I’ve never seen anything impact Him like the news we got this morning. John was dead, John the Baptist. And not just dead, murdered, decapitated, by that tyrant Herod. He was visibly shaken when He heard the news.
All He wanted to do was get away – away from the crowds – away from the city – away from us – away, so He could take in this sadness, so He could process this loss. He probably wanted to talk to His Father about it.
That’s where He, Yeshua, turned when… well really, just about any time, when stress was bearing down, when decisions had to be made, even when He was full of joy.
We had all been out in the towns and villages. He had sent us two by two, and, well, we had some stories to tell. Andrew and I were amazed, and as the others began to arrive, the stories kept growing. Matthew and Thomas were telling a story about casting a demon out in Capernaum and James was relating how he and Bart laid hands on a woman’s eyes and she saw for the first time in her life. We were all laughing and rejoicing as each of us shared his own account.
Then Philip came in with the news about John, and the tone of the gathering changed abruptly. Yeshua got very quiet. Everyone got quiet.
“Let’s get out of here,” He said.
He headed down to the boat, and we all followed. He asked me to navigate to a secluded place, somewhere away from the cities and towns and multitudes. We’ve been there often to be alone with the Master. There we had laughed and learned for hours on end without interruption. But it was not going to be like that today. The word was out, and huge numbers of men, women and even children were there to meet us as we disembarked.
I don’t know if the crowds grew because we were all doing His works now, and spreading His name, His fame in the region, or if those who opposed us were just sending the mobs hoping to get under His skin, but He, as always, took immediate control of the situation.
He settled in with a rock embankment at His back, almost a natural amphitheater you might say, and began to teach.
As He taught the assembly continued to grow. It was late afternoon, and soon the sun would be setting, and we had not even had lunch. As the sky darkened, I pressed my way over to Yeshua and suggested that He should wrap it up.
“It’s almost dinner time, and we are far from any food or lodging.”
He turned to look at me – He had that twinkle in His eye as if to say – “Ready for your next lesson?”
“You feed them.”
I have to admit – I kind of freaked.
“Me? I didn’t bring any food. I didn’t even know we were coming across the Lake. If we get takeout it would cost a years wages. There have to be 5,000 men here, and most of them have their wife and kids. How could I possibly feed…”
Yeshua put His hand on my shoulder and said, “Peter, Peter, just have them sit in groups of fifty. What food do we have?”
Thomas came up with a tiny satchel.
“There was a boy who had some fish and bread, looks like five little loaves and a couple of fish. But what good is that among all these?”
Yeshua said, “Bring them to me.”
And isn’t that always the answer?
“Yeshua, there is a man here with a withered hand.”
“Bring him to me.”
“Yeshua, my son’s sick.”
“Bring him to me.”
“Yeshua, my daughter’s dead.”
“Bring me to her.”
He took the bread, and lifted it up toward heaven and gave thanks, then He broke off a piece of bread and fish for each of the twelve of us and told us to share what we had.
I went to my first group of fifty and handed my entire stash of lunch to the first person. I watched in astonishment as each person took some and passed it. When it came back to me, I was sure it was larger than when I started. As I went on to the next group, I noticed the first fifty were all busy eating.
As we passed the food around, the din began to rise. People were astounded. Many were there, no doubt to see a miracle, some came to hear Him speak, and I am sure some were there to undermine Him, to get some bit of dirt. But now all were eating, eating this heaven sent fish sandwich, and there wasn’t a naysayer in the bunch.
When the feasting was over, Yeshua told us to gather up the leftovers and take them down to the boat. He said He would meet us back across the lake. We gathered up twelve baskets full of scraps. Some of the scraps were the size of what I started with.
I looked back as we headed down to the boat, and I saw that He was touching them as they left, a hand shake, a touch on the shoulder, a pat on the back. I know He wanted to be alone, but Yeshua always gave you all of Himself when He was with you.
Finally as we cast off, I could see that He was heading up the mountain that had been at His back, where He could be alone. I expect He poured His heart out to His Father. I had almost forgotten about John, with all that had gone on since we had our reunion that morning.
It was full on night by now, and as we headed out into the Sea of Galilee, the waves were growing. The sky began to anger, or so it seemed, as the star-specked black turned to a foreboding gray. In short order the wind whipped up and the waves were pounding us.
We pulled at the oars for hours and it seemed like we were making little headway. Eight of us would pull for a quarter-hour while the others rested, then four would step in and four more rest. But the night, the wind, the waves would not end.
Andrew, who was on a rowing break, was looking out into the night.
“What’s that?” he said.
At first we all ignored him. I was exhausted, and I didn’t really care about sight-seeing. It had to be 4 O’clock in the morning, I was not in the mood.
“No really,” said Andrew again, this time more insistent. “What, or should I say who is that?”
I rested my oar and turned my head to see what he was squawking about, and sure enough, off the port side of the stern, perhaps 50 cubits off, you could barely make out the form of a man. As we drifted, being pounded by the waves, we all stared in astonishment.
Someone, I think it was James, let down the anchor so we would not end up back at the shore. As I heard the chain running Simon yelled out just what I was thinking “Is it a ghost?” Then John shouted over the commotion, “Who ever it is, He walks like Yeshua.” Then Bart said “I think He is going to walk right by.”
He was now almost to the bow of the boat but still about 30 cubits off. I called out, “Master?” More of a question than anything else.
It was only then that He turned toward the boat and started walking toward us, WALKING TOWARD US?
It rose up in me, I’m not sure why, but the next thing I knew I was calling out to Him again.
“Master, if it is You, call me out to you.”
He was just close enough so I could see that face again – that ‘ready for the next lesson’ face that was so familiar to me.
When I think back on what happened next, I shake my head. The rest of the men were just standing staring, but I was pulling off my coat, climbing up on the gunwale, and into or should I say onto the waves I went.
As I looked at Yeshua, He stopped coming toward me and just held out His arms to me like a father welcoming his child, taking their first steps. It was as if He was saying “come on, come on, you can do it.” Then all of a sudden, I felt a wave smack by back, and I turned to take a quick look. That wave tapped me on the shoulder and said “remember me?”
That was when I started to sink. But Yeshua reached down and grabbed my hand. He looked at me and shook His head. For a minute I thought he was going to drag me through the water back to the boat, but then He pulled me up and we walked back to the boat together.
As soon as He stepped onto the boat the sea settled down.
When I looked around at the boys, they were all on their knees. Andrew said, “You really are the Son of God” and the “AMEN”s were on everyone’s lips.
A day does not go by that I don’t say to myself, “What manner of man is this?”
Truly He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
If you enjoy these first person accounts you can find more under the heading “Encounters“