What does John 6:18 mean?
ESV: The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing.
NIV: A strong wind was blowing and the waters grew rough.
NASB: In addition, the sea began getting rough, because a strong wind was blowing.
CSB: A high wind arose, and the sea began to churn.
NLT: Soon a gale swept down upon them, and the sea grew very rough.
KJV: And the sea arose by reason of a great wind that blew.
Mark chapter 6 and Matthew chapter 14 provide many useful details about this particular incident. John intends His gospel to supplement those accounts, not to replace them. Among the details not listed here are that Jesus has been watching the men from the surrounding hillside and will eventually walk out on the water towards them (Mark 6:48), and that this is the incident where Peter briefly walks on water, as well (Matthew 14:28–32).
The terrain around the Sea of Galilee is shaped in a way which contributes to sudden storms. At the moment this incident occurs, the disciples' boat is right in the middle of the lake (John 6:19), which is only about 7 miles (11 km) long. According to Mark, the disciples are "rowing" against the wind. This means the storm they were experiencing was more or less exactly as described here in the gospel of John: a "strong wind." This was not a typhoon, or a hurricane-level squall. All the same, a small boat and wind-driven waves combine for an uncomfortable experience. It is worth noting, however, that the fear these men felt was because they initially thought Jesus was a ghost, not because they were afraid of sinking (John 6:19; Mark 6:49).
John 6:16–21 contains the fifth of John's seven miraculous ''signs'' proving that Jesus Christ is God: Christ walking on the water. This passage also describes a ''hidden'' miracle, not part of the main seven, involving the disciples and their boat. This incident is important for what it teaches about difficulty and suffering. The disciples found themselves in rough seas, after Jesus told them specifically to sail across the Sea of Galilee. Their hard time was not the result of disobedience; rather, their hard time came because they obeyed. Not all struggles are punishments, and not all storms come due to rebellion. At times, obedience to God means heading into a storm.
In chapter 6, Jesus feeds thousands of people who had been following Him. He does this by miraculously dividing the contents of a small lunch, leaving more left over than He had to begin with. At first, the crowd is amazed and they enthusiastically praise Jesus. After sending the disciples across the Sea of Galilee, and rescuing them from a storm by walking on the water, Jesus once again addresses the crowd. This time, He emphasizes the spiritual lesson behind His prior miracle. In response, most of those who had been praising Jesus turn away from Him in disappointment.
John chapter 6 occurs some months after the events of chapter 5, bringing the narrative to about one year prior to Jesus' crucifixion. As with the rest of the Gospel of John, the purpose is not to repeat information from the other three Gospels, but to focus on Jesus' status as God incarnate. This chapter continues to expand the list of Jesus' miraculous signs and the witnesses to His divine nature. Here, Jesus also gives the first of seven ''I AM'' statements found in this Gospel. Chapter 7 will once again skip ahead to a major public step in Jesus' path to the cross.
The gospel of John was written by the disciple John, decades later than the gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The author assumes that a reader is already familiar with the content of these other works. So, John presents a different perspective, with a greater emphasis on meaning. John uses seven miracles—which he calls “signs”—in order to prove that Jesus is, in fact, God incarnate. Some of the most well-known verses in all of the Bible are found here. None is more famous than the one-sentence summary of the gospel found in John 3:16.
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