Thomas gives his version of events, in which Peter sees a ghost and fails to beat the laws of physics
Saturday August 12
By the time we had cleared up and eaten on Thursday night, we were so tired we left the tents furled and slept beneath the stars.
I woke at first light to see the fishermen already bustling around and packing the boat.
“Come on, if we leave now we should be able to catch some fish on our way to meet the Master,” shouted Peter as a way of waking us up. “We won’t waste time having breakfast now.”
We were soon all on board, and with the wind behind we were able to hoist the sail and put the oars away. The water was quite choppy but I could just about cope with it like this without feeling too sick. At least I had lost much of my fear of water and was no longer completely obsessed about falling overboard and drowning.
It was different when the squall struck. I was terrified and clung on to a cross-beam with all my strength, praying we wouldn’t sink, it was that bad.
Peter was standing up and jeered loudly when he saw me returning to my old ways.
“Take a few deep breaths Thomas, you’ll be fine. Just try not to swallow as much as you did when you were learning to swim.”
I started to think of an insult to throw back at him but then remembered Jesus’ instruction that we had to get on together, so I prayed for him to get washed overboard instead. The squall must have only lasted minutes but it seemed an age at the time. It subsided almost as quickly as it had struck. It was still quite blowy but we managed to squeeze some water from our robes, and as I helped with the bailing I found myself relaxing a little. The urge to shriek had gone. This made what happened next all the odder. Peter the sturdy fisherman, who had laughed in the teeth of the storm, pointed out across the lake and screamed, his face contorted.
“It’s a g-ghost!” he cried out. We looked in the direction of his rigid finger and there, sure enough, was what looked like a white-clad figure, gliding along on the surface of the water with nothing to support it. The other fishermen started to join in the fearful wailing, and even Simon began to look worried. A ghost was one explanation but I doubted it. Probably a mirage caused by a trick of the morning sunlight, more like.
“It’s the Master!” screamed Peter. Others joined him. This was getting crazy. Then I had another look through the gloom and sure enough, it looked very like him. This was more than a trick of the light, but I didn’t have time to think before Peter was off again.
“Lord, if it is you, let me join you on the water,” he yelled.
“No! Come on, don’t be stupid,” called Jesus, his voice barely carrying through the wind, but Peter was not a man to be deterred, particularly not by the fear of looking stupid.
“I shall come on as you have commanded,” he shouted, stepping out over the side of the boat as if it were on dry land. It wasn’t. It was like someone not noticing a hole in the road. He just disappeared.
Being a strong swimmer, Peter soon surfaced and began to swim towards the approaching figure of Jesus with powerful strokes. “Lord, give me more faith, that I might walk with you,” he called out. By now the boat, drifting on the breeze, was approaching Jesus, who leant down to grab one of Peter’s arms while Andrew grabbed the other and James helped haul the almost-hysterical wreck back on board. Jesus followed him, stepping into the boat in an altogether more composed fashion, several of my colleagues falling at his feet in adoration. I looked out and was sure I could see something looming just below the waves, but the boat continued to drift and whatever it was disappeared from sight. I exchanged looks with Jesus.
“Fancy meeting you all here,” said Jesus. “I was wondering how I was going to get home. We’re all safe now, thank God. OK, set the sail for Magdala and let’s see if we can’t catch some fish for breakfast along the way.”
We soon reached the beach at Magdala and the fishermen got a fire going so we could cook the fish. We all removed our cloaks and robes, spreading them out to dry in the strengthening morning sun. I kept my wet vest on rather than risk sunburn again, but it soon warmed up and started to dry anyway.
Mary had seen us arrive and brought some fresh bread down for us, and we had an excellent breakfast. The disciples couldn’t stop talking about Jesus walking on the water, and the tale was already gaining added details. Peter in particular had already convinced himself that he had managed to take a few steps on the surface once his faith had increased sufficiently, and was busy impressing this interpretation on anyone who would listen – which means everyone, because no one would risk showing a lack of interest when the big man was speaking.
I remained convinced that there was a more mundane explanation but didn’t say anything. Nor did Jesus. I’d noticed before that while he rarely makes unrealistic claims about himself, he never contradicts others when they exaggerate his powers and achievements. As his campaign manager, or even his director of communications and strategy, I’m happy with things just the way they are. I’m even happier that Peter has made a complete ass of himself, giving me a useful weapon to use in the future.
We did very little for the rest of the day, and then we had a very restful Sabbath. Jesus has just been in to say he’s run out of ink in the middle of writing something, but I’m just about out too. We’ll have to get some more in the morning.