Row, Row, Row, Row, Row, Row, Row, Row, Row, Row, Row, Row Your Boat

by Tad Lindley

Remember in the Bible when Peter got out of the boat and began to walk on the water? (Matthew 14:22-36) Remember when Jesus fed the 5,000 men plus women and children with 5 pieces of pilot bread and 2 dried smelt, and how they picked up 12 baskets of leftover? (Matthew 14:13-21) These two miracles are side by side in the Bible. They both happen within a 24-hour period, but do you know what happened in between them?


The disciples had just gathered up the 12 baskets of leftovers. Look what happens next: straitway Jesus commanded his disciples to get into a ship, and to go before him to the other side [of the Sea of Galilee] (Matthew 14:22). “Straitway” means immediately. They had just experienced such a powerful miracle, and now Jesus sends them on ahead of him. He goes to be alone, and they get into a boat.

What happens at even?

And when even was come, the ship was in the midst of the sea, and he alone on the land. And he saw them toiling in rowing; for the wind was contrary unto them… (Mark 6:47-48). “Even” in this case is related closely to the word evening. It means the shift from day to night. The sun goes down and it becomes night. In Israel this would have been at about 6 PM. Note that time. At around 6 PM, Jesus looked out from the land and saw the 12 disciples traveling into the wind. The wind was so strong against them, that they were toiling at the oars.

Jesus to the rescue, or is it?

Mark 6:48 continues to explain the situation: and about the fourth watch of the night he cometh unto them walking on the water, and would have passed by them. In the time and place of this story, the night which is 12 hours, is broken into 4 3-hour long watches:

1st Watch: Sunset to 9 PM

2nd Watch: 9 PM to midnight

3rd Watch: Midnight to 3 AM

4th Watch: 3 AM to Sunrise

So by the time Jesus went out to rescue them, it was during the fourth watch, so it was sometime between 3 AM and 6 AM. Jesus noticed them toiling at sunset, and waits until the fourth watch to come to the rescue. This means that he intentionally let them struggle for 9 to 12 hours!

How bad was it?

The book of John (6:19) gives us more detail into what was going on in the Sea of Galilee that night: so when they had rowed about twenty-five or thirty furlongs they see Jesus walking on the sea and drawing nigh unto the ship and they were afraid. Unless you grew up on a farm, 25 furlongs might sound like a respectable distance. A furlong is only 220 yards. This means that the disciples in a space of 9-12 hours had only rowed 3 miles. In fact, there progress was so slow against the wind that Jesus on foot was getting ready to pass them by. With 12 men rowing, they were only inching forward across the sea.

From inside the boat

They had rowed non-stop from sunset to almost sunrise. Their backs into the wind and their arms and backs exhausted, they must have wanted nothing more than to be dry and asleep. And as they are toiling up and down the swells, in the distance they see what almost looks like a man walking on the sea, disappearing in the troughs and then reappearing on the crests, coming closer and closer. He wasn’t going straight to them though, because the Bible says he would have passed them by, but they suspected it was Jesus and began to call out to him. Their cries got his attention. Then the next thing they knew, Peter was out of the boat also walking on the water, and the rest is history.

Row, row, row your boat

I could never pretend to understand the motive of God in such a situation, but instead, I want us to think about the disciples. Why didn’t they turn around? They could have spent the night on the beach in a dry place, but instead the pressed on into the storm. This shows the depth of their character. It shows their commitment to the command of Jesus to cross the sea. How about you? When life blows contrary to the direction you are trying to go, do you give up, or do you row into the wind? Many have missed their miracle, because they gave up too soon, but not you, friend though everything come against you, row, row, row your boat!

Reverend Tad Lindley is a minister at the United Pentecostal Church in Bethel, Alaska.

Example: 9075434113