For the setting and a cast of characters for this series, click here.
The awkward silence that fell across the courtyard following Yiftach’s outburst was broken by Rachel. As all eyes turned towards her, her own were turned towards Yiftach, a mixture of compassion and disquiet writ large on her face. As she began to speak, her gaze turned to Mark. “I confess I also find it hard to believe that someone could walk on waves. It is…unprecedented.” Her eyes lost focus, imagining the scene. “But what I find almost harder to believe is that Jesus – seeing their obvious distress – would just walk past them. I mean, he’s the one who sent them out across the lake after all. You’d think if he really could go out there, he’d want to help them!”
Before Mark could respond, Simeon interjected. “Your choice of words is interesting, Yohannan. ‘He intended to pass them by.’ Does that mean what my young friend here suggests? That Jesus was merely taking the shortest route to the other side while his friends in the boat fought the waves and the wind? Or are you possibly alluding to something else?” Mark raised an eyebrow and gestured for Simeon to continue his line of thought. “I’m sure it was disturbing to see a figure above the storm-whipped waves. To be struggling at the oars, and then see someone out there. Someone who intended to pass them by? I hear echoes of our people’s story in those words.”
As Simeon paused to take a quick drink from his cup, Rachel spoke up. “I don’t think I hear those echoes. What do you mean?” Simeon nodded to himself, as he continued. “I’m thinking of Moses, and the time when G_d assured him that G_d’s presence would go with the people as they journeyed to the Promised Land. Do you remember?” Rachel shook her head slowly. “It was the time when Moses asked to see G_d’s glory.” He paused, and the light of recognition came to Rachel’s eyes. She smiled, and said, “And G_d put Moses in the cleft of the rock and covered him until G_d had passed by. Then G_d took G_d’s hand away so Moses could see G_d’s back.”
Adina leaned forward and spoke. “And it’s like Elijah! When he was afraid of Jezebel, and on the run. He was in a cave, and the Lord passed him by – in a strong wind! No, wait, he wasn’t in the storm. G_d was in the gentle breeze that came after.” “Indeed,” responded Simeon. “Both men were afraid, and G_d passed them by, to reassure them.”
“Well,” Mark said, “Peter told me that the twelve certainly were afraid when they saw him walking on the sea. They supposed that it was a ghost, and cried out; for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke with them and said to them, ‘Take courage; it is I, do not be afraid.’” Yiftach found himself drawn into the story despite himself. “The fishermen in my village often spoke of water spirits – ghosts at night – who could bring disaster upon them in an instant, dragging their boats down into the depths. I’m sure the twelve were terrified!”
“And,” Simeon added, “Jesus’ response is to reassure them with the words G_d so often speaks to the terrified, ‘Do not be afraid.’” He looked at Mark. “I am curious as to the exact words Jesus spoke when he said, ‘It is I.’ Or word, perhaps?” Mark smiled. “Indeed, one word. The word. HaShem.” He turned to Rachel. “Jesus did not abandon them. He got into the boat with them, and the wind stopped; and they were utterly astonished, for they had not gained any insight from the incident of the loaves, but their heart was hardened. Exhausted from straining against a fierce wind, drained by the terror they had felt, in some ways it’s no wonder they’re astonished. Perhaps they hadn’t taken time to reflect on their experience of that remarkable meal with the crowds on the hillside. Or perhaps they really were just obtuse.
“Whatever the case, as we discussed a few nights ago, they would come to understand the larger purpose of this sea crossing – and the previous one – in the years to come. It prepared them for the conflicts that arose concerning the inclusion of the gentiles. For the pain and chaos caused when people disagree about who belongs.” As Mark said this, he saw Yiftach shift in his seat, a look of anguish flashing across his face. Ah, something has happened. He decided to dismiss the gathering, and, after offering a blessing, strode across the courtyard to catch Yiftach before he could leave…