LET ME ASK a question that’s going to feel like a punch in the gut.
There are stories in the Bible about Jesus that, as far as many Bible newcomers are concerned, sound like Greek myths.
Here’s the question: Why would we believe stories about Jesus that sound like stories a crazy person would believe?
Take the story of Jesus walking on the water, for example. I’ve been working on paraphrasing it for Mark 6, in the Casual English Bible. But Matthew’s version in chapter 14 is the most detailed. The story also shows up in John 6.
Let’s read the story like a person who’s not a Christian, and who’s reading it for the first time.
Jesus wants to be alone so he can pray for a bit. He sends his disciples on ahead and plans to meet them later.
Makes sense so far.
The disciples sail off in a boat.
We hope Jesus has a boat, too.
In the middle of the night, around 3 a.m., the disciples are rowing against high waves churned by a windstorm. They’re three or four miles (5-6 km) from shore. Jesus sees them.
When were binoculars invented? (1800s)
Jesus walks on water toward the boat.
How often does the Sea of Galilee freeze? (One theory is that Jesus walked on a floating patch of ice that formed near salty springs that empty into the freshwater lake. But three or four miles from shore? Jeepers.)
As Jesus approaches the boat, he plans to walk on by them in the passing lane, but he stops when he sees the disciples are freaking out because they think he’s a ghost. So he climbs in the boat with them.
Double freak. (They may have thought Jesus was a spirit being from the next world, coming to get them when they drown.)
Matthew’s version adds that Peter recognized Jesus, and stepped out of the boat to walk over and meet Jesus. Peter sank.
That makes sense. Not that Peter got out of the boat. But the other part.
Jesus grabs Peter and complains that Peter should have more faith in him.
Peter also needed swim fins and a snorkel mask.
I know this sounds disrespectful
We Christians aren’t used to hearing people treat the Bible this way. But that’s exactly the way some newcomers feel about this story of Jesus walking on water.
They feel this way about many other miracle stories, too.
They would argue that the stories sound like exaggerated legends that may have grown out of a kernel of truth or a bag of bad wine.
What’s the counterpoint?
What do you think would be an appropriate and possibly even helpful response to someone who reads a story like this and says, “I don’t mean to be impolite, because you seem like an intelligent person, but how can you possibly believe something like this? And if you really do believe it, may I buy some of what you’re smoking?”
I’m not giving you the answer this time.
I’m hoping some of you can come up with an answer better than, “I have faith,” or “It’s in the Bible, so I believe it,” or “Demon, come out!”
I’m serious. I want to know what you’d say to a friend or a relative or a coworker who asked you something like this.