“Late in the day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” Mark 4:38 (The Message)
Oh sure. “Lets just go over to the other side,”
he’d said, and none of them, not even the four fisherman
who made their living on these treacherous waters,
and should have known better, saw any reason not to,
so they’d bundled him into the back of the boat,
he was no boatman, making a joke of it,
packing him with pillows,
throwing a bit of old sail over him against the spray,
like Pharaoh on his barge they told him,
and they laughed and chattered,
the sun and the wind and cut of the little boat through the water,
and they were all caught up in the simple joy,
while Simon, James, John, and Andrew played sailor around them.
Twenty boats or more set out with them,
a pretty show, all the sails, the swoop of the little flotilla,
calling back and forth, playing tag in the wind and the waves,
and then settling in to a along slow reach across,
so smooth, so gentle with the lap of the water under the hull,
the lift and fall, that the Master had
put his head back and drifted off to sleep.
They hushed their chatter then, and all glided along,
half awake, out in the middle of the lake,
so far the shores had dropped away,
the boat carrying them as the Master’s words had,
toward a horizon without landmarks,
toward a land that was, in a world of water,
only hope and trust.
“Simon,” said John, putting his hand
on his shoulder where he sat at the tiller,
“I don’t like the look of that cloud.”
and Simon, whose boat it was, turned to look.
He quickly scanned the horizon for the other boats.
Three in sight already had their masts down
and were breaking out oars.
“This is bad,” said Simon.
“Andrew! Strike the mast.”
The fishermen stood in the boat as one
and looked off to the north and east, then turned,
with a knowing look among them,
to ready the boat for a storm.
Their hustle roused the others.
“What is it?” Thomas wanted to know.
“Weather coming.” said John, and nodded to the north.
“Where? I don’t see anything.” said Judas.
“A storm comes,” said Simon.
“This is Galilee, and I should have known better.
Get down in the bottom and stay down.
And try not to get stepped on,
we’re going to be working hard in a moment,
or I miss my guess.”
“Should we wake him?”
John put his hand again on Simon’s shoulder
and nodded past him to the Master on his pillows.
“No, time enough for that.
This is a Galilee storm coming,
and we’ve seen it’s like often enough.
We’ll ride it out.”
Suddenly the wind dropped, just stopped,
as James and Andrew laid the mast,
wrapped in sail, across the thwarts and tied it down.
All four fishermen hunched as though
to avoid a blow and then again looked north.
“I don’t like the looks of this,” said Andrew,
and they lifted oars out from under, fitted them to locks,
and sat, bracing their feet
and flexing fingers on the leather wraps.
The light, the very color of day, changed…
And then wind hit them, struck them like a fist,
and the boat healed over.
“Turn her!” Simon yelled,
and the oars flashed and dug into the sea,
and the boat spun under the hands of fishermen and into the wind.
The waves didn’t rise, they were just there,
of a sudden, the level surface of the sea
thrown on edge and coming at them from the north.
And then, between one breath and the next,
they were in the middle of it, fighting for their lives.
The bow came up, up, up,
and seemed ready to come on over on them,
and then with a mighty heave of the oars and a collective grunt,
the bow crested and dropped and the boat raced
down, down, buried its prow in the sea,
drenched everyone aboard,
rose again on the next wave,
up, up, and the wind shrieked, and the rain came,
and there was no up or down, no sea or air,
but all water and wind and violent struggle,
and everyone but the oarsmen huddled in the bottom,
and they, drowning where they sat,
and every wave a breath away from swamping them
and sending them all to a watery grave,
and the Master,
sound asleep in the back.
“Master, we are drowning, don’t you care?”
It was Peter, at the tiller, his hand on Y’shua’s shoulder,
shaking, waking, desperate, afraid.
“Master, we are going down.
He woke to spray in his face,
a hand on his shoulder, shaking,
the voice of fear in his ears, from dreams of glory,
where all was light and life
and the noise and commotion of the floundering boat
was the jubilation of the angels and the faithful,
the waves the surge of true life creating
a new world where love reigned,
and the wind was pure spirit,
sweeping the tongues into a flame of praise…
A burst of power from his heart for God
directed at these waves and this wind,
surely not waves of joy and winds of praise,
“Quiet. Be still.”
His voice cut through the storm and it was so.
The wind dropped, the waves sank,
the boat bobbed in the gentle swell,
and the men began to untangle themselves
And he looked at them, the wonder beginning to dawn,
the awe rising in them, and that power took him again,
a touch of anger, a touch of frustration, a great gush of love.
“Where is your faith? How could you doubt that I care?”
“How could you doubt God,” he thought,
“How did you get in this mess anyway?
Did you think the storm was something
you could handle on your own?
Why didn’t you wake me when it started?
And why didn’t you set sail before it
and let it run you to that far shore?
Why didn’t you ride the waves and wind to where we go,
knowing I am with you, and that I care.”
Oh, now they were as afraid of him
as they had been of the storm.
“What kind of man is this?”
they mumbled in their fear,
turning to the safety of their fellows,
“That even the winds and waves obey?”
But then they hadn’t been with him very long that day,
and hardly glimpsed the storm in store,
nor imagined the price he would pay
before they reached the shore,
or the faith that it would take to keep them there.