I was in a kayak the other day on beautiful Straight Lake. I stopped paddling for just a second and put my hand out over the water. My hand came down and gently touched just the surface of the water, just enough to feel it. In that moment, I imagined that my hand was a foot, and that I was Peter, getting out of the boat at the bidding of Jesus, and walking on top of the water.
I wonder what it was like. Peter, a fisherman, was used to the water. His occupation was in the water. We know from John 21 that Peter knew how to swim, but he had never before walked on top of the water; he’d only swam in it. The sea was a treacherous place, but here was Peter as master over the sea. I have to think his foot still got wet, but that he stayed right on top of the surface.
The problem is that the lake I was on was quite different than the sea that Peter was on. When I was in the kayak on Straight, it was a perfect evening, with little wind. When Peter was on the Sea of Galilee, it was storming. I can’t really blame Peter for what happened next, because I would have been scared out of my mind had a violent storm come up on Straight right then.
Peter looked around at those waves, instead of looking at the Saviour. I put my hand under water a little to know what it felt like when Peter’s foot dipped below the surface.
Peter looked at the wind whipping the boat and the water all around him. I put my forearm in the water to know what it felt like for Peter’s calf to be in the water.
Peter looked at the gigantic waves towering over his head, threatening to crash down upon him, and started to sink further. I imagined the terrified look on his face as he realized that his knees were now wet, and that he was so far from the boat. He did the only thing he could. He cried out: “Lord, save me!” Instantly, Jesus was there to pull him out of the water, but not without a slight word of rebuke for his disciple: “O thou of little faith, wherefore didst thou doubt?” Peter and Jesus walked through the storm to the little boat and the dropped jaws of the disciples and climbed in. The Bible says that the storm instantly stopped.
I’d like to think that eventually on the row back to shore, someone laughed. The whole scene must have been very funny to see, and though none of the other disciples even tried to get out of the boat, Peter had started to sink. I wonder if Peter wanted another chance. This time, he tells himself, I won’t take my eyes off of Jesus. I wonder if Peter, years from that day, when he was fishing, ever put his hand over the side of the boat and gently touched just the surface of the water, just enough to feel it, and remembered what it was like to walk on water to the Saviour.
Lessons from a kayak.