A Water-Walking Trip to Jesus (Manuscript Excerpt)
(The following is a modified excerpt from the manuscript of Walking Through Walls. This material may or may not make the final cut but I thought I'd share it as a post.)
Jesus was dragging. Having just fed 5,000 people by multiplying fishes and loaves of bread, He needed to get away for a moment to gather His thoughts and pray. After this feeding 5,000 event, many recognized Jesus’ divinity and sought to make Him king. He couldn’t let that happen just now so He needed to escape from the crowd. Jesus needed peace and quiet, so He told the disciples to hop in their boat and go ahead of Him. He would catch up later.
Trudging up the mountain as the sun laid down over the horizon, his feet ached and his sandal straps dug into his ankles as he plodded up a goat path. The sunset painted the sky orange and red and purple, reminding Jesus of His Dad. He smiled as He looked back at the rocky path in front of Him. The quiet reverence of the place was always worth the journey. He always went alone.
He spent some time praying overnight, probably talking to the Father about the feeding 5,000 incident to debrief and gain wisdom for the tasks ahead. Jesus had just experienced some crazy stuff and Him being God and all, He probably wasn’t shocked by the miracles He performed – like a person firing a high powered rifle for the first time. No, this wasn’t Jesus’ first rodeo. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t a vivid experience. And surely a tiring one too.
His soul refreshed by prayer and solitude, Jesus came back down the mountain early in the morning to meet up with His buddies. The boat was far away at this point, just a speck on the horizon (several miles away, Scripture says). The wind had picked up and the salty morning air stung his face in gusts as the whitecaps churned. His buddies in the boat were having a heck of a time dealing with this wind.
With His signature swagger and grace, Jesus steps walks into – and then onto - the choppy water to meet up with his crew. He steps up on the moving surface of the water, solid beneath Him. With grace only belonging to Christ, He strolls on. The sloppiness of walking on moving water makes Jesus’ pace vary on the moving surface beneath his sandaled feet. He approaches the boat, now clearly visible.
The disciples in the boat are drenched and tired and a little freaked out by this storm. They are rowing and those that aren’t rowing are busy keeping their fishes and loaves down.
Then they see a guy walking towards them on the sea.
Seeing someone walking on water is one of those experiences that we have no prior mental category for – like a crab at your front door singing Can’t Touch This. They figure He is a ghost. Oh Dear God, a ghost!
Jesus observes their horror and He immediately tells them not to worry and that it was Him. Don’t be scared. It’s me. It’s me.
In the version told in Matthew, we see that Peter wants to capitalize on this opportunity to try out this walking on water stuff. “Hey Jesus – command me to come to you!”
Peter shakes from adrenaline and cold, his muscles shot from rowing. Okay Jesus. Peter crawls over the fish scale-glittered and blood-smeared gunwale of the fishing boat, putting one foot in the cold choppy water.
Encouraged, Peter swings the other shaking leg over. The second foot holds. He stands moving around with the white capped waves. His clothes are drenched and he’s freaking out just a little but he doesn’t care. This is awesome!
Peter starts walking towards Jesus, who is a ways off. One foot touches the cold water and then the next, as Peter looks at his feet in utter shock. His legs grow tired from the waves and he is drenched now. The wind blows hard, deafening Peter and slowing his pace. He becomes overwhelmed and tired.
Jesus seems to be doing just fine, why am I having such a hard time? Am I really supposed to be doing this? Can I even make it to Jesus? Is that really Jesus or is this a dream? No one walks on water…
As Peter trudges on, wet and cold and busy in his head, his legs slide beneath the water’s surface. The sensation bewilders Peter, and he realizes he is sinking slowly.
“Lord, save me!”
Jesus, now close to Peter, reaches out quickly and grabs Peter, Jesus’ calloused hands strong and warm and comforting. Holding Peter safely, Jesus looks into Peter’s eyes.
“My friend of little faith, why did you doubt?”
Now Peter got it. He was walking on water based on Jesus’ power, but Peter’s harnessing that power depended upon faith in Jesus. When he began to doubt and fear, he sunk. Peter could not rely upon his own strength and power to walk on water.
When God calls us to do something great, He calls us to walk on water. We are finite and fallible and goofy as all get out – so doing great work is asking a mouse to juggle a chainsaw. We are not enough.
Some of us just look out at the whitecaps and think no way. This boat is just fine and that is not God talking to me. Surely God isn’t talking to me. Nope, not me. Naw.
Other people just go. God beckons us to do something crazy, like start an industry-changing business or expose the world to the art that lives within us. We take off our shoes and jump.
I am a just go type. Not some hero ‘send me’ type, but more of an eager dumb Labrador type. Anyway, I am usually down to try something. And I must tell you, writing is one of the most terrifying things I have experienced. It makes you a manic weirdo with a brain like an LA freeway and it heightens your insecurity a hundredfold. You are basically showing your insides to the world. While writing this book I constantly got the feeling that it would be garbage. Maybe my parents would say it’s cute. A book only a mother could love.
If I was Peter I’d be breathing salt water by now.
That is how it happens. Just like Peter, when it gets real – and real hard – we are inclined to doubt instead of sloshing through the whitecaps to get to Jesus.
We cannot let doubt make us sink on our path to Christ.
What was Peter going to do when he got to Jesus, anyway? Was Peter just going to walk on the water and get to Jesus and awkwardly say, “oh…hey Jesus…thanks” and give Jesus a high five? We don’t know what Peter’s end game was, but I’ll speculate that Peter was going to give Jesus a massive hug. I know this sounds cheesy but I think Peter missed Jesus and wanted to walk out there and embrace His God and friend in a shivering salt-drenched hug.
I think Peter wanted to walk on water because that’s where Jesus was.
That’s what our work is about - a move towards Jesus. Not piles of cash, titles, or people finally seeing that you’re pretty awesome. If we are walking on water away from Jesus, towards a vision of riches or fame or a new life – we aren’t getting it. And we just might get far enough away from the boat and start to doubt and sink to our death.
No, when God calls us to something, He calls us to Himself. The opposite is damnation. Our work is designed to be a trip from the boat to Jesus.
Photo credit: Jim Boud via Flickr