I wrote this as my interpretation of Matthew 14:22-33 for the middle school youth last year — it was the lectionary reading yesterday. and my favorite story.
Imagine you’re in a boat. You’re with some of your closest friends, and it’s well past midnight. You’re exhausted. As you close your heavy eyes to rest …. a storm arises.
This isn’t just any storm. It’s the mother of all storms. The wind is deafening. The shrill wind rocks the boat from left to right. Left to right. Left to right. As your hands fumble for some small piece of the boat in order to steady yourself … you can scarcely make out your friend sitting next to you through the sheets of rain that have started to pour sideways. The rain is extraordinarily cold and feels as though tiny icicles are piercing your skin at a phenomenal speed.
You call to your friends, “Grab an oar … we need to move.” You realize that not only can they not hear your voice above the storm’s screaming …. but that the boat has now drifted to the middle of the lake and the waves have grown to 20 feet high. Paddling is useless. You are stuck. Stranded. There is nothing to be done. Except wait it out.
You see a figure in the distance. Your icy fingers attempt to shield your eyes from the rain. Your eyes strain to make out the shadow in the distance. Is it a ghost? The figure slowly nears. The storm begins to die down. One by one, your friends take notice of the figure. Terrified of this shadowy darkness creeping towards them, they cry out in fear.
Instantly a familiar voice answers them, “Don’t worry. It’s me. Jesus.”
Still too far away to make out the familiar outline of your closest friend, you reply skeptically, “Oh really? Well, if it’s really you … allow me to walk towards you on the water, just as you are.”
The familiar voice gently replies, “Come on, then.”
Confused and terrified, you look around at your friends in the boat. What are you thinking? You thought you were calling his bluff. Now, it seems that he’s calling yours. Do you write him off? Crack a joke about the crazy person doing a wack trick on the lake at 3 a.m.? or …. Do you try? Do you make a decision to do something so against nature …. Something so crazy that it just can’t be true.
As your curiosity grows, you start to think, “What if…”
“What if it is Jesus?
What if this is my chance?
What if God’s power can really sustain me?
What if … I just take one step…?”
Your friends stare in disbelief as your hands grip the edge of the boat. Your fingers feel every groove in the wood. The boat somehow feels more … solid, than before. With a deep inhale of icy air and your eyes closed, you slowly swing your leg over the side of the boat and onto the lake’s water. Instead of sinking through, your foot is held in place by a watery cushion. You open one eye …. Your other foot comes down. It, too, caught by this new found watery cushion. Your hands release their grip. You stand. It’s as if you’re learning to walk all over again. You take a step towards the shadowy figure. And another. And one more.
Suddenly … your thoughts begin to swirl rapidly in your head. What in the world am I doing? I’m standing on water. Not solid anything. On water. This is crazy. I’m crazy. Is this a dream? Do I need a doctor? What on earth is happening?
With each new thought, your feet begin to sink deeper into the water. Soon the water is to your knees, your waist, your chest …
In desperation you cry out, “Lord!! Save me!!”
Just as your chin is starting to sink below the water’s surface and with your lips turning blue from the frigid temperature, you feel a hand. Strong, rough, and powerful … the hands interlocks with your own. A powerful force is pulling your body toward the surface. You can breathe again. Feeling returns to your body. You open your eyes.
There is Jesus. Holding on to you. The watery cushion returns beneath your feet. He smiles. For a split second, you swear you notice a smirk on his face … he speaks, “You were almost there. Why did you doubt?”
As he walks with you back to the boat …. Your friends are in awe. Stunned, awed, surprised, and even a bit embarrassed … you join your friends in worship of Jesus. Forever humbled. Forever changed.