding of the Five Thousand in the Gospel of John

The sign of the feeding of the five thousand and walking on water happen immediately after one another, but in this post, we’re going to cover the feeding of the five thousand. The following passage is in the gospel of John:

After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”

Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself. (John 6:1-15)

Now, there is a lot to break down here, but we have some help. The feeding of the Five Thousand is an event that is mentioned in all four gospels. And as such, we have a clear timeline of what happened before and afterwards, and we get a lot of commentary on it.

The Context of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

We learn from the gospel of Matthew that the feeding of the five thousand happens immediately after the death of John the Baptist:

For Herod had seized John and bound him and put him in prison for the sake of Herodias, his brother Philip’s wife, because John had been saying to him, “It is not lawful for you to have her.” And though he wanted to put him to death, he feared the people, because they held him to be a prophet. But when Herod’s birthday came, the daughter of Herodias danced before the company and pleased Herod, so that he promised with an oath to give her whatever she might ask. Prompted by her mother, she said, “Give me the head of John the Baptist here on a platter.” And the king was sorry, but because of his oaths and his guests he commanded it to be given. He sent and had John beheaded in the prison, and his head was brought on a platter and given to the girl, and she brought it to her mother. And his disciples came and took the body and buried it, and they went and told Jesus.

Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a desolate place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore he saw a great crowd, and he had compassion on them and healed their sick. Now when it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a desolate place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” But Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass, and taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven and said a blessing. Then he broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:3-21)

Based on this, we get a pretty simple geographic breakdown of where Jesus and his disciples went to feed the five thousand:

We also learn from the gospel of Matthew that Jesus then departs from Capernaum and goes to Gennesaret, where he meets Jews coming from Jerusalem (Matthew 14:34Matthew 15:3). Then, we learn in Matthew 15:21 that he withdrew to the district of Tyre and Sidon.

We also learn (only from the gospel of John) that the 5,000 that Jesus fed were looking for him, and they couldn’t find him. When they couldn’t find him in the desolate place, they went to look for him in Capernaum. By the time they got to Capernaum, Jesus and his disciples were probably already in Gennesaret. When they got to Gennesaret, Jesus was probably already in Tyre and Sidon. And so we have the following funny story of everyone looking for Jesus:

On the next day the crowd that remained on the other side of the sea saw that there had been only one boat there, and that Jesus had not entered the boat with his disciples, but that his disciples had gone away alone. Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. So when the crowd saw that Jesus was not there, nor his disciples, they themselves got into the boats and went to Capernaum, seeking Jesus. (John 6:22-24)

And so here is where Jesus went AFTER the feeding of the five thousand:

And so that’s what happened with the feeding of the five thousand. But why do I bring all of this up? Well, there are two things here that you should notice:

  1. The Feeding of the Five Thousand happens on the East Side of the Jordan River
  2. Everyone wants to make Jesus King after this, but Jesus does not want this.
  3. No one can find Jesus afterwards

What does this have to do with the “sign”? It has a lot to do with the sign, because the sign corresponds to the history of Israel.

The Geographic Importance of the Feeding of the Five Thousand

We should also notice the important part of this sign. That would be the location. Remember that Israel in the wilderness ate manna for forty years, but as soon as they crossed the Jordan river, the manna from heaven stops:

While the people of Israel were encamped at Gilgal, they kept the Passover on the fourteenth day of the month in the evening on the plains of Jericho. And the day after the Passover, on that very day, they ate of the produce of the land, unleavened cakes and parched grain. And the manna ceased the day after they ate of the produce of the land. And there was no longer manna for the people of Israel, but they ate of the fruit of the land of Canaan that year. (Joshua 5:10-12)

As such, the LOCATION of the feeding of the five thousand is important. This is a parallel to the time that Israel was in the wilderness. In fact, Jesus explicitly makes this point in the next time he talks to the crowds he previously fed (which was several weeks after the event, mind you). This happens in John 6:22-59, which I won’t quote in full, because it is too long. But I will point to the relevant points where Jesus connects the feeding of the 5,000 to the bread in the wilderness:

So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

. . .

Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.”

. . .
This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. (John 6:30-34, 47-51, 58-59)

In this passage, Jesus is making the point that HE is equivalent to the manna that came from heaven. Except the manna that came from heaven was bread that “passed away.”

The thing we need to remember about the manna is that it is quite literally true that it passed away. As in, it literally evaporated:

And when the dew had gone up, there was on the face of the wilderness a fine, flake-like thing, fine as frost on the ground. When the people of Israel saw it, they said to one another, “What is it?” For they did not know what it was. And Moses said to them, “It is the bread that the Lord has given you to eat. This is what the Lord has commanded: ‘Gather of it, each one of you, as much as he can eat. You shall each take an omer, according to the number of the persons that each of you has in his tent.’” And the people of Israel did so. They gathered, some more, some less. But when they measured it with an omer, whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack. Each of them gathered as much as he could eat. And Moses said to them, “Let no one leave any of it over till the morning.” But they did not listen to Moses. Some left part of it till the morning, and it bred worms and stank. And Moses was angry with them. Morning by morning they gathered it, each as much as he could eat; but when the sun grew hot, it melted. (Exodus 16:14-21)

In other words, the manna in the wilderness literally evaporated daily. And this is how this relates to the sign of the feeding of the five thousand, and why it is important to see in the people’s reaction:

THE JEWS WANTED BREAD FROM HEAVEN THAT LITERALLY EVAPORATES WHILE THEY DID NOT WANT THE GIVER OF BREAD FROM HEAVEN WHO IS ETERNAL AND THE SOURCE OF LIFE

But being so amazed by the miracle Jesus did, the people WANTED that bread. They wanted the manna again. But Jesus points them away from the manna and to the person who GIVES the manna: himself.

