“I don’t like the look of those clouds out there.”
Peter and John were both sitting at the front of the boat together as the disciples rowed across the lake. Peter was pointing out to the mountains beyond the sea as he remarked on the sky’s ominous threat. John moved closer to Peter to get the same vantage point.
“I agree, it looks like a storm is coming.”
Peter and John, along with Andrew and James all knew how to read the signs of the skies from their days fishing. When a storm like that was brewing, it was time to turn around and head back to shore, trip over. From their upbringing, they knew this was the typical protocol. But they exchanged glances, as if they were thinking if they should bring it up with the rest of the disciples.
“That shouldn’t matter,” Philip said. “Rabbi told us to cross to the other side of the lake. We must listen and follow what He told us to do.”
Peter looked back out to the threatening clouds heading towards them. He knew Philip was right. However he wondered if Philip was just trying to make up for what he said earlier during the feeding of the five thousand. Peter knew better than to disobey the Master’s instructions, even if they didn’t make sense based on what happened around them.
“You’re right Philip,” Peter responded at last, “we should continue on.”
“But we must be prepared for heavy winds and a longer trip than usual,” he continued. “We might be rowing through the night. Let’s tie up everything that is loose that might get dislodged and begin rotating out rowers.”
The disciples nodded, their faces worried but determined. They have all come this far to not trust that this was the way for them to go, storm or no storm. They all knew that they needed to keep moving forward.
It was late at night and the disciples were weary from the bombardment they’ve been facing for hours. The storm had hit – just as they had predicted – and they had been pushing forward the best they knew how to do in the middle of the waves. But the storm was growing and it was becoming more and more dangerous. No matter how ominous the storm looked from far away, it was worse in the middle of it.
“Peter, I don’t know how much more this boat can take,” Andrew called out, as he and James were desperately bailing out the water that the waves dumped it back at a faster pace. Most of the disciples were now on the oars rowing as they tried to row towards land but no matter how hard they rowed, it seemed as if they were just remaining in the middle of the sea.
“I’ve known people who’ve gone down in lesser storms,” John yelled out to Peter. “This was not a good idea, I don’t think we are going to make it out of this one.”
Peter was also desperate. He had bailed out as much water as he could and also taken multiple turns at rowing and felt the despair. It seemed as if there was no hope. “This storm is other worldly” James pointed out as another shrieking gust of wind hit the boat. The boat rocked dangerously close to the edge of the water and back, threatening to capsize. It did feel like hell itself was trying to take them down.
As they all sat in that fear and realization, someone from the back of the boat shouted out, “Look, there’s something out there!”
The disciples responded in more terror as they connected the dots to James statement. “What is it, what’s out there?!” Andrew called out.
No one knew who called it out but someone shouted, “it’s a ghost!” and in a matter of seconds all of the disciples were crying out in fear that it was a ghost, a phantom, coming to take their lives. Another wave hit the boats and all the disciples began crying out as if it were their last.
From the distance, they heard a familiar voice, a voice that spoke comfort and peace but with such a familiar reassurance. A voice they heard everyday, that brought calm into every situation with confidence and authority. “Don’t be afraid,” it said, “Take courage.”
“I AM here.”
The disciples quieted. “Is it Him?” They whispered to one another in the boat, their whole paradigm shifting from moments before. “Is it Jesus?” They asked one another. They had expected Jesus to meet them on the other side of this, not right out here in the middle of it.
It was then that Peter met Jesus’ eyes. It was as if everything around him paused as he locked eyes with the only one that really mattered in his life. Despite the threat of death they faced, all that mattered in that moment to Peter was the safety he saw in Jesus out there in the waves. He knew there was only one direction that he needed to go and that was not rowing into the middle of the storm to get to the other side of the lake. It was towards Him.
So Peter called out, “Lord, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you, on the water.”
Peter couldn’t fully see Jesus’ face in the midst of the raging storm but he could have sworn he saw Jesus smile. Then Peter heard the words that changed everything inside of him.
