At the end of a hot day, if there is a big lake in front of you, and some free time before dinner, you jump into it. And if you are with good buddies, friends you’ve struggled and joked and argued with, someone pushes someone else in, and almost certainly, there’s splashing of the person on shore who doesn’t want to get his sandals wet. Eventually he jumps in too.
Which is why, although, as far as I’m aware, there’s no biblical record of Jesus swimming in Lake Galilee, I’m sure he did. This water wasn’t just made for walking. Swimming in the strokes of Jesus, looking over the water to the hills, was just one more reminder of his alive-ness. Picturing the shoving and the splashing (was it Matthew who stayed on shore the longest, the cautious tax collector, uncertain? Was it James and John, the brothers, the sons of thunder, who competed with each other to see who could get to the shore first?), hearing the laughter, knowing the sheer physical joy of water, brought new colour to how I think Jesus’ love meets us. It is the love of someone who delights in our company.
God, who delights in our company.
We can ‘abstract’ God’s love, if we’re not careful – choosing to receive something theoretical or generic rather than the dangerous intimacy of this – wow – this friendship, this known-ness, this delight.
And then, this gang of buddies, who knew and loved each other, went from splashing around in the lake and on the shore, from the miracles and the mountaintop teaching, through the desert into Jerusalem.
They hung out on the Mount of Olives – it was their neighbourhood. “See you at the Olives later?” One time, as they were strolling, Jesus walked ahead with three of them. In one of those moments you sometimes have with friends, he told them how he was feeling and found himself in tears. You can do that with friends. “Stay awake with me”, he asked. They saw him, their good friend, the one they had laughed and learned with, throw himself face down, sobbing. And in those moments you sometimes have, even with friends, they had no idea what to say. They waited, and eventually they slept.
They had no pattern for this moment of friendship, so when the arrest came, there was a confusion of shouting and protection, then fear and denial, and a scattering. This gang of buddies, who knew and loved each other, didn’t know how to watch their friend die.
We visited a church called St Peters at Gallicantu. This is thought to be built on the site of the old High Priest’s house, where Jesus was arrested, outside which Peter denied he’d known Jesus. This is an unbearably poignant moment of the gospels, and an unbearably poignant spot.
Jesus’ friendship, his vulnerability to our fickleness.
And then, from here, through the pit, the cave, the tomb, back to the beach on Galilee. Jesus, raised from the dead, victorious, met his friend Peter again.
This is a moment of incredible poignancy too, but instead of being unbearable, it is burstingly hopeful.
Peter hurried and tumbled out of the boat. In the matter of friendship, of saying sorry, isn’t this the right side to err on? The side of clumsy reconciliation, falling over yourself, splashing around towards someone, towards the awkwardness?
Jesus had cooked bread and fish for his friends on this beach. It’s impossible to imagine this meal taking place without some memories of the last time they’d shared bread together.
“I have called you friends”.
We shared bread and wine nearby and had fish for lunch.