The wind was howling. Rain pelted their faces like cast iron BB’s. His soaked cloths clung to his body, wrapping him in cold chill. He looked around the small 20 foot boat and all he could see was terror. Ankle deep water sloshed around his ankles. The other men in the boat reflected the same terror that filled him. Hours ago, in the middle of this, the worst night of his life, he had reconciled himself to his pending death. Just hours ago all of them had witnessed their friend Jesus making food from nothing to feed thousands. And now, this. He shook it off and pulled the oar again.
The Sea of Galilee was a terrible mistress. One flip of the shekel gave them sustenance and employment. The other side, the dark side, brought the terror that filed him now. It was the worst storm that he could recall in this 20 plus years as a fisherman on these waters. It was unrelenting and sure to be his last.
His arms ached as he pulled his oar with the others. The distant shore could have been miles or yards, he wasn’t sure. He couldn’t see a thing. He peered intently into the inky blackness looking for hope in the wretched storm. A rock, a jetty, anything…
He let the oar go with a hand and wiped the rain from his blurred eyes. He had been terrified of dying a moment earlier. Now, suddenly, he was terrified of living. There, upon the churning waters of Galilee walked a ghost. He screamed to his mates, certain of his imminent death, and pointed to the figure as it crept closer to the boat.
The earthly terror of the sudden storm was replaced with an unearthly terror of demons upon them. The first they could understand; the second was beyond their understanding.
Their screams crossed the turbulence and reached the ears of Jesus.
If it were to happen today, he may have said. “Hey guys, relax! It’s me!
Now the next line uttered – in the middle of this screaming storm, to a visage that a split second earlier you thought was a ghost or some sort of demon – must be the absolute dumbest thing ever said by man.
“Yeah, well if it’s REALLY you, why don’t you ask me to walk out there to you?”
What in the world was Peter thinking??!!
It’s a screaming storm. Who in their right mind would even THINK about getting out of the only place that offered the barest margin of safety?
You’re talking to a ghost?? You’re talking to someone walking on water??? You actually believe you can walk on water????
I would have loved to have seen Jesus’ face! I bet he rolled his eyes and smiled. Of course it was Peter – who else.
“Sure, Peter. Get on out here!”
Peter, the only person to ever have walked on water (not counting Peter Sellers in Being There) did exactly that. He climbed out of the boat and started walking toward Jesus.
All sorts of thoughts run across my mind. He was already wet, but did the water actually touch him? Could he feel the water bend under his weight?
Strangely, the Bible says it was the WIND, not the water, that scared him and he began to sink.
At that point, Peter was literally standing next to Jesus. The Bible says Jesus “reached out his hand” and said “Peter I had you, man. You should have trusted me to have your back.”
The terrors of life often come up suddenly. Perhaps not as dramatic as this event in Peter’s life, but just as terrifying.
Let’s get a little real here. I’ve been terrified sailing on my own Galilee. I was terrified facing my first heart attack, a business failure and marriage problems. We’ve all faced something out on life’s waters that filled us with fear. And, with many miles of water behind me and a heavenly shore still in front of me, I’m sure other storms will sweep in and I’ll be afraid again.
The weird thing is, I too, have seen a glimmer of something in the midst of a storm. Occasionally I will immediately recognize Jesus moving towards me. Sometimes not. When I do see who it is, look around at the storm around me, I too want to jump out of the boat and run towards him.
But, just like Peter, though I trust in Jesus, I get distracted by the howling winds and begin to fear. The results are the same. I begin to sink. Truth is, I can’t fix these kinds of storms. Like Peter, I have to learn again that my safety, present and future, comes only though the intimate contact of an outstretched hand.
Jesus and Peter walked hand in hand back to the boat together. The storm still raged. The waves continued to crash around them, yet Jesus was unaffected. Peter, held by Jesus, buoyed now with confidence by the touch and presence of Jesus, could watch the waters swirl beneath him and not be afraid.
Jesus climbed into the boat with Peter.
The wind stopped. The storm stopped. The waters were calm.
Sometimes it may be quite a walk back to the boat. But when I get in, and the storms around me cease, I can say with the others in the little boat. “Jesus – You ARE the Son of God”.