The point Jesus is making is that just as the bread kept the people of God from dying in the wilderness, so it is Jesus and what he provides that keeps the people of God from dying on this earth in their sinful state. But it is not “bread” that saved them. It was GOD that saved them. Jesus is pointing back to the time of Israel in the wilderness with his miracle, and he uses the LITERAL GEOGRAPHY of that miracle as a part of the sign.

2. Why Did Jesus Not Want to Be Made King?

The next thing we learn is that the crowd wants Jesus to become their king, and make him king by force. Now, if Jesus wanted Israel to look to him, this seems like a good thing, right? So why does Jesus skip town to prevent this from happening? Well, Jesus gives us the answer:

Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. (John 6:26)

But regardless of the REASON they wanted Jesus to be king, it seems like Jesus being king is a good thing, right? After all, Jesus is their Lord and their God.

Well, not so fast. Remember that the feeding of the five thousand corresponds to eating manna in the wilderness, a significant event in Israel’s history. Is it possible that this event where the Jews want to make Jesus king “by force” also corresponds to something in Israel’s history? Yes, indeed!

Look at the context: Remember that the feeding of the five thousand happens immediately after the death of John the Baptist? Do you remember that John the Baptist was a prophet? Do you remember that John the Baptist was a prophet after along period of silence from the Lord? Do you remember who else in the Old Testament became a prophet after a long period of silence from the Lord? It was Samuel:

Now the boy Samuel was ministering to the Lord in the presence of Eli. And the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision. (1 Samuel 3:1)

And do you remember what happened towards the end of Samuel’s life? Do you remember what Israel wanted? They wanted A KING:

Now Samuel called the people together to the Lord at Mizpah. And he said to the people of Israel, “Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, ‘I brought up Israel out of Egypt, and I delivered you from the hand of the Egyptians and from the hand of all the kingdoms that were oppressing you.’ But today you have rejected your God, who saves you from all your calamities and your distresses, and you have said to him, ‘Set a king over us.’ Now therefore present yourselves before the Lord by your tribes and by your thousands.” (1 Samuel 10:17-19)

When you read the story in 1 Samuel, you see that the situation is actually more complicated than they let on. Samuel’s sons were wicked, and they took bribes and perverted justice. (1 Samuel 8:1-3). As such, there seemed to be good reason for the people to want a king over them, just like it SEEMS like making Jesus king would be a good thing for Israel. But God does not agree with this reasoning:

But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, “Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. According to all the deeds that they have done, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt even to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so they are also doing to you. (1 Samuel 8:6-8)

The point I want to make to you is that THE SAME THING is happening with the feeding of the five thousand. If Jesus was truly their king, then they would believe him. If Jesus was truly their king, then they would obey him. If Jesus was truly their king, they would not be thinking in such earthly ways. And so we should see the connection:

THE JEWS ARE REJECTING JESUS AND WANTING HIM TO BE KING IN THE SAME WAY THAT ISRAEL REJECTED GOD AND WANTED A KING

We should realize this because the gospel of John has already covered this point. This is what John the Baptist said about Jesus and the need to OBEY and BELIEVE the Son:

He who comes from above is above all. He who is of the earth belongs to the earth and speaks in an earthly way. He who comes from heaven is above all. He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony. Whoever receives his testimony sets his seal to this, that God is true. For he whom God has sent utters the words of God, for he gives the Spirit without measure. The Father loves the Son and has given all things into his hand. Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him. (John 3:31-36)

What does the Son command them to do that they are not doing? Well, in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, they summarize Jesus’s preaching in the following way:

From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17)

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

And Jesus answered them, “Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance.” (Luke 5:31-32)

While John does not use this same language or “repentance,” Jesus’s conversation with Nicodemus mentions being “born again” by “water and spirit,” which is a call back to something in the Old Testament. This is what we also read about “water” and “spirit” and a new heart from the prophet Ezekiel:

 “Therefore say to the house of Israel, Thus says the Lord God: It is not for your sake, O house of Israel, that I am about to act, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations to which you came. And I will vindicate the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, and which you have profaned among them. And the nations will know that I am the Lord, declares the Lord God, when through you I vindicate my holiness before their eyes. I will take you from the nations and gather you from all the countries and bring you into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules. You shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers, and you shall be my people, and I will be your God. And I will deliver you from all your uncleannesses. And I will summon the grain and make it abundant and lay no famine upon you. I will make the fruit of the tree and the increase of the field abundant, that you may never again suffer the disgrace of famine among the nations. Then you will remember your evil ways, and your deeds that were not good, and you will loathe yourselves for your iniquities and your abominations. It is not for your sake that I will act, declares the Lord God; let that be known to you. Be ashamed and confounded for your ways, O house of Israel. (Ezekiel 36:22-32)

In other words, just as Matthew, Mark, and Luke were saying, the gospel of John shows that Jesus was calling those who follow him to do one thing:

REPENT! FOR THE KINGDOM OF HEAVEN IS AT HAND!

