The waves curled and bowed in mockery around the small boat. As they rose and fell in an unpredictable and terrifying pattern, Peter couldn’t shake the idea that they were laughing at him, holding his friends in their death grip, entirely aware of how hopeless the men were. They were just playing with him, like a bear plays with his food before he ruthlessly stops its breath.
The men had lost their ability to remain on both feet long before. They had run out of options and most of them could now be found sitting on the deck, huddled beneath the thin shelter of the boom with their knees pulled tightly to their chests. Most of them clutched their knees as if it was their very life before them, knuckles turning white with tense desperation.
Doubt. It crept in suddenly, without warning, as the man they once trusted, the one who could rescue them, slept soundly at the back of the boat, taking no notice of the destruction around him. The cushion beneath him remained tucked neatly under his head, and his eyelids did not even flutter as the boat rocked violently, mercilessly, in the middle of the sea.
Hours before, as the storm brewed in the distance, Peter viewed it with confidence, knowing Jesus would keep them safe. Even as things began to look more grim, Peter was able to hold tightly to reason: Jesus had a ministry to continue on the other side of the sea; they would most certainly make it. However, reason had been tossed into the sea along with the men’s belongings and hope. Perhaps, only Jesus would see the other side.
The noise of the storm was deafening, creating a panic inside of him that he could not shake. Each time his mind began to formulate a plan, a deluge of water crashed down upon him, leaving him with only his weak life, and nothing more. The shouts and whimpers of the men around him could only be sensed, but not properly heard.
Peter was reminded of a moment in his childhood when he slipped unnoticed into a river. His head immediately disappeared beneath the water and the silence that pressed in upon him drowned his reality. It was so tranquil, so noiseless under the waves that Peter felt an overwhelming desire to hear sound again, the giggle of his baby sister, the hum of his mother as she prepared a meal. He began to fight the silence with his arms and legs, punching the water, while defeating death. With each kick, light and sound crept closer to his face. The hubbub of his village welcomed him back to reality and the panicked screams of his mother flooded his soul, reviving him, thrusting the terrible silence further from his memory.
Now, Peter faced an entirely different reality. His reason and his fear had abandoned him, leaving him with only the noise, pressing in around him, threatening to drown him even before the boat capsized. He knew he must fight, to kick and to punch until he rises above the tempest, above death.
Clarity comes in a blink and is gone; he knows what he must do. On his hands and knees, he begins to creep forward in a direction that he hopes is correct. He cannot even see his hands move below him, but he knows they are there because he continues to inch forward.
When he is three more paces from Jesus the sea takes a deep breath, pausing the ruination around them for the briefest of moments. As the mist fades, Jesus seems to materialize before him, still peacefully asleep and curled up like a small babe, as if the boat has become his cradle. Just as the sea begins its fiercest exhalation in attempt to destroy the men, Peter reaches out and touches Jesus. Forcing a spew of words from his stiff, cold mouth he says, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
Trying to be heard above the warring waves, it comes out harsher than he had planned. Jesus rises to his feet, hunching down to feel the bottom of the boat, which is now covered in three inches of water. There is no surprise in his eyes, no fear, no frustration even at Peter’s doubt.
The hatred of the sea contrasted with the love and peace of Jesus causes Peter to lose balance, collapsing onto his belly. Jesus takes no notice but stands with arms open wide and chastises the brutality of the waves. Then looking down into the sea with a flawless mixture of calm and fortitude he commands, “Peace, be still!”
The sea did not hesitate, but shrunk away from His powerful words like a scorpion scurries from an unfathomable heat wave. At the sound of Jesus, the jaws that kept opening and closing around Peter and the men close forever. Peter rises from his stomach to see that a stillness has subjugated the sea, and the sun, which he thought he’d never see again, has torn through the clouds to shed a sparkle of light on the beaten and battered boat.
Jesus turns to his disciples with disappointment etched on his features, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” He reaches down to assist Peter’s brother, Andrew, to his feet, then walks to what is left of the front of the boat, kneels down, and prays.
Andrew, skin yellow and knees still shaking, leans over to Peter and marvels, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Peter who has been welcoming a justified and great feeling of guilt for his lack of faith, feels a peace shedding down from the heavens, as he smiles and looks toward his Savior, “This is the Messiah.”
*My own interpretation of Mark 4:35-41*