This is one of my favorite stories in the New Testament of the Bible. It is taken from the Gospel according to Matthew in Chapter 14. It is magical and full of significance. I’ll tell it in my own words and then tell you why I find it particularly important.
Earlier Jesus got the news that his cousin, John the Baptist, had been beheaded. John’s disciples had buried their teacher and then told Jesus. The “one crying in the wilderness” had prepared the way for the arrival of the Messiah and now his mission was complete.
The killing of the messenger meant that it would not be long before religious authorities set their sight on the living Message Himself. Jesus gazed at His own disciples and the crowd. Will they be ready for that time? Is it possible that these men He has chosen will understand and believe? Will their embryonic faith sprout into the transformation of humanity as a new immortal creation? Will their eyes be opened soon enough for Him to escape the cross? He needed space and time to Himself, and so he got into a boat and left the disciples to tend to the crowds. He had a secluded area in mind, a place to be truly alone and separate Himself. There He would pray and seek inspiration from the ministering of the Spirit of God.
But as He approached the shore, He saw that word of mouth had pulled a crowd from surrounding cities and Jesus’ only time alone had been on the crossing in the Sea of Galilee. Yet He saw the desperation in their faces for the manifestation of true spiritual power. So He carried on His practice of healing the sick among them. His compassion for them drove Him into the evening, and the disciples worried that the compulsion of Christ to reach out to the crowd had blinded Him to the very pragmatic concern of such a large crowd so far from their homes. It was quite possible that many would succumb to the deprivation of food and water in such an isolated place.
The disciples caught His attention and implored Jesus to send the crowd home.
Jesus looked at them all, knowing that these miracles demonstrated the reality of a power greater than any mortal possessed. It was not enough, because they could not envision this command of spiritual energy coming from their own connection with God. There was still so much fear of being left alone.
Jesus decided to change strategies. “There is no need for them to go away. You feed them.”
They looked at Him dumbly. Shocked. They had been put on the spot, so they took charge and took some food offered by a nearby young boy. Five loaves and two fish for thousands of people. The mortal mind knew this was inadequate.
“Give them to Me.” Then He had the crowd sit on the grass, teaching them to calm their fears. He looked up toward the Infinity of space, connecting to His source, to God.
I imagine His hungry and silent plea was something along the lines of “Please watch and understand, My disciples.”
He took the food and handed it to them and these disciples handed out meals without losing substance. After all was said and done, those thousands of people were filled and the disciples recovered 12 baskets full, one for each of them.
How did these twelve men reconcile this impossible occurrence? They chalked it up to mean that Jesus was a very special Jew with an amazing connection with God, possibly even the Anointed One who is to come. Their hearts were hardened to the reality that this miracle was performed through them and not specifically by Christ. He wanted them to see the impossible flowing from their own hands. They did not.
So He immediately sent them to cross the Sea of Galilee and He would catch up with them later. He was really in need of that solitary place by now. The crowds gone. The disciples set to task. He went up into the mountain to embrace the Alone God. He gazed out over the waters and watched the struggling disciples working against some strong winds. The Christ continued in His connection with the ministering Spirit of God, His heart heavy with the vision of a coming storm and struggling followers. “How can I reveal to them the power of their own connection to You, Father?” A quiet voice whispers, “Go to them. Be with them now.”
Jesus rose from His repose empowered by this small voice He trusted deeply. It was sometime after three in the morning as he came to the shore and stepped out on the water. The energy of His spirit overrode the vulnerability of His flesh. He moved onto the water guided by his love for these twelve men.
It was dark out and the disciples were tense and tired of fighting the winds. Then they saw a figure walking across the water toward them, and they panicked and struggled harder to escape this phantom spirit approaching them. They feared something from the sea might rise to swallow them up, so alone, so scared. They screamed “It is a ghost!”
“Take courage, don’t be afraid. It is I! Do not be afraid!”
Then something happened that caused Jesus to pause. “Could it be . . .?”
Peter had called out to Him and shouted, “Lord, if it is really You, command me to come to You on the water.”
“Could it be that he will believe. . .?” Jesus eagerly responds, “Come!”
Peter stepped out of the boat and onto the water. He began walking toward a smiling Jesus. “Yes, he is changing, he is . . . ”
But Peter’s fear took him as the wind blew and he began to sink. The descent caused the panic to explode into a scream, “Lord, save me!”
Immediately Jesus reached out and grabbed Peter, and said in utter disappointment, “Oh you of little faith, why did you allow yourself to be pulled into two directions.” Peter was rescued and Jesus entered the boat. The wind stopped and the disciplines exclaimed, “Truly You are the Son of God.”
Jesus looked at the wet man still glowing before His eyes and whispered, “Almost there. So close.”
The significance of this story for me personally relates back to something I experienced as a very young man several decades ago. The experience I believe was from the Alone God, the ministering Spirit of the Separated. It planted a message in my heart that I would see the spiritual maturing of an entire generation of youth transformed into water-walkers. May you rise, little eaglets. I long to see the day of your flight.