But just as the people of Israel turned away from God after seeing and hearing the Lord himself on the mountain, in the gospel of John, the God of the universe is in front of them, offering them freedom from the chains of their sin and the dominion of darkness. But these earthly people are impressed with THE BREAD.

That bargain is something that Jesus is not okay with. And that’s why he is not going to accept this empty offer of royalty.

The Symbolism of No One Finding Jesus

When Jesus leaves the people who wanted to make him king, they look for him, but no one can find him. Now, on one hand, the reason is quite obvious. The reason is that Jesus walked across the water, and nobody knew that he did, but there is a symbolic part of this, too. Think back over your Old Testament. Remember what happened after the law of Moses was given. Think about the history of Israel and Judah up until the time of Jesus:

ISRAEL NEVER FOUND JESUS EITHER.

In fact, God always knew that Israel would never follow him. Even though God dwelt in their midst, their hearts were far from him. God knew this all the way back in Exodus when Israel turned from him and worshipped the golden calf.

We also know that Jesus also knew that despite the ecstasy of being given magical food from heaven, he knew that the desire of the Jews to make him king was not genuine. He knew this because the people were not believing his words and they were not believing in him based on what Moses had written. Note what John writes about immediately before the feeding of the five thousand. This is the context of this miracle:

You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. I do not receive glory from people. But I know that you do not have the love of God within you. I have come in my Father’s name, and you do not receive me. If another comes in his own name, you will receive him. How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and do not seek the glory that comes from the only God? Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (John 5:40-47)

The only great nation that the Lord will make is those who believe Moses. Those who do not follow Moses – who pointed to Jesus Christ – will be consumed by God due to their failure to believe. Even after the feeding of the five thousand, Jesus repeats to the Jews that the did not desire him:

When they found him on the other side of the sea, they said to him, “Rabbi, when did you come here?” Jesus answered them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” Then they said to him, “What must we do, to be doing the works of God?” Jesus answered them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent.” So they said to him, “Then what sign do you do, that we may see and believe you? What work do you perform? Our fathers ate the manna in the wilderness; as it is written, ‘He gave them bread from heaven to eat.’” Jesus then said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, it was not Moses who gave you the bread from heaven, but my Father gives you the true bread from heaven. For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.” They said to him, “Sir, give us this bread always.”

Jesus said to them, “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst. But I said to you that you have seen me and yet do not believe. All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.”
(John 6:25-40)

The Jews are utterly confused by this. They do not understand the way that heaven and earth interact. They do not understand that it is Jesus Christ who must sustain them in this life until they die, just as all of Israel was sustained until they crossed from the wilderness into the promised land. That is why we read the following:

So the Jews grumbled about him, because he said, “I am the bread that came down from heaven.” They said, “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How does he now say, ‘I have come down from heaven’?” Jesus answered them, “Do not grumble among yourselves. No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day. It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father. Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. I am the bread of life. Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die. I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. And the bread that I will give for the life of the world is my flesh.

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?” So Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever feeds on my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever feeds on me, he also will live because of me. This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like the bread the fathers ate, and died. Whoever feeds on this bread will live forever.” Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum. (John 6:41-59)

Jesus is trying to get them to understand the importance of his teaching, which sustains those who hear it. He is trying to explain to them that something greater that ordinary bread – “manna” – that their fathers ate has come down from heaven, and it is Jesus Christ.

But to explain this, we need to talk about Jesus walking on water.

3. The Cosmic Geographical Symbolism of Jesus Walking on Water

Next, we move on to the story of Jesus walking on water. This is another miracle that is described in several places in the gospels, so we get a lot of detail about it. The following is from the gospel of John:

Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. (John 6:15-21)

There are some very important details to notice about this, and this will take a bit of time. But I will just go ahead and say the most confusing part and explain it to you afterwards. The sign of Jesus walking on water involves a return to the garden of Eden.

Why the Garden of Eden is Not What You Thought It Was

The first thing that we need to notice where Jesus starts off in this event. We should note that Jesus starts out ON A MOUNTAIN. We should also note that the other side of the sea of Galilee was HOME for the disciples. This is extremely significant, because it is a picture of returning to the Garden of Eden. This is EXTREMELY significant.

But I bet it also sounds crazy to you. We don’t know much about Eden, but we do know that it was in “the East,” right? Well…. no so fast.

The Location of the Garden of Eden

While you’ve probably read that the Garden of Eden was planted “in the East,” you should notice something about that word, which has a broader meaning than the English geographic direction of “East.” Look at the whole section, and the relevant Hebrew words in parentheses:

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east (qedem), and there he put the man whom he had formed. And out of the ground the Lord God made to spring up every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food. The tree of life was in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

A river flowed out of Eden to water the garden, and there it divided and became four rivers. The name of the first is the Pishon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Havilah, where there is gold. And the gold of that land is good; bdellium and onyx stone are there. The name of the second river is the Gihon. It is the one that flowed around the whole land of Cush. And the name of the third river is the Tigris, which flows east (qidmah) of Assyria. And the fourth river is the Euphrates.
(Genesis 2:8-14)

What you should notice is that the location of the Garden of Eden is described by a word that is different than the simple geographic direction of “east” that is applied to the Tigris river. The word DOES mean “east,” but it also means other things. It is a deeply rich word. Important for our purposes, the word for the location of Eden also means “ancient time, aforetime.” The idea is that the Sun starts in the East and progresses to the west. Therefore, the “east” is the “before” and the West is “after.”

