Three of the gospels tell a story about Jesus walking on the water. I wonder if it might have gone like this.
It was a dark and stormy night …
Jesus had seen the clouds moving in while they were having supper. It’d been a long day and the crowd that had been following him had stopped for something to eat. It was an outdoor meal, a simple one, a potluck with bread and fish and whatever else anyone had. But Jesus was tired. He decided to send the disciples on ahead, taking a boat to cross the lake to the other side. If they left now, they might beat the storm that was coming, and Jesus would have enough time to say a few last goodbyes, have a rest and walk around the lake in the morning.
Things don’t always go according to plan.
It was the thunder that woke Jesus up. The wind was pulling at his coat and the rain had just started. As he looked out on the lake with the first light of morning, he could see the wind picking up the waves. It would be a rough crossing. He could just make out a few boats, fighting the storm. There, at the front, were the disciples. He wasn’t much of a sailor, but he could see they were in trouble. There must be something he could do.
Meanwhile, the disciples were wishing they’d walked, too. The water was rough and dangerous and the storm was battering them from every side. Even the most experienced fishermen among them was afraid. And then one of them saw a figure out on the water, coming towards them. It seemed to be a person, not in a boat, but on the waves, climbing them, riding them, rushing towards them with each gust of the wind. The disciples were even more afraid. First the storm and now this: what could it be?
But as it drew closer, Peter could see it was Jesus.
“Don’t be afraid,” shouted Jesus over the storm, “you can do this!”
Thinking Jesus meant for him to come out to him, Peter stepped out of the boat on to the water. He took a few steps, feeling the rushing water beneath his feet. “How is this possible?” he thought. Then, he could also feel the wind and the rain, and the thunder boomed overhead and the lightening lit the white waves. And he was afraid. And he began to sink.
“Help me, Jesus, I can’t do it,” he shouted.
And just then, he felt Jesus’ hand grab hold of him and help back into the boat. “Oh Peter,” Jesus said. And he got in the boat with him and he said, “Peter, where’s your faith?”
Peter said “I thought I believed in you enough, Jesus, I did. I thought I believed enough to be able to do what you were doing.”
Jesus sighed (loud enough to be heard over the storm). “No, that’s not what I mean, Peter. I know you believe in me. I know you believe in God. I know that. That’s not what I mean. That’s not enough, Peter. You have to believe in you.” Peter looked puzzled.
“Believe in yourself, Peter,” said Jesus again. “Believe in you, believe that you are an important part of this world. Believe that God is with you, just as I am. Believe that God’s spirit is in you and in the sea and in the wind and in all around you. Believe in possibility and don’t be afraid. You’re not alone.” Jesus grabbed Peter’s arm. “Let’s show the others.”
Peter grabbed an oar and began shouting to the other disciples, telling them to row with the wind, to ride the waves, not fight them. He encouraged them to work together and not be afraid of the storm.
Before long, they reached the shore. Wet, tired and with more of an adventure than they’d wanted. But they reached the other side, ready for the next step of their journey.