The 12 disciples completed ministering in their appointed villages and returned to Capernaum. They were actually more than disciples or learners now. They were apostles. They had been sent forth with the authority of the one who sent them – Jesus Christ – and they had used that authority (Mark 6:30, Luke 9:10).
One evening two disciples of John the Baptist came and asked to see Jesus, who greeted them warmly. “Do you have news of John?” He asked.
”Yes, sir, we have news. Bad news.” The man stopped and shook his head in an expression of sorrow.
The other disciples of John stepped forward. “We’re sorry to tell you, but he’s dead. He was put to death.”
Several of Christ’s disciples uttered exclamations of dismay, but Jesus made no outward show of emotion. He asked, “What happened?”
“He was beheaded by King Herod. We buried the body and came straight to you” (Matt. 14:12).
Jesus nodded and gave each of them a silent embrace of comfort. “Thank you for all you’ve done. Sit down with us now and eat and rest.”
Jesus soon retreated to a private place with His apostles (Matt. 14:13, Mark 6:32).Taking a boat, they crossed the lake to the rugged hill country beyond the district of Galilee.
But it was impossible to escape the crowds. Hundreds of Jesus’ followers skirted the Sea of Galilee on foot and found the place where Jesus was relaxing with the disciples. Putting His Father’s Work ahead of any personal desire for privacy, Jesus went to the multitude and taught them about God’s Kingdom.
As the afternoon shadows lengthened, Jesus realized that the host of men, women and children who had listened to his sermon needed food. They had come without provisions when they heard that Jesus was in the area.
“Where are we going to get food to feed all of these people?” the disciples asked.
“It’s getting late, and there’s no food to be had out here anyway. You should send them to the villages so they can buy something to eat.”
But Jesus replied, “You give them something to eat.”
“But it would take a fortune to feed such a mob! Why, there are probably 5,000 men in this crowd, plus the women and children” (Matt. 14:21; Mark 6:44; Luke 9:14 and John 6:10).
Andrew had been listening, and he broke in: “There’s a boy here with a basket of food. His mother packed it for him to give to you, sir. He has five loaves of barley and two little fish. But that won’t go very far with so many to feed.”
“Thank you very much.” Jesus accepted the basket and turned to the apostles. “Would you go among the people and ask them to sit down in orderly groups of about 50- people each, please?’
The crowd soon settled itself on the deep, green grass.
Looking upward, Jesus asked God to bless the food and the fellowship. Then Jesus broke the bread and dried fish into pieces and gave it to the apostles to distribute to the thousands. For a longtime He passed food to the apostles, yet food remained in the basket. Finally everyone was served. All uneaten food was collected afterward and enough was left over to fill 12 baskets.
Jesus turned to Peter. “All of you go back to the boat and cross the sea. I’ll join you later” (Matt. 14:22; Mark 6:45).
As soon as the crowd had dispersed and the disciples had departed, Jesus ascended a steep hillside and found a quiet place where He could pray and be alone.
Peter led the others along one side of the valley to the shore of Galilee where their boat was moored.
“Are you sure we should leave Him?” protested John as they began to shove off in the boat.
“He said He’ll meet us later,” Peter explained.
James motioned toward the sky. “A storm’s coming up!”
The rowing began in earnest. There was no conversation. The choppy waves developed into high swells of water that, swept by the wind, smacked into the sides of the boat and threatened to drive the boat down the coastline instead of across the sea.
Darkness fell as the heavens became cloaked in black clouds that rumbled with thunder and thrust out jagged lightning bolts.
“We shouldn’t have come without Him.” Philip shouted against the wind, remembering another storm in which they had nearly drowned.
They took turns rowing steadily on, the storm battering their craft. Peter, in the bow, looked back to reassure the others that Capernaum’s shore must not be far away. But what he saw made him freeze. There, behind the boat, was the faint outline of something moving. It was the shadowy figure of a man coming toward them across the water. A man? On the water? Peter couldn’t believe his eyes. The figure walked on the water, coming up rapidly to overtake them (Matt. 14:26; Mark 6:49; John 6:19). Peter shrieked.
Annoyed, James glanced up. “What’s the matter with you?”
Peter’s hands covered his face. “I can’t look.”
“Look at what?”
James and the others tuned to see. Jesus Christ came up alongside the boat and He seemed to be about to join them. All the disciples choked out a cry. “It’s a ghost!” The rowing stopped. The buffeting wind howled about them but the disciples did not notice. All eyes were on the man outside their craft.
Jesus spoke to them. “Have courage, men, it’s I. Don’t be afraid.”
The familiar voice calmed Peter’s rattled nerves. Lurching to the side of the boat, he said “If it‘s really you, sir, tell me to walk on the water to you.”
“Come,” Christ replied!
Peter climbed over the side and stepped down onto the troubled sea. Finding that he did not sink beneath the surface he took another step, then another. A wave slapped against his knees. Sucking in a sharp breath at the coldness of the water, he suddenly noticed the roaring wind and the churning waters about him. Quickly his faith crumbled – it was, after all, impossible to do this, wasn’t it? Peter began to sink, and cried out, “Lord, save me!”
Jesus’ hand grasped Peter’s shoulder and Peter bobbed to the surface. “How little faith you have,” Jesus said with a shake of His head. “Why did you doubt?” He gave Peter a boost into the boat and climbed in after him. The wind died away immediately and the storm was over.
Seeing Peter’s distress as he stood dripping before the other apostles, Jesus embraced the impetuous man. Peter began to smile; then he gave a great laugh. Jesus joined in.
Unable to grasp the humor of the incident, with their minds on the miracle of Jesus walking on water, the other disciples bowed in worship, exclaiming, “You are the Son of God!”
Be watching for further Stories from the New Testament.