But see how this is important to the translation of the book of Genesis: This means that rather than saying that the garden of Eden was planted “in the East,” it could just as easily be described as being planted by the Lord “in ancient times.” Even if the Garden of Eden was in “the East,” the question is “to the East of what?” Good question. The text does not say.

So, let’s just sit in the fact that we probably are not getting the right thing about the geography of Eden in an English translation of the Bible. The location of Eden is quite ambiguous. While it is possible that Genesis is describing the location that God planted the garden of Eden on Earth. . .

. . . but it is equally possible that Genesis is describing the location that God planted the garden of Eden IN TIME.

The Rivers Coming Out of the Garden of Eden

The next thing we need to notice about Eden is the rivers. Look at how Josephus, an ordinary Jewish guy living in the first century AD describes the garden of Eden:

Moses says further, that God planted a paradise in the east, flourishing with all sorts of trees; and that among them was the tree of life, and another of knowledge, whereby was to be known what was good and evil; and that when he brought Adam and his wife into this garden, he commanded them to take care of the plants. Now the garden was watered by one river, which ran round about the whole earth, and was parted into four parts. And Phison, which denotes a multitude, running into India, makes its exit into the sea, and is by the Greeks called Ganges. Euphrates also, as well as Tigris, goes down into the Red Sea. Now the name Euphrates, or Phrath, denotes either a dispersion, or a flower: by Tiris, or Diglath, is signified what is swift, with narrowness; and Geon runs through Egypt, and denotes what arises from the east, which the Greeks call Nile. (Josephus, Antiquities, 1.1.3)

Now, that may blow your mind, and if it doesn’t, you should read it again. He is matter-o-factly stating that the river that we read about in Genesis that came from Eden was a river “which ran round about the whole earth.” Huh?

What you need to understand about the garden of Eden is that it is NOT a normal place. Eden was a place that existed between the earth and the heavenly places. And therefore, that “river” coming out of Eden? It’s the same thing that Genesis describes as separating the heavenly places from the Earth in the previous chapter:

And God said, Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters. And God made the firmament, and divided the waters which were under the firmament from the waters which were above the firmament: and it was so. And God called the firmament Heaven. And the evening and the morning were the second day. (Genesis 1:6-8)

They are the same waters that are described in Psalms and elsewhere:

Praise the Lord!
Praise the Lord from the heavens;
    praise him in the heights!
Praise him, all his angels;
    praise him, all his hosts!

Praise him, sun and moon,
    praise him, all you shining stars!
Praise him, you highest heavens,
    and you waters above the heavens!
(Psalm 148:1-4)

That’s right, the river coming out of Eden is the same as the “waters above the firmament.” Eden is a place that exists between the Heavenly Places and Earth.

And if you REALLY want your mind to be blown, you should note that of the rivers described in Genesis 1, Josephus identifies one as the Nile. But look at what Herodotus – a pagan Greek writer of HISTORY – says in his “Histories” about the source of the Nile:

But some of the Greeks, wishing to be notable for cleverness, put forward three opinions about this river; of which there are two that I would not even mention, save to show only what they are. One of these will have it that the etesian winds are the cause of the rivers being in flood, because they hinder the Nile from flowing out into the sea. But there are many times when the etesian winds do not blow, yet the Nile does the same as before. And further, if the etesian winds were the cause, then the other rivers which flow contrary to those winds would be affected in like manner even as is the Nile, and all the more, inasmuch as being smaller they have a weaker current. Yet there are many rivers in Syria and in Libya, which are nowise in the same case as the Nile.

The second opinion is less grounded on knowledge than that afore-mentioned, though it is more marvellous to the ear: by it, the river effects what it does because it flows from the Ocean, which flows round all the world.

. . .

The opinion about the Ocean is grounded in obscurity and needs no disproof; for I know of no river of Ocean; and I suppose that Homer or some older poet invented this name and brought it into his poetry. (Herodotus, Histories, Book 2, Chapter 20-21, 22)

Yeah, guys. Herodotus learned that from random people in Egypt around 430 BC. It was commonly believed that the source of the Nile was from the “waters above the firmament” that are described in Genesis.

While you expect to find somethings in that the Bible mentions also corroborated by other sources, I bet the magical river flowing out of the Garden of Eden wasn’t one of them. But anyway, we need to move on.

Eden as the Mountain of God

This understanding of Eden also explains why the garden of Eden was seen as a “mountain” in the scriptures. Why? Because “mountains” are associated with heaven. Mountains are a place where – quite literally – heaven meets earth. Eden was a place where the heavens met the earth.

