Based on the Gospel of Matthew, chapter 14
[This works best if the narrator also plays the part of Peter—a quick and not-too-secret costume change is called for. The narrator was also the musician in the original version. This song prepares for the story. The tune is very simple, and can be found here. The words have been changed slightly to fit the story. If necessary, the song can be omitted–and the last line of the story. ]
When the water’s rough and deep
Fix your eyes upon Jesus
He alone has power to keep
Fix your eyes upon him.
Jesus is a gentle friend
One on whom you can depend
He is faithful to the end
Fix your eyes upon Him!
Narrator: Today’s story is another one about water. This one tells us what we can do when life is difficult—when we are scared, or sad, or angry, or when someone is sick, or a friend is moving away, or school isn’t fun. But I’m not telling the story tonight. We have a guest speaker, and I’m just going to fetch him . . .
Peter: Hi, my name is Simon Peter and I lived a long time ago. I was a fisherman and, more importantly, I was one of the first followers of Jesus.
My friends and I used to live by a big lake called the Sea of Galilee, and before we met Jesus, we used to go fishing on the lake. But it wasn’t always easy. There were often storms, and the Sea of Galilee could get rough very quickly, and then it was quite dangerous to be out in a boat.
One day, we had been very busy with Jesus. It was the day he fed 5,000 people all at once—maybe you know that story? And when it was all over, Jesus wanted some time by himself to be quiet and think and pray, so he told us to go over to the other side of the lake in the row boat, and said he would join us later. It was a big boat because there were twelve of us, and we took turns at rowing.
But then the wind started to blow. If it had been blowing from behind us, it would have made us faster. But actually, it was blowing from the direction we were going, so that made us much slower, and we were all getting pretty tired.
And just then someone—I think maybe it was Andrew—said, “Hey guys, look! What the heck is that?” And he pointed back the way we had come. There was someone, with his hair and his robe streaming out behind him and—you’re not going to believe this—he was walking on top of the water. Not swimming, which would have been impossible anyway, and not flying, which hadn’t been invented—but walking, as if he was just taking a stroll in the park on a windy day. It was amazing!
Then someone shouted, “It’s a ghost! Help!!! What are we going to do?” And everyone shouted and screamed, and tried to get away, except that there wasn’t anywhere to go. I remember one guy yelling, “Where’s Jesus when you need him?” And then someone—probably John—said, “Guys, it is Jesus!”
By this time, he was quite close and we could all see that John was right. And Jesus shouted to us, “Hey guys, it’s me: don’t be scared!”
And now I have to confess something. Sometimes I open my mouth before my brain is in gear, and words just come out that I regret later. (Do you ever do that?) And this was one of those occasions. I said the stupidest thing, I really don’t know why. I said, “Jesus, if it’s really you, tell me to come to you on the water too.” And Jesus kinda grinned with that mischievous grin he sometimes had—I guess he knew what would happen—and said, “OK, come on then!” And he held his hand out to me.
Of course, then I had no choice. I had to do it, didn’t I? I’d look like a coward if I backed down. So I stepped over the side of the boat, trying not to go headfirst, and carefully put my foot down in the water and . . . It was like walking on the ground. It was amazing.
And I took one step, and then another, then another, trying to keep my balance, keeping my eyes on Jesus’ hand stretched out towards me. I was nearly there when a little voice in my head said, “Peter, this is so stupid. Have you noticed the wind? Have you noticed the waves?” And I looked around and thought, “Help! I just remembered I can’t swim! I’m going to die, I’m going to drown!” And immediately I began to sink. Just before I went under the water, I shouted, “Jesus—glug-glug-glug—help!!!” And suddenly I felt a strong hand grabbing mine and pulling me up again. It was Jesus, of course, and he was laughing—can you believe it?—and shaking his head and saying, “Peter, Peter, you were doing fine while you were looking at me, but when you looked at the waves, you began to sink. Duh!”
And we walked a few more steps to the boat, and he held on to my hand, and helped me get in; then he got in himself. And as we did so, the wind suddenly stopped and the lake was dead calm. And all the guys in the boat got on their knees and said to Jesus, “Truly you are the Son of God.”
You know, I never forgot that time. And it’s helped me many times when life gets difficult to think, “I have to keep my eyes on Jesus—think about him, imagine him, talk to him (because he is still with us even though we can’t see him).” And what I have found is that the storm might not stop straight away as it did that day—but I will be safe because of the power and love of Jesus, the Son of God.
I heard you know a song about this. Why don’t we sing it? But where has the bald guy with the guitar gone?