I’ve heard about Jesus walking on water twice in the past two weeks. Our pastor preached a sermon on how the disciples were underestimating Jesus, and a buddy of mine just shared with us the idea that the seas represent chaos in first-century mythology/cosmology, so that Jesus walking on water was symbolic of his trampling chaos/Satan underfoot. Both may be right, and I have no real reason to think they’re wrong, but as I read the story (Matt 14:23-33, Mark 6:47-52, John 6:17-21) I keep getting this distinct impression that Jesus was having a little fun with his disciples.
Jesus could have used several means of natural or supernatural transport to catch up with the guys–heck, he could have just zapped himself across the lake and beat them there (and according to John 6:21, once he got in the boat he DID motor all of them across). But instead he takes a little stroll–actually a fairly good stroll as the Galilee at Capernaum is five-plus miles to any “across” shore, not to mention the waves. And then according to Mark, he was actually going to pass them by. I can’t substantiate this, but it seems to me like Jesus decided he was going to mess with the boys a little. . .
Then of course Peter gets the bright idea that he ought to come out there. I think he must’ve thought “hey, that’s cool, wonder if he’ll let me do that?” I envision Jesus flashing Peter a grin and saying “sure man, come on!” Peter, of course, gets out there and looks around and says “hey, wait a minute, I can’t do this!” and promptly he can’t. But here again we give the poor guy too much grief I think. The biblical text says “you of little faith, why did you doubt?” But I imagine Jesus saying that not so much as a scolding for Peter’s “lack of faith,” (we scold each other too much about that sometimes), but rather a friendly and sympathetic “Dude! You almost made it!”
I’m hanging no dogma whatever on this meditation. Maybe I’m as all wet as Peter was by the time they got back to the boat. But really, we have to loosen up our perspective on Jesus. The guy knew (knows) how to have a good time. Some of his zingers against Herod and the Pharisees and such must’ve had the crowds rolling. The stiff-upper-lip types got their knickers in a twist because Jesus was hanging out with a bad crowd (Mark 9:10), and I have a hunch they weren’t all sitting around with long faces hearing a Sunday School lesson. Sometimes, if we let our imaginations run to Jesus as a friend and a fun guy to travel with, I think we might, just maybe, get a little closer to the truth.