With that in mind, notice how Eden is described in Ezekiel. This comes from a prophesy against the king of Tyre, in which God (through Ezekiel) compares the king of Tyre to Satan, who was a “guardian cherub” and was in Eden:

“You were the signet of perfection,
    full of wisdom and perfect in beauty.
You were in Eden, the garden of God;
    every precious stone was your covering,
sardius, topaz, and diamond,
    beryl, onyx, and jasper,
sapphire, emerald, and carbuncle;
    and crafted in gold were your settings
    and your engravings.
On the day that you were created
    they were prepared.
You were an anointed guardian cherub.
    I placed you; you were on the holy mountain of God;

    in the midst of the stones of fire you walked.
You were blameless in your ways
    from the day you were created,
    till unrighteousness was found in you.
In the abundance of your trade
    you were filled with violence in your midst, and you sinned;
so I cast you as a profane thing from the mountain of God,
    and I destroyed you, O guardian cherub,
    from the midst of the stones of fire.
(Ezekiel 28:12-16)

This is why it was normal to make any sacrifice to the gods on a high place. This is why the Old Testament refers to the “high places” that were used as sacrifices. This is why the Temple is on Mount Moriah. This is why there is always an “up” direction to sacrifice and where God meets his people.

It’s quite intuitive when you think about it. This idea of the way that the heavenly places meet earth is described by the scholar Michael Heiser in his book The Unseen Realm:

The divine abodes of gods – the places they lived and where they met for governing the affairs of the human world – were portrayed in several ways. Two of the most common were gardens and mountains. Eden is described as both in the Old Testament.

Ancient people thought of their gods living in luxuriant gardens or mountains for simple reasons. It made sense that the gods would have the best lifestyle because, well, they’re GODS. Cosmic celebrities can’t possibly live like we do.

The ancient Near East was primarily an agrarian culture where most people subsisted day-to-day, hand-to-mouth. The few who didn’t live that way were kings or priests – and thinking as the ancients did, those few had been chosen for that elevated status by the gods. The environment was hot and arid. Life depended on finding water and harnessing its power. That’s why the world’s first civilizations were founded along rivers (e.g., the Nile, the Tigris, and the Euphrates). Surely the gods lived in a place where water was abundant, where life-sustaining vegetation and fruit grew everywhere, where an abundance of animals were nourished to fatness. The gods lived in places where there was no conceivable lack. Paradise.

Mountain peaks were the domain of the gods because no humans lived there. Ancient times were not like modern times. People didn’t recreationally climb mountains. They had no equipment with which to get very far if they tried. Mountains were remote and forbidding – the perfect places for gods to get away from pesky humans. Mountain peaks touched the heavens, which was obviously the domain of the gods.

This sort of thinking in part explains why Egypt’s temples are carved and painted with the imagery of luscious gardens, or why pyramids and ziggurats were built. These structures were mountains made by human hands which served as gateways to the spiritual world, the realm of the gods, in life or in death. They were metaphors in stone.

(Michael Heiser, the Unseen Realm, Lexham Press, (2015) page 44-46, Kindle Edition)

So, yeah. The Garden of Eden is a mountain because it is “up there” somewhere. Where is that somewhere? I have no idea, because it’s not a normal direction to go to Eden. You have to cross DIMENSIONS to get to Eden.

I could go on about this, including how the tabernacle is laid out with this understanding of Eden in mind as being up in the heavens. However, we need to move on. The cosmic geography of Eden as it is reflected elsewhere in the Bible will have to be saved for another post.

What Separates Eden from the Earth

The thing that separates Eden from the Earth is actually the waters above the firmament. This is clear from the description that we get of the river. We can also notice it in the words that are used to describe the location of Eden – qedem. This is an extremely rich word.

To get a sense of the connotations of this word, notice that there is another time when this word is used by Moses and its meaning is quite obviously not a geographical direction. In this passage, Moses is repeating the blessing of Joseph by Jacob (in Genesis 49), except that he adds a few words and details. Here is what Moses says about the blessing of Joseph:

“Blessed by the Lord be his land,
    with the choicest gifts of heaven above,
    and of the deep (tehom) that crouches beneath,
with the choicest fruits of the sun
    and the rich yield of the months,
with the finest produce of the ancient (qedem) mountains
    and the abundance of the everlasting hills,
(Deuteronomy 33:13-15)

There are important things to notice here. The whole point is that there will be gifts from “heaven above.” One of those gifts is from “the deep that crouches beneath.” This is a reference to the womb. But at the same time, the “deep” is the word that is used for the waters of creation in Genesis:

In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was without form and void, and darkness was over the face of the deep (tehom). And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters. (Genesis 1:1-2)

So, the deep that crouches beneath is actually a reference to a woman’s water breaking. The picture given is that the same living waters at the beginning of creation are also the source of every new life which God knits in the womb (see Job 10:11; Psalm 139:13).

But notice the larger context. The birth of a human being is an instance where heaven and earth OVERLAP. And they explicitly overlap in regard to the “tehom” or “the deep” which are the waters that are above the firmament.

Then, Moses states that there will be fruits “of the sun.” You can also note that though Moses uses the word “month,” the Hebrew calendar was based on the phases of the moon. Therefore, a “new month” is quite literally the same thing as a “new moon.” That’s where we get our term “new moon.” So realize that this entire section is very heavenly and cosmic talk. It also uses the same word for “east” (qedem) that is used to describe the “location” of Eden.

Therefore, you should realize that Eden being in the “east” (qedem) is cosmic talk, not geographic talk. Eden is NOT a normal place.

