We were in a wooden fishing boat fashioned to resemble those used at the time of Christ. No sign or buoy marked the spot where Jesus walked on the water and beckoned to Peter, “Come.”
And over the side of the boat went Peter and he, too, briefly walked on the sea. The account in Matthew is one of my favorites of all Christ’s miracles during his ministry. Peter was out on unfamiliar ground but he was walking to be with the Savior and the ground—dirt, water or mud in between—was not the point. He was focused, believing and determined. I love Peter. He is so real and so distracted as the wind swirled about him and the water lapped menacingly at his feet.
He had heard the Lord’s call and responded but—like we do as well—he lost faith. He cried out and the Lord reached for him with his hand. So many times I have felt like I was out on the water and, yes, the Lord was right there reaching out to save me.
The trip to the Holy Land was a pilgrimage of sorts. There were not busloads of us queuing up to glimpse a moment in such a sacred setting over the heads of hordes of fellow visitors. The group was small, intimate and we grew in understanding because we shared testimonies. We had walked hillsides and paths that Jesus trod centuries ago. We had sloshed single file through Hezekiah’s Tunnel, sat by the wine press and read the scriptures in the recreated village of Nazareth, been up on the Temple Mount where Jesus taught and cleansed the temple, looked down on the excavated Pool of Bethesda and saw in our minds the crippled man lodged at the side hoping for a chance to be healed. We knelt in the Garden of Gethsemane, just our little group; we stepped into the tomb early one morning just as Mary had—but He was gone. In every case we felt something and savored the thoughts that filled our minds and hearts and felt connected to others who were with us. We were flooded with increased spiritual understanding, as we asked questions of our appointed Israeli guide and quickly appreciated that our “real” guide was Jim Gee.
Out on the water there were no Churches plopped atop sacred settings and no crush of groups bedecked with ear phones jockeying to catch a glimpse of the faithful at the Wailing Wall on Friday eve. You can’t create such singular moments or conjure them up in class reading from the scriptures about the “fourth watch.” This was a pure and precious spiritual moment. Quiet. Serene. And so very real. The words of the song, “I walked today where Jesus walked,” took on a whole new meaning.
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