The boat plowed through the wave and then plunged into a trough, spray kicking up over the edges and plastering the men inside. They’d been out there for hours, waiting. Darkness had fallen. The night was nearly spent, and still they were waiting. They were tired. They were cold. They were wet. The contrary wind kept slapping waves against their boat.

The day before had been amazing. Crowds of people, thousands of people had tracked them down and followed them, had followed the man whom they were themselves following. So many other hungry folk could, like them, see something of what that man had to offer. Together the whole mass of them had witnessed him perform a miracle and feed all of them from almost nothing. What a rush that had been! But now? Just the chilled and fatigued few were out waiting in their boat.

“Did you see that?” one asked.

“See what?” another responded.

“Look!” a third cried. “Over there, out on the water, walking!”

All eyes turned to look and widened in fear. Someone’s terror put words to their fear. “It’s a ghost!”

Jesus heard their fear and, without hesitation, called out. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

One, bold Peter, answered, “Lord, if it’s you, the one whom we follow, tell me to come out to you on the water.”

“Come,” Jesus replied.

Peter leapt from the boat and began walking over the water toward Jesus. Away from the boat and its sheltering bulk, the wind snatched ever more greedily at him. He began to look around at the hostile elements, and fear took him. As it rose, his body sank. In panic, Peter cried out, “Lord, save me!”

Jesus immediately caught his hand and lifted him up, saying, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Together, they walked back to the boat and joined the disciples still aboard it. As soon as they had embarked, the wind quieted.

You might have guessed from my rewrite that I love the story of Jesus and Peter walking on water. I find it rich and thought provoking. It’s also cool. I mean, c’mon! They were walking on water. How COOL would it be to hop out of your boat onto the water and go for a stroll? Forget boats, bridges, and detours. Just walk across that liquid.

Another thing I like to do is think about how these people were real people. In some ways, the text is pretty factual. It tells us that the disciples were afraid, but it doesn’t say that their eyes widened in fear. It doesn’t say that they were tired, wet, and cold, but that there were waves, wind, and it was near dawn. I’ve taken a bit of liberty with it and drawn conclusions because these are people. The text does show that. Goodness, they thought Christ was a ghost! Do you think perhaps they’d been sitting around trying to take their mind off their surroundings by telling each other spooky stories? Then a mysterious figure appears, and they’re totally freaked. Christ is so kind. “Hey, guys, it’s me! Don’t be afraid!” I don’t know, but I can see stuff like that happening.

Because I can, because I can relate, it helps me see what a wonderful allegory this story can be. I probably will not find myself literally in a little boat out on a Middle Eastern sea, and I’m guessing you won’t, either, but this story is relevant and true for us today. We are still called to “walk on water” today.

Consider the greatest commandments, which commands us to love God with all our heart and mind and soul and strength. That’s not easy to do. It’s not easy at all. We live in a world that’s not interested in holiness or righteousness. Holiness doesn’t do good things for instant gratification, and righteousness doesn’t sell. Can’t make money off of it. But still, this is what we’re called to do. On good days, it’s kinda like riding in a boat “buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.” We’re out there, it’s dark, we’re wet, we’re cold, maybe we’re seasick, and there is a resistance to everything we are trying to accomplish.

Times like that, it’s easy enough to start wondering if Jesus is ever coming. It’s easy to start wondering if we’re getting anywhere or doing any good at all or even to forget whatever it is we were trying to do. Nausea can have that effect on people. 😉 So can cold and fatigue and darkness. They are discouraging circumstances which encourage us to focus on our discomfort while forgetting our purpose. Then, when Jesus does show, it’s not how we expect, and we don’t recognize Him. We freak out because there’s a ghost! “AaaaaAAAAaaaaAAAh! Oh, wait… Haha, Jesus, I knew it was you! I was just kidding!”

A moment comes when we have the opportunity to leave the boat and join Jesus out there on the water, you know, boatless. Think about that. Boats are constructs. They’re something made by humanity to allow us to cope with the instability of water and to use that water to accomplish our purposes. Boats are familiar. Boats are safe. Water is not. We can build and sail and row and drive boats. We cannot walk on water. It’s not safe for us, but there’s Peter jumping out of the boat to join Jesus. That’s insane, but so is a serious commitment to be a child of God. God has given us all kinds of tools (the Bible, church, Christian friends, etc.) to help us build and use boats of our own. However, sometimes those boats are not enough to overcome the opposition, and sometimes I think God just wants to knock our socks off, so we hear, “Come.”

Can you think how Peter must have felt? Excited, frightened, daring? He did fine, though, until he started looking at the wind. I can’t quite figure out how he saw the wind, but that’s the way the text describes it. He was afraid, a not unreasonable reaction considering he was engaged in something that he couldn’t possibly be doing, and that fear distracted him. The enemy got him all flustered so that he lost faith and started to sink. Smart man, though – he immediately recognized his situation and cried out to Christ for help. I have so done that. Haven’t you? Hasn’t there ever been something God has called you to do that you couldn’t possibly do, but out of love and faithfulness, you try anyway? At first there’s some success, but then there’s resistance that throws you off, and a horrid realization that you can’t do this comes crashing down upon you. I think it’s all good until I let my focus be drawn off Jesus and onto the impossible, the obstacle. I start to sink, and the only way I’m going to stop sinking is cry out to Jesus for help.

Have a good one!