How to Get Back to the Garden of Eden

We should also note something else about Eden, which is the direction that Adam and Eve went when they were driven from the Garden of Eden:

Then the Lord God said, “Behold, the man has become like one of us in knowing good and evil. Now, lest he reach out his hand and take also of the tree of life and eat, and live forever—” therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east (qedem) of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life.
(Genesis 3:22-24)

That is the the same Hebrew word for “east” that means both “ancient” and “east.” And here, it does seem to refer to a direction, but it also can be understood to saw that Adam and Eve were driven out from the Garden of Eden TO ancient times. Which one is the truth? Technically I suppose that both of them are true. But that’s a pattern you should recognize in the Bible. God often says two different things at the same time using one set of words.

Another thing we need to remember relates to the “waters above the firmament.” There is a problem, and the problem is with the word “firmament.” The English word “firmament” is from a Latin word. The Latin word describes a dome, and therefore, the word “firmament” (even with the word “firm” at the beginning) also has connotations of a dome. But that’s not the connotation of the original.

The original Hebrew word is raqia which means “an extended surface, expanse.” Therefore, when I use the traditional KJV phrase of “waters above the firmament,” you should be thinking of “waters above the expanse.” Rather than solid connotations, the connotation of the original word is “empty space.”

This is where things get interesting. Notice what Jesus describes in the parable of the Rich Man and Lazarus. Notice what Father Abraham says when he claims that NO ONE can cross from the heavens to the Earth:

And he called out, ‘Father Abraham, have mercy on me, and send Lazarus to dip the end of his finger in water and cool my tongue, for I am in anguish in this flame.’ But Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us.’ (Luke 16:24-26)

Note that Abraham in this parable say the following to the man: NO ONE can pass from here to there or from there to here. That will be important later.

But despite this ambiguity regarding the location of Eden, something strange is that we do have a geographic direction describing how Adam and Eve left the garden. It uses the same word for “East” (qedem), but it seems more like it actually refers to a direction:

therefore the Lord God sent him out from the garden of Eden to work the ground from which he was taken. He drove out the man, and at the east of the garden of Eden he placed the cherubim and a flaming sword that turned every way to guard the way to the tree of life. (Genesis 3:23-24)

So, if Adam and Eve went EAST to leave the garden, this means that one must travel WEST to return to the garden. Right? Well, did you ever notice that the tabernacle was always supposed to face the East, so that when entering the presence of the Lord, the priests would by necessity be walking WEST? Did you know that both the first and second temple were also set up with this geographic layout?

Oh, but things get even weirder. Believe it or not, there is an ancient Greek myth that there was a garden with golden apples that gave eternal life that was guarded by a dragon. According to the myth, that Hercules killed the dragon. In fact, that is why there are two constellations in the sky, one of Hercules and one of a dragon, and the foot of Hercules is on the head of the dragon. Does that sound familiar? Oh, you bet it does:

So the Lord God said to the serpent, “Because you have done this,

“Cursed are you above all livestock
    and all wild animals!
You will crawl on your belly
    and you will eat dust
    all the days of your life.
And I will put enmity
    between you and the woman,
    and between your offspring and hers;
he will crush your head,
    and you will strike his heel.”

(Genesis 3:14-15)

While I can’t say for sure, I think the reason we’ve never connected the dots on this one is that we believe that Eden was planted “in the East” rather than “in ancient times.” But in fact, there was a widespread understanding of a garden that was a lot like the garden of Eden that was guarded by a dragon/cherubim. But that’s probably a story for a different post. We need to get back to the walking on water.

The important part about leaving Eden is that Adam and Eve left Eden going EAST, and that means that if they want to return, they need to travel WEST. And…. …the disciples were crossing a body of water traveling by traveling from EAST to WEST in order to go “home.”

Are you seeing it?

4. How the Feeding of the Five Thousand and Walking on Water Fit Together in One Symbolic Sign

So, as we described, the river that came from Eden is actually “the waters above the firmament.” Eden is on a mountain. It is the place where heaven and earth overlap.

And so if you want to know the geography of Eden, you need to think less physically. Instead, you need to understand it in the context of realms. The Garden of Eden was a location where the heavenly places and the Earth OVERLAP. It’s not the meeting of two PLACES. It is the meeting of two DIMENSIONS.

That is where Eden is located. And it is related to the feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water. Notice how curious these “coincidences” are:

Do you see it?

With that in mind, let’s look at all of the places where the sign of Jesus walking on water is reported. There are important details:

Immediately he made the disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowds. And after he had dismissed the crowds, he went up on the mountain by himself to pray. When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. And in the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. But when the disciples saw him walking on the sea, they were terrified, and said, “It is a ghost!” and they cried out in fear. But immediately Jesus spoke to them, saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.”
(Matthew 14:22-27)

 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, 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. Do not be afraid.” 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.
(Mark 6:45-52)

Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself.

