Some people believe that miracles are unexplainable events not governed by physical law. Others believe they only appear inexplicable because people are unable to understand how they happen or to explain them scientifically.
The miracle of Jesus walking on water as described in the gospels of Matthew, Mark and John, for example, appears to be an inexplicable event. The disciples were rowing a boat across Lake Galilee in a strong wind when they saw Jesus walking toward them across the water. They thought they were seeing a ghost, but Jesus told them not to be afraid, and the wind died down when he got into the boat. Matthew also relates that Peter climbed out of the boat and tried to walk over the water to Jesus, but sank into the water and would have drowned if Jesus had not lifted him up by the hand.
But perhaps this miracle can also be explained scientifically.
The role of perception and memory
Psychological studies of perception and memory demonstrate that the brain interprets information it receives based on prior experience, and can easily misinterpret that information, as optical illusions clearly show. The Gospels report that it was a dark, windy night and it must have been difficult for the disciples to see anything clearly. Perhaps, as some have suggested, Jesus was walking or wading along the shoreline, or perhaps on a sand bar hidden just below the surface of the water.
Studies have also demonstrated that memories change over time: Stories told from memory change each time they are passed from one person to another. Given that the Gospel writers recorded events which had been told and retold many times since they occurred over 50 years previously, the stories they heard may have become exaggerated or mythologized over time.
Walking on ice
It has also been proposed that instead of walking on water Jesus was actually Walking on ice
Florida State University oceanography professor Doron Nof points to evidence that the Middle East was much colder in Jesus’ time than it is now, and suggests that temperatures may have occasionally dropped low enough to freeze lake water. Because there is a saltwater spring feeding into the lake, and salt water freezes at a lower temperature than fresh water, the mixing of salt and fresh water could have caused an invisible sheet of ice to form just below the surface of the lake in a phenomenon known as spring ice.
Another interesting theory involves Non-Newtonian fluid, a phenomenon through which certain fluids become either runnier or thicker when shaken or hit, with those that become thicker acting like solids when subjected to stress. Mud and cornstarch paste are common non-Newtonian fluids.
Here is an entertaining You Tube video showing how to walk on a mixture of cornstarch and water. When the demonstrators walk quickly and slap the surface of the liquid with the soles of the feet they create resistance and stay on the surface, but when they stop walking they sink.
The Holy Land is a region subject to frequent earthquakes. Perhaps an earthquake stirred up layers of sediment from the bottom of the lake, turning the water into non-Newtonian mud. Jesus stayed on the surface by walking quickly and planting his feet firmly, but Peter, who was hesitant and afraid, moved too slowly and sank.
No one will ever truly know what happened on the Sea of Galilee on that dark, windy night 2000 years ago. Inquiring minds will continue to seek a logical explanation, while others believe the miracle of Jesus walking on water is a lesson on the importance of faith which requires no explanation.