The boat moved away from the shore as the men on the oars began to stroke, pulling farther from the beach with each well-practiced movement. Peter guided the rudder with expert precision. Soon they were slicing through the waters with ease.
Looking back, Peter glimpsed Jesus on the beach, his arm lifted in goodbye. He had been adamant that they leave without him, that he would dismiss the crowd alone. Peter had tried to argue; it usually took hours before the crowds dispersed. But Jesus insisted that they go. So they had gotten into the boat, still against leaving Jesus alone with the crowd, but unable to invent an excuse to stay.
Peter faced forward again, deftly steering the craft through the familiar waves. He scanned the horizon, looking for the warning signs of approaching storms. Terrible storms could drop out of nowhere, capsizing boats in only a matter of minutes. It was dangerous to be in the middle of the Sea, especially at evening. But Jesus had said to go, so Peter had gotten into the boat. He reminded himself that Jesus had calmed the last storm they had faced with only a word. Peter glanced back at the dark shoreline. Jesus wasn’t with them this time. “Jesus, I hope you know what you’re doing,” he thought. “I hope we get home safely.”
The storm had come suddenly and swiftly. Peter and the other fishermen had sensed it coming, but its fury surprised even these sea-worn veterans. The night was dark; the wind, fierce. They doubled up on the oars, straining against the gusts. Peter remained at the rudder, calling orders, struggling to keep the boat aimed at the shore. After a few hours, Andrew joined him, the two men striving as one to hold the boat steady. They battled into the early morning hours, the wind an invisible wall before them.
Suddenly lightning illuminated the water. Wiping rain from his eyes, Peter thought he saw something. The next flash revealed the same image, this time closer to the struggling boat. A third flash raised a cry from the men; Peter heard Nathanael cry out, “What is that?” Andrew looked over his shoulder, and the men peered into the darkness. A final flash and the tired men screamed in terror. “It’s a ghost…We’re going to die.”
A strong voice pierced the angry night. “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”
Peter looked at Andrew. “I’m going to check it out,” he yelled over the storm. Andrew braced the rudder as Peter stepped toward the starboard rail. The lightning flashed again. It looked like…Jesus…
Straining into the darkness, confused and uncertain, Peter called out, “Lord, if it’s you, tell me to come to you on the water.” Shocked, the men in the boat turned to where Peter was and waited for a response. The reply was simple: “Come.”
Peter looked at Andrew, his face tense. Taking a deep breath, he threw one foot up on the railing. There was an audible gasp: “Peter, don’t!”
But Peter was already overboard. He slowly let himself down until his feet touched something firm. Seeing Jesus approaching, he let go and moved toward him, feeling the wet of the water below him and yet not breaking though. Eyes wide and breath heavy, the fisherman took a step, then another.
Suddenly, the wind gusted, and Peter looked away from Jesus. With barely time for a breath, he felt his body fall, and he called to Jesus, “Lord, save me!” Immediately, Jesus reached out a hand, caught Peter and lifted him back out of the waves. Jesus pulled him close: “You of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Turning, Jesus walked with Peter to where the small vessel was still bobbing in the storm. The other disciples watched in wide-eyed wonder as the two men approached. As soon as they pulled Jesus and Peter onto the deck, the wind died down, and the waves began to lap peacefully against the hull. For a moment they all stood in the sudden stillness, breathing heavily, and glancing silently at Jesus, at Peter, at each other. Peter was the first to sink to his knees. One by one, the rest of the sopping-wet disciples knelt, too. Amazed, they bowed before Jesus, able to speak only one thing: “Truly you are the Son of God.”
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