When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were frightened. But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going. (John 6:15-21)

Here are the details you should recognize:

  1. First, in all of the gospels, we should note that the disciples are afraid because they think that Jesus is a “ghost.” The Greek word is Φάντασμά (phantasma). This is not the same thing as a “spirit.” The disciples were well-acquainted with spirits. They had even cast them out of people before this event. They were not afraid of sprits, but they were frightened by this. A “phantasma” is a spirit that you can SEE. That’s what they thought, but in reality, it was the man Jesus.
  2. Next, Matthew’s gospel shares that Jesus was alone on the mountain. Mark’s gospel shares that Jesus was able to see the disciples in the boat from the mountain. Other gospels tell us that this was around the time of Passover, and therefore, we know that there was a full moon allowing Jesus to see them.
  3. Further, Mark’s gospel shares a strange detail that Jesus “meant to” pass by them. That is very strange, so we should go to the Greek to explain the sentiment. The Greek verb that is used is ἤθελεν (ēthelen), which is the imperfect indicative active, third person singular version of the Greek verb θέλω (theló), which can mean the following: I will, wish, desire, am willing, intend, design. So, yes, Jesus may have “wished” to walk past them, but it is just as accurate to say that the “design” was to walk past them, or that he “desired” that they row all the way, and that he would only be next to them. Remember that. It will be important later.
  4. And finally, in the gospel of Mark, we read that as soon as Jesus comes in the boat, the wind ceased.
  5. Additionally, as soon as Jesus got in the boat, we read in the gospel of John that they were “immediately” at the land to which they were going, even though the wind had been against them before.

This is DEEPLY meaningful. But to explain it, I’ll need to point to some other things I have talked about on this blog in certain places about the relationship of “spirit” to “wind.” What you need to know is that in both Hebrew and Greek, the word “spirit” means “wind.” If you want to know what a “spirit” is, I have explained in this post that a “spirit” is an invisible influence that has an effect on the visible world. The Greek word for spirit is πνεῦμα (pneuma), and translators have decided that this word is interchangeable with the word “wind” in the gospel of John. For example, note what Jesus describes to Nicodemus:

Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit (pneuma), he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit (pneuma) is spirit (pneuma). Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind (pneuma) blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit (pneuma).” (John 3:5-8, ESV)

While our English bibles differentiate this word, Jesus does not. Jesus is not explaining the difference of “wind” and “spirit” to Nicodemus in this conversation. He’s not giving any analogy that Nicodemus can learn from Jesus. Instead, Jesus expects Nicodemus to understand him. But when Nicodemus doesn’t, and neither do we.

But now you can notice the importance of why the disciples were not able to get to the other side of the water by “rowing” – that is, based on their own efforts:

The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. (John 6:18)

When evening came, he was there alone, but the boat by this time was a long way from the land, beaten by the waves, for the wind was against them. (Matthew 14:23-24)

And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. (Mark 6:48)

And so at this point, we might as well just explain the entire thing. The feeding of the five thousand and Jesus walking on water are VERY connected to each other and the history of Israel itself.

When the Israelites were about to cross over the Jordan, they had been guided by the Lord and fed with bread from heaven the entire time. The design was for Israel to cross the Jordan, enter the promised land, and be a nation of the Lord God. The design was for Israel to serve the Lord, and by serving him, they would be blessed. They were being led into a land that was promised them by God. It was to flow with milk and honey. If they followed the Lord, he would bless the fruit of their fields and the fruit of their womb, and there would be no poverty or disease in their midst. The Lord would be with them. That was the design. (See Deuteronomy 7:6-16 and Deuteronomy 11)

But the hearts of Israel were not with the Lord. They were unfaithful. They were led astray by their desires, which were contrary to the instructions given by the Lord. They worshipped other Gods, because their SPIRIT was against them. Rather than follow God, they were following the prince of the power of the air, the same spirit that was at work in every evildoer in the world.

The path of the disciples is the same as Israel. Crossing the sea of Galilee is the same as crossing the Jordan, because the sea of Galilee feeds the Jordan river. Jesus had just fed the Jews in the desolate place, and he sent his disciples across the body of water and to their “home.” That was the design.

But the disciples could not make it. A wind was against them. Jesus was alone on the mountain. He had sent the disciples forward to go to the home. He promised them that he would meet them on the other side. But there was a “wind” against the disciples. There was a spirit that was keeping the disciples from going WEST and TO PARADISE. And so Jesus comes to them, and even though the “design” was for them to make it all the way.

God is in heaven, and Israel was on earth. There is a wide expanse between God, including “the deep” or “the waters above the firmament” which prevents interaction between heaven and earth, but God could see what was happening. His people were oppressed by the spirit within them. Because of this evil spirit within them, Israel did not follow the Lord, and just as he had warned them, they were destroyed. They were separated from God, and the presence of the Lord was no longer with them. As Abraham said in the parable:

‘Child, remember that you in your lifetime received your good things, and Lazarus in like manner bad things; but now he is comforted here, and you are in anguish. And besides all this, between us and you a great chasm has been fixed, in order that those who would pass from here to you may not be able, and none may cross from there to us. (Luke 14:25-26)

In a similar way, Jesus was on the mountain, his disciples were on the sea. But though there was a distance between Jesus on the mountain and his disciples, he could see them. They were struggling, because there was a “wind” against them. And even though the design was for them to row to the other side and that Jesus would meet them, in his compassion, Jesus came off of the mountain.

What “Father Abraham” in the parable said was impossible is what Jesus Christ accomplished. Though Israel and the disciples were struggling in darkness, Jesus crossed the great expanse and came into the world.

