Sean won. Nuff said.
I took my position in the bow of the boat. It was just enough small to land that label rather than ship. It was roomy and convenient for fishing. A couple of the men hoisted the sail and we settled back for a cold sail across the sea. The sun had already dipped behind the mountains, the afterglow in the winter sky created an orange wash on our faces as we pushed off from the western shore toward Behtsaida, nestled on the northern shore of Yam Kenneret.
I breathed deeply, filling my lungs with the fresh, chilled air of the sea region. I smelled the fish and they smelled like money to me. We were heading to my home and I was looking forward to seeing my wife.
That fateful night, the afterglow did not last long upon the cold water. But we did not fear for the moon would rise shortly and full would be it’s face.
We had barely got into deep water when the wind flapped the sail. I cursed, then bit my tongue. I was done with those thoughts and those ways, yet they crept into my head at stressful times. It was hard trying to be good all the time. That Jesus… I told my brother he was Messiah. John had pointed to him and said, “Behold the Lamb who will take away the sins of the world.” My head knew it. My heart was having doubts. First one thing and then another, he would say one thing and the Pharisees would twist his words and the sad thing is, they were making a great deal of sense. But then, so did the Messiah. I was stilling trying to understand how a body could lay down his life to save it or desiring to save his life will lose it and the one who loses his life will save it. Oi veh! My poor fisherman’s brain could not wrap around it.
Excuse me a moment, I must tend the sail. The wind is so contrary as it blows one way and then another. It’s the winter gusts we must be wary of and this storm is giving all the signs of a gale. The conditions you see now are just like what happened that night in the beginning. We will head to shore, for I would not want you to be distressed this eventide. No, no. Sit down; no need for oars for we’ll be to shore in a matter of moments.
Now then, where was I? Oh, yes, I had just taken my position on the bow of the boat. I had confessed to you that my heart was akin to the winter winds across the Yam Kenneret. Sea of Galilee, as you know it. Afternoon had just rested when the Master urged us to the boat and bid us across to the other side. A few hours passed and it seemed we were making no headway at all. It was only seven miles across: a short afternoon sail or perhaps a half day’s row depending on how many oars were manned. But, this night, it seemed we worked more against the wind than with the wind. It was so contrary, we lowered the almost useless sail and took to the oars. I was marking the time so we could be in stroke which is why I was in the bow and why I was the navigator as well.
Dark clouds raced across the sky. For a time, they were spaced far enough apart we could keep our bearings. Then they closed in around the moon, like a veil drawn across a beautiful woman’s face; one moment glorious light and the next dark pitch. Then the wind gusted hard from the North, the waves pounded the bow sending up sprays of water at regular intervals. That lasted for less than an hour. Suddenly the wind shifted quarters and it was blowing harder from the east. This shifting wind stirred up our little sea and we were being tossed about like a child’s ball.
The waves pitched our little boat into the air, I gauged about twenty cubits. At each peak the shore to the west looked no closer than the shore to the north east. Soon we had to ship the oars and hang on for our very lives. The sea became cantankerous, sucking at the boat to pull it under. Veterans of the sea we were, but this storm was the worst we had ever seen. Soon, the waves were thirty cubits if they were an inch; that is no fisherman’s lie. The water was so cold and the wind was colder as it whipped sea spray into our faces and cloaks. We may as well had taken to swimming across, as wet as we were. But that would never have done. We would have died in that water in just a few minutes. Oy, I have seen grown men, fishing in waters that cold and fall in while dragging in nets. They were dead before they were found to be missing. Nothing could bring them back from that freezing death.
I rolled my shoulders to release the strain of tension. Not much good it did because of the death grip I had on the sides of the boat. I know I left indents on either side of the bow the size of my fingers. Up the side of one giant wave we traveled then down the steep slope of the other side. As we reached the summit of the watery mountain, we’d pitch side to side, taking on a dangerous amount of water; our knees awash with the cold stream and faces frozen into masks of terror. Then we careened down, sloshing a bit of water out one side while taking on more water from the other side. At the bottom of each deep trench, we had tipped over far enough for the water to drain out the port side leaving us ankle deep in water, only to start the whole travail again as we staggered up the side of the next giant wave. We had just a matter of minutes before capsizing.
I saw something in the distance and decided to keep my eye on it in order gauge our position. Surely we had traveled farther than what it appeared. It seemed we were held by some anchor in the middle of the sea. The wind swirling around us, yet our position held steady. It was odd, but not odd enough to lighten my fear. I could see the horror etched on each face. These men I had walked with and talked with and laughed with were now sharing the same fear. We were sure we were going to die.
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