An amplified retelling of one of my favorite Gospel stories (see Mark 4; c.f. Matthew 8; Luke 8).
The shadows of the hilltops surfed across the lake as the sun descended and evening came. As the disciples joined Jesus in the boat, Andrew and Philip grabbed the oars. Judas and Bartholomew gave the boat a final heave from shore and hopped in. Everyone was set for a quiet evening trip to the eastern shore.
James and John sat together in the bow, ardently discussing Jesus’ ramblings about mustard seeds and the kingdom of God. The others reclined against the sides of the boat and enjoyed the cool breeze. James, the son of Alphaeus, reached his hands behind him, so that they skipped across the crest of the wake. Andrew, true to form, slapped the oar against the water, splashing Peter and nearly getting Jesus. Without a moment’s hesitation, Peter gave him a brotherly shove that knocked Andrew off his seat and butt first onto the floor of the boat. Thaddeus bellowed as the others joined in laughter.
It wasn’t long before the deep blues and burnt oranges of the skyline were overcome by clouds of an eerie shade of grey. Suddenly, the wind picked up, howling like a mother in mourning. Drops of water peppered the faces of the disciples like bee stings, and the boat began to rock as the waves began to grow. The relaxed and merry character of the twelve quickly turned uneasy and apprehensive. Even the seasoned fishermen of the bunch shot anxious glances at one another, unsure of what was to come.
A seven foot swell approached rapidly. “Incoming,” shouted Simon with the surprising screech of a ten year old. The wave crashed over the starboard side, sending Matthew across to the port and into James’ lap. Before anyone could say a word another wave did the same.
“Good heavens,” gargled Thaddeus, coughing up a mouthful of water.
The disciples tried to keep their heads down because of the wind, but the waves were unrelenting. They continued to pour in over the sides, and the boat began to fill. James and John furiously led the charge to scoop the water out, but their efforts were showing little potential to keep up with the onslaught of water. Thomas scurried about the boat on his hands and knees, encouraging the others and trying to be optimistic about their present circumstances; that is, until he was hit from behind with a wave that drove his forehead to the floor and left him with a nasty bruise. He was never quite the same.
Peter was not hopeful about the situation. He was watching his closest friends frantically fighting in what seemed like the fight of their lives. He peered over the side of the boat, and to his horror the horizon was nonexistent – he could hardly see beyond ten cubits in front of him. He looked back at the eleven, paused; then counted again. Where was Jesus?
Peter spun about in the blink of an eye, and spotted Jesus in the stern lying on a cushion…asleep. He grabbed the two closest to him by the arm and darted to Jesus’ side. Each of them dropped to his knees and shook Jesus – the way a child does his mother when he’s had a nightmare. When he woke, they cried, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
At that moment all of the disciples turned and looked at Jesus. He stared back at them, looking deep into their eyes. In an instant, he shined a light into their souls like a torch in a cave, exposing their fear and bringing to light their unbelief.
Silently he stood up. He turned away from the twelve and faced the storm. The water in the boat surpassed his ankles, as the wind beat against his face and the waves sprayed across his chest. He commanded the wind and the waves with a strong, but soothing tone, “Peace. Be still.”
Immediately, there was a great calm.
It was as though time stood still. A power went out from Jesus that seemed to suspend all calamity, while bringing a sweet serenity to everything within earshot. His words reverberated across the lake, silencing the wind and stopping the waves. In a moment, cosmic chaos became supernatural shalom.
When all was quiet, the disciples were speechless. None of them could muster a word while the wind and the waves worshiped.
Then Jesus turned back to the twelve and said, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” His rebuke cut them to the heart, yet the impact was blunted – like a hammer that strikes a nail but doesn’t drive it in. Their fear of the storm was now redirected at Jesus with exceeding haste, and they were not sure how to respond.
With the storm over, the twelve were able to scoop out the remaining water from the boat. As they finished up and got going in the right direction again, they couldn’t help but ask one another, “Who is this, that even the wind and the waves obey him?”