Just as there is a wide expanse between heaven and earth, separated by “the deep” which no one can cross, Jesus did something that no one can do. He walked across the water to reach those who were rowing in darkness.

And as we know, Adam and Eve traveled East when they left Eden. Therefore, to return to Eden, one must go West. This was the same direction that the disciples were traveling. But they could not make it, because a wind – an invisible influence having an effect on the visible world – was against them.

However, the moment that Jesus arrived and came into the boat, THE WIND STOPPED. And strangely, they were IMMEDIATELY where they were going. They were “home.” They had reached the promised land, where God told them he would meet them.

This is especially important when we realize that the place that Jesus and the disciples were going was LITERALLY the land of Zebulun and Naphtali.

Remember what Isaiah prophesied about the “way of the sea”? Look at it again:

But there will be no gloom for her who was in anguish. In the former time he brought into contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, but in the latter time he has made glorious the way of the sea, the land beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the nations.

The people who walked in darkness
    have seen a great light;
those who dwelt in a land of deep darkness,
    on them has light shone.
. . .
For to us a child is born,
    to us a son is given;
and the government shall be upon his shoulder,
    and his name shall be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
    Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of his government and of peace
    there will be no end,
on the throne of David and over his kingdom,
    to establish it and to uphold it
with justice and with righteousness
    from this time forth and forevermore.
The zeal of the Lord of hosts will do this.
(Isaiah 9:1-2, 6-7)

If there is one thing you should know about your Bible, it is that it is a WILDLY deep book, because it was written by God. The signs of Jesus in the gospel of John are also WILDLY deep and richly related to the history of Israel as described in the Bible. The reason is simple. Jesus was no man. He is the creator of heaven and earth. He wrote the Bible you are reading. He planned the signs that he performed in the gospel of John.

And Jesus is no mere man.

CONCLUSION

There is one final detail that I need to share with you about Jesus walking on water. I saved it for the end. We should remember the name of God of Israel:

Then Moses said to God, “If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, ‘The God of your fathers has sent me to you,’ and they ask me, ‘What is his name?’ what shall I say to them?” God said to Moses, “I AM who I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘I AM has sent me to you.’” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the people of Israel: ‘The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you.’ This is my name forever, and thus I am to be remembered throughout all generations (Exodus 3:13-15)

That phrase “I AM” is where the name of the Lord comes from – YHWH. As the footnote to that name “Lord” comes from, we read this in the ESV:

“The word Lord, when spelled with capital letters, stands for the divine name, YHWH, which is here connected with the verb hayah, “to be” in verse 14″

We should also remember what happens after Israel hears the voice of their God on Mount Sinai, and how the Lord responds to them:

Now when all the people saw the thunder and the flashes of lightning and the sound of the trumpet and the mountain smoking, the people were afraid and trembled, and they stood far off and said to Moses, “You speak to us, and we will listen; but do not let God speak to us, lest we die.” (Exodus 20:18-19)

And later, this is what Moses describes about what God said to him about this incident:

 “The Lord your God will raise up for you a prophet like me from among you, from your brothers—it is to him you shall listen— just as you desired of the Lord your God at Horeb on the day of the assembly, when you said, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of the Lord my God or see this great fire any more, lest I die.’ And the Lord said to me, ‘They are right in what they have spoken. I will raise up for them a prophet like you from among their brothers. And I will put my words in his mouth, and he shall speak to them all that I command him. (Deuteronomy 18:15-18)

So now, let’s connect this to Jesus walking on water. Do you remember how the disciples were extremely afraid? Look at what Jesus says to them:

But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” (John 6:20)

But that’s in English. In English, we have certain grammatical rules about identifying yourself that require a certain number of pronouns. Guess what Jesus actually said in the Greek:

ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς  Ἐγώ εἰμι μὴ φοβεῖσθε
[-] [and] [he says] [to them] [I] [AM] [not] [fear]   

Jesus identified himself as a man and not a phantom by saying, “I AM.” And just as Moses said that the prophet God would send would not cause Israel to fear, this is exactly what is happening when Jesus is walking on water.

This is the reality of the signs that John wants you to see in his gospel. In fact, it is the point of his gospel. John explained the point about Jesus Christ at the beginning of his work:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. . . . The true light, which gives light to everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1-5, 9-14)

The word “gospel” means “good news.” The good news of the gospel of John is that the maker of heaven and earth has been watching from heaven and sees that we are oppressed by invisible influences on our visible world. We are led astray by our passions and desires. But God, in his compassion, crossed the great expanse of different dimensions – coming from heaven to earth – to visit us in our trouble. When he arrived, the sin that has been against us from the beginning of time was disarmed. Without any effort of our own, but only by calling out to him, as the disciples did, our God will come to us. And when he comes, he immediately returns us to the paradise humanity lost millennia ago in the Garden of Eden.

He’s been saying it the entire time:

Now after John was arrested, Jesus came into Galilee, proclaiming the gospel of God, and saying, “The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.” (Mark 1:14-15)

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So that is the symbolic importance of the feeding of the five thousand and walking across water. The next post will be about healing the man born blind and raising Lazarus from the dead. As we’ve already hinted at by citing the parable of Lazarus and the Rich man, this next one is going to connect some dots that you probably didn’t know could be connected.

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