Over the years a number of explanations have been given to explain away Jesus' walking on the water. Some have argued Jesus wasn't actually walking on the water but was standing at the lake's edge in a shallow place. Because the night was cloudy and dark, the disciples only thought they saw Jesus stride across the sea, when actually He didn't. Others have fancifully argued Christ actually walked across a series of stones in the middle of the lake.
Nevertheless, not to be outdone among the skeptics, Professor Doron Nof of Florida State University claims it may have been ice Jesus stood on and not water. According to a recent article by Reuters, "Nof used records of the Mediterranean Sea's surface temperatures and statistical models to examine the dynamics of the Sea of Galilee, which Israelis know now as Lake Kinneret. Nof's study found that a period of cooler temperatures in the area between 1,500 and 2,600 years ago could have included the decades in which Jesus lived. A drop in temperature below freezing could have caused ice -- thick enough to support a human -- to form on the surface of the freshwater lake near the western shore ... it might have been nearly impossible for distant observers to see a piece of floating ice surrounded by water."
It's hard to believe any such theories are ever taken seriously. Yet they often are. Why? Why is it so incredibly hard for some to believe the obvious -- a miracle took place?
Perhaps it's because in a scientific age some people feel we've outgrown the idea of miracles as nothing more than silly superstitions. But what makes us feel some of the people in Jesus' day weren't skeptical too? There's every reason to believe Nicodemus, a highly educated man in his day, was skeptical. Yet it seems it was the miracles of Christ that drove him to seek a meeting with the Savior by night to try and resolve his many questions (John 3:1, 2). Certainly Thomas was skeptical concerning the miracle of the resurrection. "Unless I see in His hands the print of the nails, and place my hand in His side, I will not believe," he said (John 20:25). So the people of Jesus' day were no less skeptical than many are today.
Yet they couldn't avoid the inescapable, irrefutable evidence of Jesus' miracles. He healed leprosy, paralysis, a withered hand, deaf and dumbness, blindness, a severed ear, hemorrhaging, and dropsy. He turned water into wine, stilled a storm, caused a supernatural catch of fish, multiplied food, and dried up a fig tree. He raised a man's daughter, a widow's son, and Lazarus from the dead. Interestingly, even the critics of Jesus' day didn't deny His miracle-working power. Instead they wanted to kill Him before everyone believed in Him (John 11:48).
According to Reuters, Nof says, "If you ask me if I believe someone walked on water, no, I don't. Maybe somebody walked on the ice, I don't know. I believe that something natural was there that explains it." But how will Nof, and others who share his position, naturally explain all the other reported miracles of Jesus?
Moreover, apologist Josh McDowell writes: "[W]e must remember that scientific laws neither dictate events nor do they explain them. They are merely a generalization about observable causes and effects .... The proper way of determining if something happened is not whether we can explain it. The first question to be asked is not can it happen, but rather did it happen .... If an event can be determined as having happened, yet it defies explanation, we still have to admit that it happened, explanation or not. The evidence for biblical miracles is as powerful historically as other historical events (such as the fall of Rome and the conquests of Alexander the Great). Just because miracles are outside our normal daily experience does not mean they have not occurred and do not occur."
Still another reason why some people have a hard time accepting the miracles described in the Bible is because they compare them to Greek and Roman mythology -- tales of pagan miracle accounts that are clearly superstition. The difference, however, between the miraculous events recorded in the Bible and those in pagan religions are the firsthand accounts. In the Bible, miraculous events are always validated by the testimony of eyewitnesses.
What is more, their reality is often attested to by Christianity's adversaries. For instance there are many references to Jesus' miracles in the Jewish law books and histories. These are not mentioned in a complimentary way, but in a way that verifies Christ performed miracles. Julian the Apostate, Roman Emperor from A.D. 361-363, an ardent opponent of Christianity, also unwittingly admits Christ's power to perform miracles when he writes: "Jesus ... has now been celebrated about three hundred years; having done nothing in his lifetime worthy of fame, unless anyone thinks it a very great work to heal lame and blind people and exorcise demoniacs in the villages of Bethsaida and Bethany."
So the fact that some miracles are counterfeits doesn't mean all are a sham. It's incredibly unscientific to throw out the miracles of the Bible based on "guilt by association."
The fact is the miracles of Jesus attest to His person. They are His credentials, proving His claim to be the Son of God. As A.E. Garvie once so eloquently stated it: "A Christ who being the Son of God, and seeking to become the Savior of men, (and) wrought no miracle, would be less intelligible and credible than the Jesus whom the Gospel records so consistently present to us."
There is only one reason Jesus walked on the water. It was not because He was walking on ice, but because He was who He claimed to be -- God in human flesh -- the very one who has the power to supersede all the laws of nature. Most importantly, it should be mentioned Jesus also performed miracles to demonstrate His authority to change and redeem lives, which is a considerably greater miracle than the ability to walk on water.
This article originally appeared on April 12, 2006.
Rev. Mark H. Creech (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the executive director of the Christian Action League of North Carolina, Inc.