The Day Water obeyed the Will of its Maker1
One of the more breathtaking scenes in the gospels is that of Jesus walking on the water. We read about it in Matthew 14:22-33; Mark 6:45-52; and in John 6:16-21. Jesus did not come “by” the Sea, but “on” the Sea of Galilee. Liberal skeptics respond to this story in much the same way they do to the feeding of the 5,000. They scoff that anyone in our highly technological and educated society would believe Jesus literally walked on water. They insist that he only stood in the shallow water at the shore’s edge. But all three gospel authors who record this event say otherwise: they were in the middle of the sea and he came walking upon it (Matt. 14:25-26). Others try to explain this away by insisting that he walked on a sand bar barely submerged beneath the surface of the water.
I remember many years ago a noted exponent of eastern meditation and yoga claimed he could walk on water. The event took place in Bombay, India, where hundreds of people paid a high price to watch him do it. He prepared himself for the miracle by swallowing what he said were steel tacks and nitric acid and walking on hot embers. He then walked up to the tank filled with water, placed a foot on the surface, and immediately sank to the bottom. Angry spectators demanded their money back. The guru explained that earlier in the week he had slipped and injured himself which made it impossible for him to achieve a state of levitation. He invited everyone to come back in a couple of weeks for a repeat performance, but I never heard if anyone took him up on the offer!
In a national magazine about the same time, there was a cartoon of a man walking on the water in a swimming pool of a luxury hotel, hands outstretched, balancing himself. The caption under the cartoon came from a person sitting in a beach chair beneath an umbrella. He turns to his friend next to him and says: “Wow. It’s been years since that’s been done really well!”
What do we say to the person, perhaps you, who says: “But this is physically impossible. Water does not possess the solidity necessary to sustain a human body. Everyone knows this.”
Several years ago I did a little research on the physical properties of water. And by that I mean research beyond the fact that water consists of two hydrogen atoms bound to one oxygen atom. I read about things like Molar mass and surface tension and heat capacity and dielectric constant and viscosity and density and relative permittivity and index of refraction relative to air. And I must confess to you that I didn’t understand a single syllable of any of it! Those of you more scientifically trained understand these terms. I don’t.
But here’s what I do understand, at least in small part. When I hear of these chemical and physical properties of water and of what it can and cannot do and how it is used and how, as one author put, “water is the ‘mother’ and ‘matrix’ of all life,” I asked the simple question: Why? Why is water made up of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen atom? Why do they sustain the relationship to each other that they do? Why does water freeze at 32 degrees F? Why does it boil at 212 degrees F? Why does it exist in three forms: liquid, solid, and gas?
I suppose some of you may think those are silly questions. The answer, so you would tell me is: “Well, water freezes at 32 degrees because that’s the way the physical and chemical laws operate.” Yes, I understand, but why do they operate in this way? What accounts for why the laws of physics are what they are and chemical compounds function in the way they do and why the various elements in the natural realm interact and react in the manner that we observe? It isn’t enough simply to say: “Well, because that’s the way they are. That’s the way it has always been, and a law of physics is a law of physics is a law of physics.”
But why is each law of physics what it is and not otherwise? My point is simply that water is what it is and functions the way it does because that is the will of the self-existent, eternal, all-powerful Creator who made it and ordained that the laws of physics and chemical reactions be such as they are.
And if that Creator chooses to suspend himself on the surface of a body of water without sinking, I don’t even blink an eye or lose a breath. He is the Lord over every quark and proton and electron and atom and molecule in the universe and they do his bidding every nano-second of every day. Water freezes at 32 degrees F because water’s Creator and Lord ordained that it should possess physical properties that react in a particular way to the precise temperature that he also ordained.
If God should choose to utilize water in a way contrary to its normal function and in defiance of its normal properties, that is his prerogative and power as water’s Creator and Providential Lord. The only reason why water always freezes at a particular temperature and always boils at a particular temperature and always vaporizes at particular temperature and cannot normally sustain the weight of a human being who seeks to stand upon it is because God so wills.
And if God so wills that Jesus walk upon it, who am I to question or doubt him, especially given the fact that I am what I am and have a brain to think the way I do and continue to breathe moment-by-moment only because God so wills!
Praise be to our Lord Jesus Christ, “by” whom all things were created, and “through” whom all things were created, and “for” whom all things were created (Col. 1:16). Indeed, “in him all things hold together” (Col. 1:17).