It was after 3 am. The barque fought through strong wave and harsh weather since the evening before. It was the Third Watch.
Exhausted, the disciples of Jesus, fought the winds as they tacked the barque across the Sea of Galilee to the other side. Tacking is the only way to head into the fighting wind. The boat head port, then starboard, left, then right. It stays the course by going this way and that, letting the wind slip by.
The wind is strong, almost too much. Someone sees what he thinks is a ghost. A ghost walking on the water, up the crest and down the valley of each wave. They are frightened men and scream out. The ghost hurries to the barque to assuage their fear. “Take courage,” he says. “It is I; do not be afraid.”
Peter recognized him but tested. “Lord, if it is you, command me to come to you on the water.”
Peter Got Out of the Boat
The most difficult thing a person could do today is to get out of the boat and step on the water. When Peter got out and walked toward Jesus, he saw how strong the wind was. He was no longer protected by the bow and the masts and the sails, the stored cargo and provisions, and the other disciples. The wind is always stronger when one is standing alone, on the sea, facing the full power and fury of the wind. Peter walked to within arms’ reach of the Lord and stopped to analyze his current situation. Everyone knows you can’t walk on water when it is rough.
Peter saw how strong the wind was and became frightened. The fear was like lead weights in his pockets and backpack. His feet and legs, moments earlier lightweight planes that held him aloft over the waves of the anxious sea became spears of bronze dragging him down, to a watery death. With a gasp, he cried out, “Lord, save me!” Immediately “Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ (Mt. 14: 30-31). When they got into the boat, the wind died down, Scripture tells us.
Was the wind a test? Was its intent to cause fear in the hearts of the disciples? From this encounter with the wind and the storm and the plight of the disciples we learn that fear reacts like lead weights. Faith keeps our feet above the fray. Getting out of the boat for a short walk is OK, but Jesus is there to pull you back in with him.
The Wind Rages Today
Wind rages across nations, across regions, across faiths today. This raging wind shows itself in calamity, destruction, and despair. It strips hope to the wayside, causes some to horde possessions, horde their strengths, their love. People try to escape from the wind, but there is no real power that can stem its wrecking force. They hide, draw into themselves; vent their anger, looking for the source of the wind. They remember tacking, turning to the left, “no, no,” they turn to the right, “no, no.” Tacking does not stop the wind. But it keeps the barque on course.
It is not profitable to discuss the calamities that want to overthrow. We watch in horror turned to grief at the devastation caused by Hurricane Michael. Our heads reel from the destruction. We pray, we help, and are we are saddened. The ones who enjoy blaming will blame. Those who help, will help. The prayer warriors will intercede. Yet the wind continues.
Some may wonder if there is too much wind heading against the Barque of Peter, so much so they feel like they’re sinking. Many do not realize that to sail into the wind one must tack to starboard and then tack to the port. That’s what keeps the boat sailing through to its destination, turning left just enough and then turning right. One may read this however he or she chooses. There is no other way to sail into a strong headwind.
Peter got out of the boat at Jesus’ invitation. He walked on the water, in the wind. He could have walked anywhere, and would have if he didn’t take his eyes off the Christ. When they both got back in the boat the sea calmed, the wind stopped. The disciples knew they were in God’s presence.
The “Barque of Peter,” refers to the Church. Through every disaster, catastrophe, and devastating blow it may receive, it will continue to its destination. Getting off does not hold any better. Staying on, tacking through, is the best course.