16 When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, 17 got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum.
Part of the problem is that we can only know with limited certainty where the miracle of feeding 5000 was performed. The most likely location is at the place where the travel of Jesus shown in color would have taken him from Jerusalem to the Sea of Galilee. He therefore, probably, performed the miracles of feeding of the large crowd not far from the southern shore of the lake (shown by the arrow).
It is not easy to track the movements of Jesus, disciples and the crowds in this intense story full of faith, actions, miracles and unexplained behavior and teachings. But if we walk slowly and carefully through the text, we should be able to trace with some clarity almost all the movements described here. So, let us begin. We begin (vs.16) with the place where the feeding of 5000 took place (probably the southern point of the sea of Galilee), when Jesus hid himself on the mountainside, disciples boarded the boat and began to make their short journey to the other side of the lake – the city of Kfar Nahum – literally the village of Nahum (we know it as Latinized Capernaum as it comes to us in the Gospel of John written in Greek).
It sounds strange that disciples left the place without waiting for Jesus long enough for the crowds to leave and him to return. It is likely that he gave instructions to his disciples to meet him in Capernaum, his northern headquarters, where Peter’s family had a large house. Jesus popularity there was so huge. We can see that even when he spoke to the worshipers and followers in the town’s synagogue about “drinking his blood and eating of his flesh,” he did not seem to have been hassled in any violent way. The story simply ends with the words “Jesus said these things in the synagogue, as he taught at Capernaum” (Jn.6.59).
17 It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them.
Though this statement is somewhat strange, it is possible that Jesus agreement with the disciples was that he would come on a separate boat and will catch up to them mid-way through the lake. We find out from what unfolds that his disciples were up for a very big surprise.
18 The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.
The lake of Kinneret (Sea of Galilee) is situated between the mountains where during certain seasons a rather violent storm can occur easily overthrowing a small boat. This is true up until now. As a matter of fact I personally know someone who once fished there (he is not professional finisherman, but quite experienced nevertheless), when a storm like the one described in vs.18 and on occurred. Israeli urgent help cervices were called and the man was airlifted to safety. (He carefully checks the weather now, before going out to finish there again).
19 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.
Just to give you some perspective, the pear-shaped lake is about 23 kilometers (14 miles) long from north to south, with a maximum width of 13 kilometers (8 miles) in the north, covering 166 square kilometers (64 square miles), so it is not all that large, but is nevertheless sizeable. We are told that the boat with the disciples had just made it to about 3-4 miles mark which is roughly a quarter of the entire distance. It was night and the lights of the coastal cities were still glimmering rather far. As was mentioned the reason for them leaving without Jesus is not clear, but to have a figure moving on the water was threatening.
20 But he said to them, “It is I; do not be afraid.” 21 Then they were glad to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat was at the land to which they were going.
Jesus’ did not make them wait and responded with the comforting assurance quickly. They were astounded and excited to see their rabbi exercising his lordship over the fiercest force of nature (water) by walking upon it with ease. But there was no time to think at all and a very curious thing happened. Although the distance was still sizable around 20 kilometers (or 10 miles) left to Kfar Nahum (Capernaum) the boat safely touched the stony beach. This may sound like an unconnected to anything incident, but we will be at theological fault no to know that the distance and time is under lordship of God himself and him only. He alone lives outside of time and outside of distance as such, being eternal and omnipresent. Therefore, this curious occurrence is actually very important because it shows that when the God-Man (Logos of God) Jesus is in the boat with the disciples, the boat is able to disappear at once place on the map and reaper in another. In the previous post we discussed another curiosity like that that makes a careful reader wonder. Jesus was in Jerusalem in John 5, but by the time he finishes his talk with hoi Ioudaioi by the very beginning of chapter 6 we find that he was already on one of the shores of Galilean Sea, ready to boat his boat and to cross over. John is full of Jesus’ miraculous activity, but he concentrates on the miracles activity that does not simply characterize him as a man of God, but as God himself, even though being also a real human being in every way, except sin.
22 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.
The crowd wondered about what happened. Disciples could not have left Jesus on the shore behind. The crowd watched the place where he could have boarded another boat carefully. Jesus was not to be found anywhere after his escape to the mountains as he disappeared after a near crowning attempt of the misguided crowd to make him king. Disciples left without waiting for Jesus. Math simply did not work. Where was he? He is made of flesh and blood, he had to be somewhere. The crowds reasoned, perhaps, he went to Capernaum. How? They did not know.
23 Other boats from Tiberias came near the place where they had eaten the bread after the Lord had given thanks. 24 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.
Best we are able to see the chronology of the story. When the boats from neighboring Tiberias came to the southern point of the sea (the last place Jesus was seen – same place where Jesus fed the 5000), the crowds thought, “Jesus must have boarded the boat in Tiberias where his disciples must have gone too”. It was night, remember, the crowds could not see that disciples did not go NW towards Tiberias, but simply North toward Capernaum. Therefore, in vs. 24 we read that when the crowds figured out that neither Jesus, not disciples were in the boats that came from Tiberias, some of them got into those boats and set out North for Kfar Nahum (Capernaum) a known place of Jesus’ abode. They wanted to see Jesus and nothing was going to stop them.
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