A Rebuke Re-Imagined

Based on Matthew 14:22-33

The oars plunged back into the water, rowers silent as they strained against the unrelenting wind. Despite their effort, the boat seemed to stand still in the midst of the churning sea. Those without an oar bailed water as it sloshed over the sides of the boat, trying not to notice the seemingly endless waves that surrounded them.

It had been a long night.

What started as a day off had been anything but restful. The arms that now rowed and bailed in earnest had spent the afternoon waiting on thousands of hungry men, women, and children as they listened to Jesus preach. After the exhilaration of participating in yet another miracle, these exhausted disciples of Jesus had slipped away in a fishing boat, like refugees seeking calmer shores.

A little while into the journey, the sea-worthy among them grew nervous, encouraging everyone to row harder – they didn’t like the look of the sky. Then the winds began, swells rising higher and higher until it took every hand to keep the boat moving forward. At least, everyone hoped they were still going forward.

It was now the middle of the night, and the disciples had long since settled into a hardened rhythm of survival – each doing his part, keeping his own exhaustion at bay.

The man at the rudder looked back into the darkness and jumped to his feet.

“What is that?!”

Everyone looked up from their tasks and took a sharp breath. Off in the distance, something small and bright was moving, dare they say gliding, across the water.

“Row harder. Maybe we can outpace it.”

After a few minutes, it became clear that whatever was coming toward them had the advantage – it was not to be outrun. Buckets and oars dropped as several of the men cried out together, “A ghost!”

Then came a faint voice, drifting back through the wind, “Don’t be afraid, it is I!”

Peter stood up, gripping the side of the boat to keep his balance. He looked hard in the direction of the small figure. The only sounds were the creaking of timber and the howling of wind.

Recognition dawned on his face as he shouted back to the others, “It’s Jesus!”

Peter paused for a moment and fixed his gaze on the bright silhouette. Then, he cupped his hands to his mouth and called at the top of his lungs, “Lord, if it is you, tell me to come to you on the water!”

The rest of the men stared at him in shock. Jesus’ voice echoed back, “Come!”

Immediately, Peter hoisted himself onto the side of the boat and swung one leg over the side.

“Peter, are you crazy?!”

When he swung his second leg over, the others scrambled.

“You’ll drown!”

“Somebody grab him!”

Moving quickly, Peter jumped down onto the water.

Several men leaned over the side to pull him out and drew back in surprise.

Peter was standing outside the boat, rocking unsteadily with the rhythm of the waves! He felt his heart race as he realized what was happening. No man could walk on water, and yet here he was, standing on the sea! Peter made his way, step by step, toward Jesus, arms outstretched to steady himself. As he got closer, he quickened his pace, driven by the exhilaration of experiencing the impossible.

Just as he began to make out the features of Jesus’ face, a huge wave poured over him, drenching his already sodden clothes. He looked around and panicked as his feet began to sink into the sea.

“Lord, save me!”

In a few strides Jesus was by Peter’s side. He reached out and took hold of his floundering disciple, lifting him out of the water. As Peter straightened himself up, he was surprised to find Jesus grinning broadly.

There was just a hint of fatherly pride in Jesus’ voice as he said, “You of little faith, why did you doubt!”

Peter looked down at the water, realizing how close he had been to Jesus in his moment of panic.  He grinned back at Jesus as he wiped the water from his face.

They walked back to the boat together with steady steps, despite the rolling waves. Peter didn’t feel the force of the wind anymore, just the firm pressure of Jesus’ hand on his shoulder and the sensation of water beneath his feet.

When they reached the boat, Jesus helped Peter climb in and then pulled himself over the edge, leaning on Peter’s shoulder for support as he stepped into the boat. The wind stopped as soon as Jesus’ foot hit the firm wooden planks.

The men in the boat fell on their faces murmuring, “Truly you are the Son of God!”

Peter sank onto a bench, gazing intently at Jesus as the water lapped gently on the sides of the boat. His mouth formed the words, but no sound came.

“God the Son.”

© 2018 Jacqueline Tisthammer. All Rights Reserved.

 

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