As usual, I put my big foot in my mouth again. When will I ever learn? Now I have to go through with it or the guys will never let me hear the end of it. But wait, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start at the beginning.
We had completed our trip around the country and made it back to the Master to give our reports. It was amazing. I had such a feeling of power as I commanded Demons to flee in the Master’s name. Sickness was nothing; a touch here, a command there and it was gone. Boy did we have a lot to report.
I was so happy when Jesus said He wanted to go to a desert place so we could be alone while we gave our reports. That was fine with me, but I could never understand His love of the desert. Me, I’d rather be in a ship out on the Sea of Galilee (a lake really, but we called it a sea). There is nothing better in life than to be in this boat, feeling the spray of the water on my face as we cut through the gentle waves. Seagulls call out overhead, flying in the cloudless sky, screaming for a morsel of fish. The sound of the wind rippling the sail, mingled with the smell of fish, ah, that is the life.
The Master, however, loves the desert, but he satisfies my love of the sea by suggesting that we take the boat to the other shore instead of walking. We pile into my boat, all twelve of us and the Master. He calmly sits in the center and lets us get underway. There is a good wind, as usual, and soon, the boat is sliding smoothly through the water toward the wasteland. We are so excited at the prospect of sharing our experience that I want to get out and push to make the boat move faster.
The temptation is to start talking while we are in the boat, but we would have to stop when we reach shore, so instead, we keep a sharp lookout for the other side. James called out and pointed toward shore. I couldn’t hear what he said, but I could see what he was pointing at: people. From this distance, the shore around the lake looked like an anthill overflowing with ants. The closer we got, the clearer the image was and the more my heart sank.
The ‘people’ had run around the lake and beaten us to our harbor. I looked at Jesus and realized that our little retreat would never happen today. He always had compassion on the ‘people’. “What about us, His disciples? When was He going to show us that same compassion?” I am ashamed to admit that I was mad that morning. Mad at the Master. Mad at the ‘people’. Why couldn’t they leave us alone? Why did He have to feel so sorry for them?
I found solace in my fellow disciples who felt the same way, with the exception of Andrew, my brother. It seems that he truly loved the ‘people’ as he was always bringing someone to the Master. I guess I shouldn’t complain, since I was the first one he brought. It was good back then. The Master was unknown, so we were able to spend a lot of time with Him. Now though, the ‘people’ were always around.
I sat with the other disciples and stewed while Jesus healed people and taught God’s word. I should have been excited, but to be honest, I wasn’t. I had seen Jesus heal many, many people, and had just finished a time when I healed the sick; it didn’t ‘do’ anything for me that day. Instead of rejoicing, I pouted all the more, seeing the line leading to Jesus.
The sun rose to its full height, throwing its heat down on us unmercifully. I looked with longing at my boat tied to the shore, wanting it to take me away from this desert and these people. With nothing to do, I eventually settled down and began watching these ‘people’ that I actually began to hate. They were all shapes and sizes, old and young, tall and short. I began to realize that they all shared the same characteristic, the same one I had: they loved to hear Jesus speak. What a humbling thought. Here I was pouting like a spoiled child, while the Master taught.
I was deep in thought when Judas got my attention. He pointed out that it was getting late and the people needed to go home to get something to eat. I suddenly realized that the day was almost over already; and we still hadn’t spent any time with Jesus. My humble feelings were lost as the anger raced back like a storm.
We huddled together and decided that we needed to speak to the Master. They elected me as the spokesman, so at a pause in His teaching, we approached and I made our argument.
“The day is far spent and the people need to go home to get some supper as they had been there all day with no food.”
We had rehearsed it, planning everything out with infinite skill, concerned with ourselves and not the people. Jesus, of course, saw right through us and put us in our proper place.
“You give them something to eat,” He said.
“Where are we going to find food to feed all these people? If we had two-hundred day’s wages, it wouldn’t be enough even if we could find the food.”
He then sent us on what we though was a fool’s errand. He wanted us to go through the crowd and see who had food left. It’s been a long, hot day. No one would have any food left. Nevertheless, at His urging we began to search.
Once again, Andrew made the discovery; a little boy still had his lunch!! If you want my opinion, that was the real miracle of the day. Anyway, Andrew brought the boy and his lunch to Jesus. “What a privilege to have the Master eat my lunch,” he must of thought. I think he was more surprised than anyone when Jesus began breaking that bread.
It was bad enough that the ‘people’ ruined our day with Jesus, but now He wanted us to feed them. We had to go through that crowd and get the people to sit in groups of fifty with room between for us to walk. There were only twelve of us, but more than ten-thousand of them. The people were helpful, but it still took a while to get everyone set. Then Jesus took the bread, gave thanks and started breaking it into pieces. We had gathered several empty baskets, since everyone else had eaten their lunches, so Jesus placed the fragments in them for us to pass out to the people.
The boy had five loaves and two sardines, but Jesus really only needed one of each. I grumbled as I made trip after trip to hand out the feast that day. Secretly, I found a kind of selfish satisfaction that Jesus had to work so hard, breaking all the bread and fish by Himself. If He loved the people so much, it was only right that He do the most work.
It is amazing how much people can eat when they have gone all day without food. At first, I was excited like everyone else as the food kept multiplying, but after about a hundred trips, my excitement wore off and those old feelings began to surface. Finally, we were done and everyone fed. Another peeve for me was that all those people got to sit in comfort and eat their meal, while us disciples had to eat on the run as we served them. You know, now that I think about it, I don’t know if Jesus ate anything that day.
