Jesus had done another amazing thing. Yes, another one.
What a day it had been. There was a huge crowd of hungry people, who needed a square meal but they were miles from home. All of us disciples had said to Jesus “Stop talking now, and let the people go home so they can have something to eat.” And he'd said, “No—you give them something to eat.”
Well, we’d looked and we’d asked everywhere, and all we could find was one young boy who hadn’t eaten his packed lunch yet. Perhaps listening to Jesus had made him feel very generous, or perhaps he’d taken a look at the tiny little barley loaves (slightly mouldy in places) and the two little strips of dried fish, and didn’t fancy them. Anyway, he gave us his lunch, and we gave it to Jesus, and Jesus had given it to all those people, and then we’d spent the rest of the afternoon clearing up the bits!
And you know what? That’s not the amazing thing I’m talking about.
No it isn’t. Because what happened after that was even more amazing. The people were so in awe of Jesus that they kept bowing down to him, and singing to him, and chanting his name, and one of them had this strip of shiny metal that he’d made into a circle and he kept trying to slip it on Jesus head—like a crown. I don’t know if it was a joke, or whether he meant it seriously, but when the crowd saw it, they all shouted for joy. “King Jesus!”
Jesus went wild. He flailed his arms about, he flung that little crown so far into the distance that nobody ever saw it again and he jumped up onto a little hill and started screaming with rage. Everybody was scared and went quiet. He started issuing orders—like I’ve never heard him before. He lined those people up like they were his soldiers, and told them he wasn’t going to be their king and he wasn’t going to be their general and if they didn’t stop thinking like that they were never welcome in his sight ever again. And he made them march away without looking back.
We stood there, not knowing what to do, and he gave us orders as well. “Go across the lake,” he said,” I’m staying here all night to pray. I’ll see you tomorrow. Go on! Go! Get out of my sight!!”
Well, we didn’t hang about. It was getting dark, and Peter had his boat, so we all climbed in and set off. The fishermen knew what to do, and they got us moving pretty fast. We wanted to get out of Jesus’ way as quickly as possible. We’d never seen him so cross. Jesus didn't wait looking at us, he turned on his heel and walked off up the hill. He always went up a hill to pray. Or a mountain. The higher the better.
We were sailing across the lake, but it was getting hard work. The fisherman puffed and pulled on the ropes, and turned the boat this way and that. Eventually they pulled the sail down and announced “We’re going to have to row.”
“But there’s plenty of wind!” said Matthew.
“And it’s blowing in the wrong direction, you idiot!” said Peter.
Matthew turned red and shut up. He hated being on the sea. I think it scared him. Peter was muttering under his breath. He hated it when he was on his boat and things went wrong. It made him embarrassed. Like that time when there was a really bad storm and Jesus was asleep. We had to wake Jesus up because we were afraid we would drown, and Jesus had just told the storm to be quiet and it died away.
Another amazing thing. Jesus was full of them. But Peter hated it. He never talked about that day, because that was the day Jesus had seen him in charge of his boat and totally unable to make it go where he wanted it to. He didn’t like Jesus seeing him at sea and being, you know, all at sea.
Soon, Peter’s irritation made him want to get at somebody. He chose Matthew again. “Oy landlubber—come and take a turn on the oar—perhaps you’ll learn what it’s like, pulling into the wind.” He didn't let James or Andrew stop rowing, but he stood up and held out his oar in Matthew’s direction. Matthew tried to stand up but he couldn’t keep his balance—the boat was tossing and turning, and it was nearly dark—there was no warning when a wave was coming to rock the boat. He wailed a bit, tried to take a step, and fell over Thomas’s feet. Nobody laughed, except Peter.
“Come on lazybones! Get up!”
Matthew shouted back, “You think you're so brave standing there in your little boat, don’t you! You’re only doing this because you know I’m scared of water and I can’t swim! You weren’t so brave that night you thought you saw a ghost, were you?”
Yes, everybody knew that Peter was scared of ghosts. Ever since he’d had a bad dream one night and woken up shouting about it. That was the thing about Peter. He couldn’t stop his mouth, even when it blurted out secrets he didn’t want anybody else to know. We all had a joke: “If you want everybody to know something, whisper it to Peter, and tell him it’s a secret.”
But Peter didn’t say anything this time- he didn’t answer back. He was staring out to sea."What’s that??” he said.
Everybody turned to look. It was hard to see—it was very dark now, but it looked as though there was someone out there, quite close to the boat, standing still as if there was a rock just below the surface of the water, standing quite still even though the waves were going up and down. The figure started to walk, and seemed to be going past the boat—not slowed down by the wind or the waves, just walking calmly along as if it was a sunny afternoon.
It looked...it looked a little bit like Jesus.
Peter was crouching down now, hands over his face. But Matthew stared out at the figure and called out, “Jesus, is that you?”
“Of course it is!” said Jesus.
When he heard his voice, Peter looked up, shot a glance at Matthew, as if to say, “Don't you dare say I'm scared.”
“Jesus, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water!” he shouted.
We gasped. All of us. Even though Peter was stupid, unthinking sometimes, this was taking recklessness to a whole new level.
James called out “Peter, don’t be stu -”
But Jesus interrupted him – hand held out, he said “Yes, come.” He was walking half sideways, half backwards now, to keep pace with our boat which was drifting now, the oarsmen being too preoccupied to row. The waves splashed up and down his body, but in the half light I couldn’t see if they were making him wet.
We all held our breath as Peter lifted himself up over the edge of the boat (Matthew closed his eyes and leaned the opposite way, afraid that Peter’s bulk would capsize us). Peter put one foot, then the other, into (onto?) the water and stood up, rocking backwards and forwards like Matthew had earlier.
He glanced at Jesus, and a big grin formed on his face. A matching grin beamed back at him from Jesus. I suddenly realised – the last time I’d seen Jesus he’d been angry with us. Now – he just seemed to be having enormous fun.
But Peter couldn’t keep it up. He glanced down at the water, and breaking his eye contact with Jesus seemed to be fatal. He floundered, like a non-swimmer would, like Matthew would, and yelled “Save me Lubullubullub!” as his head disappeared under water. I saw Jesus darting forwards, bending over and straightening again with his arms under Peter’s shoulders. He grunted as one of Peter’s flailing arms caught him across the back of the head, and with a mighty heave lifted him back against the side of the boat, which lurched crazily, bringing squawks of alarm from Matthew and several others. As the boat lurched back again, Jesus bent down once more, shifted his grip to Peter’s waist and propelled him back into the boat, where he landed with a mixture of a splash and a thud in the middle of us all. A splud!
People scrambled backwards away from Peter, as he floundered to his hands and knees, half expecting him to shake himself like a dog. But he just crouched there, dripping, with his breath whistling in and out. Jesus swung a leg over the side of the boat, slapped Peter across the shoulders playfully and said, “Where’s your faith, big man?”
I looked round. Suddenly, the waves were dying down, the clouds overhead parted, and the moon peeped through.
A nervous laughter began somewhere in the boat, took hold and grew until we were all hoarse with hysterical relief.
What. An. Amazing. Day.