Panic sets in real easy when you're out fishing and a storm sneaks up on you. But, this had to be one for the books. I gagged on a faceful of rank sea water that smacked across our boat. We hung on for dear life against the power of wind and wave. Never mind trying to head for shore. We could hardly see each other. Curtains of water whipped against us as if we were runaway horses.
Why did we think we had to go fishing tonight, anyway? Sure, we have a job to do. But, if we never make it home, who will provide for our families? How could we know that what started out as the perfect evening would collapse like this?
Just then I saw it. Only a glimpse at first, like a shadow, caught my eye. I couldn't make out what it might be. Was it another fishing boat heading straight for us? No, it wasn't big enough. Impossible that we had been driven to shore by the storm. But, there it was again. I blinked my eyes hard, as if that might help me see better. It cannot be that I am seeing what I think...but...it looks like a statue standing out there in the midst of the storm! What on earth?
One of my fishing buddies lets out a yell. "Did you see it!" From what I can make out, his face is drained of color. "It must be a ghost...we're seeing one of those ghosts...." Another wave slaps our faces, interrupting further conversation.
I wish he hadn't said what I was already thinking. I've heard the old stories of lives lost on rugged seas and ghosts coming back to haunt the living. As if we didn't have enough terror to deal with already.
But, I see it again. This time the statue (I prefer that to calling it a ghost) has a glow to it, as if a ray of moonlight had suddenly pierced through the storm and bathed the figure in pale light. It couldn't be, could it?
"Is that YOU?" I cry out. Something so familiar strikes me about the figure.
Tearing off most of my clothes, I am about to dive into the water, regardless of the storm, when it hits me. If this is the teacher, I don't need to rescue him. An earlier storm comes to mind.... "Be of good cheer, friends," the familiar voice reaches my ears. "It is I. Don't be afraid!"
Don't be afraid, he says. This is no ordinary experience, you know. "Master, if it is really you, let me come to you...on the water."
I can't believe my eyes. There he stands, as if in the eye of the storm, in complete tranquility, standing on water as smooth as brass. Well, if he is who I think and he tells me to come, then here goes.
He smiles, extending his arm full length, his hand open to me. His eyes, radiant, hold me spellbound. I cannot take my own off his...until, that is, I hear those voices in my head.
"What do you think you're doing! Look at you. You're just a scared, frail chunk of clay. You can't walk on water. And, look at the storm! You are absolutely crazy." Those voices are right. I look down at my feet. I look out at the storm. With my eyes off the Master, I suddenly sink, doomed. I hear my own voice screaming, "O God! Save me!"
Now, that might be the end of me and the end of the story. But it wasn't. As I'm going down, I find my arms caught and held in an embrace so strong that I just melt. He pulls me up to his side and I hear my Master's voice, "Oh, you of little faith...why did you doubt?"
Yeah, why did I doubt? I've thought about this miraculous episode many times and I think I've discovered the key. The enemy wants to distract us. He wants us to take our eyes off Jesus and look at ourselves. That way we don't see what God wants to do with us, through us and for us. And, I think I've figured out why Jesus said, "Get behind me, Satan!" He's saying that He wants nothing in the way to block our line of vision as we look to see Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.
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