Well, we thought we were done, when Jesus instructed us to gather up the fragments. “Can’t we get any rest?” I mumbled as I obeyed the Master. To our surprise, there were twelve baskets full of leftover food. I thought, “Twelve baskets, twelve disciples. I guess we have lunch for tomorrow.”
My heart sank as Jesus had that little boy come forward. The little fellow stood meekly before Jesus, expecting who knows what. Jesus smiled at him and said that God was happy he was willing to share his lunch with everybody and God wanted to say thank-you by giving him the baskets full of food.
“There goes my lunch,” I grumbled as the boy’s face lit up with joy. “The stupid ‘people’ get everything and I get nothing.”
By now, the people were starting to get a bit rowdy. Their bellies were full, as were their energy levels. A murmur began running though the crowd about Jesus being all they needed. He could feed every man, woman and child in Israel as well as heal all their diseases. If grandpa so and so died, Jesus could raise him from the dead. “Who needs Rome when we have Jesus,” was the cry.
I was starting to get nervous. The ‘people’ were quickly becoming a mob that wanted to take Jesus by force and make Him king. I huddled with the other disciples and we decided it was time to get Jesus out of there. A couple of us went to get the boat ready, while the rest went to form a human shield to get Jesus safely to the shore.
I had the boat ready and looked back to see how close they were with the Master, but was shocked to see them still talking with Him. To my amazement, they turned and headed my way without Him. I yelled at them to get back there and get Him, but they kept on coming.
“What are you doing?” I shouted.
“He told us to get in the boat and head across the lake,” Philip shouted back.
“We can’t just leave him here!”
“I know, but He said to leave, so we have to leave, now.”
I argued some more, but when I glanced back at Jesus, He gave me ‘the look’ that said I had better get in that boat and leave. So, we got on board and set sail, thinking that this would be the last time we ever saw the Master again. I watched while the mob crowded around Him and blocked my view. It was impossible to see what was happening. I was so agitated that I would have thrown myself into the water to swim to shore if the other disciples hadn’t grabbed hold of me.
We headed for the far shore, but were in no great rush since the Master was back where we came from. It was getting dark, but I had sailed these waters at night many times. Besides, we had the stars to guide us, until the clouds rolled in. We were still okay, as we could just make out lights on the far shore. Then the wind picked up, making the water choppy. We were used to the fickle nature of our sea, so we weren’t alarmed; yet.
The winds blew harder and the waves rose higher until our little boat was ready to capsize. The four of us that were fishermen used every trick we knew to keep our craft afloat, but we were slowly loosing the battle.
“What’s that?” Judas cried out in fear.
I chanced a quick peek at what he was pointing at and couldn’t tear my eyes away. A rouge wave smashed into us, bringing me back to reality and the saving of our ship. Another quick glance told me I hadn’t been seeing things. There in the midst of the raging sea, a ghost was walking on the surface toward us. We were frozen in place by the phantom on the water, afraid that it was death coming to take us away. We cried out in terror, but to our amazement, heard words of comfort echoing back from that ghoul.
“It is I, be not afraid.”
That voice. It sounded like Jesus, but it couldn’t be. No, God was punishing us because of our attitudes that day. This had to be death trying to deceive us. I knew I was going to die that night. Someone, I’m not sure who, called out again, and again we heard the same response.
This is where my mouth got me in trouble. I called out, “If you are Jesus, bid me come out on the water with you.”
The words were out of my mouth before I could stop them. I immediately hoped that the noise of the wind and the waves had drowned them out, but I knew they had reached their intended target, when Jesus said,”Come.”
Time stood still, although I did not. I looked around the boat and saw the other disciples frozen in place. The wind was silent and the waves stopped moving. I looked up and saw Jesus, not just an unfocused glow, but Him surrounded by light. It was almost as if someone had taken a picture and frozen that second in time.
The second ended and I was back in reality. I looked at that raging water, the other disciples and last of all Jesus. The waves were still smashing against our feeble boat, driven by the fierce wind, but there was Jesus, standing on the surface, rising up and down with the course of the waves.
I took a deep breath, set myself and locked my eyes upon Jesus. I lifted my foot to put it over the side just as a wave knocked the boat, toppling me to the floor. I rose back up, grabbed the side and swung my foot over. I don’t know what scared me more, Jesus standing on the water or the thought of sinking to the bottom of the lake.
I watched the rise and fall of the waves, and just as the wave reached its peak, I put a little weight on that foot. To my immediate relief, it felt as though I had hit solid ground. The wave hit the boat and was gone, leaving my foot hanging in the air. I had an idea of how to do it now, so I waited for the right moment and put all my weight on that foot and immediately swung my other foot over.
There I was, standing on the water, looking at Jesus while riding up and down on the waves. Jesus filled my vision as I began walking toward him, not knowing how many steps I took. If the sea had been completely calm, I would have been all right, but it wasn’t. A wave struck, causing my eyes to stray from Jesus. My worst nightmare came true as I began to sink.
“Lord, save me!” I cried out in terror.
To this day, I have no idea what happened next. I was going under one moment and the next I was in the boat and the boat was at the shore. I thought that maybe I had almost drowned, but no, that wasn’t it. Andrew told me later that I hadn’t sunk much past my knees when Jesus touched me and we were at the shore.
I know this much. I never looked at Jesus the same after that. I know, there were times when that old attitude about ‘the people’ reared its ugly head. Moreover, there were times I didn’t listen as I should have, but something changed that night.
I received a lot of teasing about the episode from the other disciples. They laughed and laughed as they pictured me sinking into the depths that day. It was okay, I knew I deserved it, but they wouldn’t stop. Finally, I could take it no more, so I said, “In all the history of the world, only two people have ever walked on water; and I’m one of them!”