Jumping out of the boat,
Peter walked on the water to Jesus.
Master, if it’s You
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. He needed to take in this sadness, to process this loss. He no doubt wanted to talk to His Father about it. That’s where He, Jesus, turned when . . . well, just about any time. When stress was bearing down, when decisions had to be made, even when He was full of joy, He went to the Father.
We’d 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. 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 we shared our own accounts.
Then Philip came in with the news about John, and the tone of the gathering changed abruptly. Jesus got 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, away from the cities and towns and multitudes. We’d 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 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, spreading His name—His fame—in the region, or if those who opposed us were just sending the mobs in order to get under His skin. Either way, as always, He took immediate control of the situation.
He settled in, the rock embankment at His back creating a natural amphitheater, and began to teach. As He did so, the assembly continued to grow. It was late afternoon, and we had not even had lunch. As the sun began its descent, I pressed my way over to Jesus and suggested He should wrap it up.
“We’re out in the country and it’s getting late. Dismiss the people so they can go to the villages and get some supper.”
He turned to look at me. The twinkle in His eye asked, “Ready for your next lesson?”
“There is no need to dismiss them. You give them supper.”
His words tossed me like a wave of distress.
“Me? I didn’t bring any food. I didn’t even know we were coming across the lake. If we go and buy food, it will cost a year’s wages. There have to be 5,000 men here, and most of them have their wives and kids. How could I possibly feed—”
Jesus 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 a couple fish and some bread, maybe five little loaves. But what good is that among all these?”
“Bring them here,” Jesus said.
And isn’t that always the answer?
“Jesus, there is a man here with a withered hand.”
“Bring him to Me.”
“Jesus, my son is sick.”
“Bring him to Me.”
“Jesus, 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. Astonishment ran amuck in the crowd. Many were there to see a miracle; some came to hear Him teach, 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, Jesus 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 my original portion.
I looked back as we headed down to the boat, and I saw Jesus touching people as they left—a handshake, a touch on the shoulder, a pat on the back. I know He wanted to be alone, but Jesus always gave all of Himself when He was with others.
As we cast off, I could see Him heading up the mountain, 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 transpired since our reunion that morning.
It was night by now, and as we headed out into the Sea of Galilee, the waves grew. 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 pounded us.
We pulled at the oars for hours, 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 . . . They would not end.
Andrew, on a rowing break, looked out into the night.
“What’s that?” he said.
At first we all ignored him. I was exhausted. It had to be four watch, and I was not in the mood for sightseeing.
“No, really,” Andrew said, more insistent this time. “What— or should I say who—is that?”
I rested my oar and turned my head to see what he was squawking about. Sure enough, off the port side of the stern, perhaps fifty cubits out, I could barely make out the form of a man. As we drifted, pounded by the waves, we all stared in wonder.
Someone let down the anchor so we would not end up back at the shore. As I heard the chain running, James yelled out exactly what I was thinking.
“Is it a ghost?”
“Whoever it is, He walks like Jesus,” John shouted above the commotion.
Then Bart said, “I think He is going to walk right by!”
The figure was now almost to the bow of the boat but still about thirty cubits off.
“Master?” I called out.
It was only then that He turned toward the boat and walked toward us.
Walked 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’s really you, call me to come to you on the water.”
He was just close enough for me to see His face, its ready-for-the-next-lesson expression so familiar to me.
When I think back on what happened next, I shake my head. The rest of the men stood in stunned silence, staring, but I pulled off my coat, climbed up on the gunwale, and into—or should I say onto—the waves I went.
As I looked at Jesus, He stopped coming toward me and held out His arms to me like a father welcoming a toddling child. His eyes were saying, “Come on, come on! You can do it!” Then all at once, a wave smacked my back, and I turned to take a quick look.
That was when I started to sink. But Jesus 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 and 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.
“You really are the Son of God!” Andrew said. “Amen!” we all cried, as what had just happened penetrated our hearts and minds.
As each day passes, I am more in awe of Jesus..
Truly, He is the Christ, the Son of the living God.
To read the original story, see Matthew 14, Mark 6:14-54, and John 6:1-21.
Copyright - Benjamin Nelson - 2015
The story above is a chapter from my book Encounters With Jesus, which is a compilation of forty such stories. It takes the reader from Christ's conception to His resurrection through the eyes of dozens who were touched by His ministry.