Nothing else mattered. It’s almost as if everything froze as Peter didn’t focus on anything else but the Man he heard and who he saw out there on the water. He stepped out into the water and began walking towards Jesus as if he were on solid ground. He saw in Jesus’ eyes the assurance he needed, step by step he was getting closer to the one he wanted to give the rest of his life to. He saw everything he needed – peace, love and safety.
But soon, Peter began to notice again what was around him and felt the water crashing against him as he walked towards Jesus. He broke his gaze with Jesus and looked at the waves that were bombarding him and he became terrified once again. He looked back and saw how far away he was from the boat and began to sink into the water. Peter became more overwhelmed, feeling as if his faith had gotten him in a worse spot than before.
“Save me!” Peter called out as the watery grave pulled him down. Another wave hit his face as the water grasped onto him tighter. This truly was the end.
That’s when he felt a strong arm pull him up. The watery grave became solid ground once again as Jesus held onto Peter.
In the middle of the still raging storm, Jesus looked intently at Peter as He held onto him tightly. “You have so little faith, Peter.” He said gently. “Why did you doubt me?”
Peter looked at Jesus incredulously. Who was this Man and how did He so easily save him? Jesus was not the Man Peter thought Him to be, He was so much more. Could this Man truly be the Son of God?
Soaking wet and trembling, Peter held onto Jesus. They stood in that moment for what felt like a lifetime – Peter clinging to Jesus. Jesus then looked at him and looked back at the boat. “Are you ready to go back?”
“Surely not!” Peter exclaimed. He just almost drowned, why would he try that again?
“There’s no other way but to keep moving forward Peter. We can’t stay here.”
Peter looked out at the wind and the waves again, terrified. Only moments ago terror and panic had overwhelmed him, allowing the waves to pull him down. What would make this time any different? He felt a squeeze on his hand and realized Jesus was still holding his hand. Jesus was actually still holding most of him as he had buckled into the fear.
As he was in Jesus’ arms, the impossible became possible again. Because even as Peter faltered and froze in the middle of this storm, he was still standing on water with Jesus. Oh the craziness of it all! So while Peter stood there thinking, he realized there wasn’t too much to think about. He was already here with Jesus and going back to the boat was only to remain with Jesus.
Peter squeezed His hand back as if to signal that he understood the point. He took a deep breath and took a step out. Like last time. But not like last time. This time, he wasn’t walking towards Jesus. This time, he was walking with Him.
The rest of the disciples crowded at the edge of the board watching out as they witnessed the miracle unfold. Step by step, Peter and Jesus walked back towards them. The wind still raged and the waves continued to crash, again, almost threatening to take them down. But this time, Peter never faltered because he had the one who never falters by his side.
Before Peter began to over think again what happened, they made it to the edge of the boat. As if on solid ground, Jesus stepped over into the boat, pulling Peter along with Him.
The moment Peter put his feet back in the boat, the storm ceased. All the disciples in the boat looked up and around, speechless.
Had He done what he thought He did? Had the wind and the waves truly obeyed Him?
Jesus locked eyes with Peter in an unwavering gaze, like the steadiness and calm that ceased the storm outside came from within His very Being.
Slowly, Peter began to feel the boat rock and he turned around. He saw one by one each of his friends kneel before Jesus. Peter took in the sight and turned back to Jesus.
“The Son of God!” He declared and knelt before Jesus.
The rest of the disciples began exclaiming the same thing, “You are the Son of God!” they began to yell.
“The Son of God! The Son of God!” “All Hail the Son of God!”
As the sun shone and the newfound stillness of the sea around them gently lapped against the boat, it felt as if all of creation joined in as they lifted up worship to Jesus.
Peter joined in adamantly, reflecting on what had just transpired. What he tried to do on his own, he realized happened easily with Jesus. He had tried to walk out on the water, to do what Jesus did. And he did for a little. But in reality, he was only able to fully accomplish the impossible when he reached out to Jesus.
It was when Jesus grabbed his hand and walked with him that Peter had truly walked on water. The miracle happened when hand in hand, they had walked together back to the boat.