On a beautiful summer day, Jesus and two of his disciples descended with a small papyrus boat and oars onto the shore of a lake near the village of Sainte-Adèle in Quebec. They appeared as you might have seen them in depictions from days of old, wearing white robes and sandals.
As the disciples set about preparing to launch the vessel, local residents began emerging from their homes by the lake, some carrying what appeared to the visitors to be roughly hewn wooden spears along with stones. A couple of them carried thick, yellow ropes. In short order, a crowd of 20 or so stood before the visitors who were at water’s edge.
“Hey, can’t you read the sign,” one man who appeared to be their leader said to Jesus and the disciples, pointing to a post close by. “There are no visitors’ boats allowed here.”
Jesus looked up at them. “Verily I say unto you, I only read the signs of my Father in Heaven.” He smiled. “And are we not all visitors to this earth?”
“Cuckoo,” one of the residents joked to the others. Many of them laughed.
“Someone call for the men in white coats,” someone joked, to a round of guffaws.
The leader told Jesus: “It doesn’t matter what religion you may believe, you are not permitted to put your boat onto this lake.”
“Why not,” a disciple interjected. “I see other boats on the water now.” He pointed at a canoe passing by and a small sailboat in the distance.
The leader replied: “I was getting to that. There is a risk of foreign boats bringing in pieces of an invasive plant from another lake that spreads rapidly and chokes the life out of the water. The boats you see on the water now belong to residents who keep them at their cottages here so they can’t infect the lake.”
Said Jesus: “Have no fear, brother. Our boat is new. It has never been on water before.”
The leader shook his head. “It’s the rule. No foreign boats.”
Explained another who appeared to be the second-in-command: “You see, how can we know for sure that your boat hasn’t been on another lake? People lie. We can’t take everyone’s word for it.”
This provoked a somewhat indignant response from a disciple: “You doubt the word of Jesus Christ!?”
“Cuckoo! Cuckoo! Cuckoo,” the crowd chimed in near unison. Someone, a woman, blurted: “Jesus is a myth!”
The two disciples frowned, shaking their heads.
Jesus smiled again.
“Yet here I am,” he told the woman.
He turned to his disciples. “No matter. Let us leave the boat on the shore and walk on the water.”
Behold, a miracle. Jesus began to walk on the water. Before his disciples could join him, the second-in-command called out.
“Stop! Come back! How do we know you haven’t been walking on another lake and don’t have bits of the weed stuck between your toes or to the bottom of your feet?”
Another woman added: “Or under your toenails?”
“You could be infecting our lake right now,” the second-in-command shrieked.
One of the rope-carrying men had made a lasso and was starting to swing it around over his head. It seemed he meant to haul Jesus back.
Again, Jesus smiled, ever unperturbed. He walked back onto the shore, to the disappointment of the man with the lasso who stopped swinging it around.
“Would you like to examine our feet,” Jesus asked them.
“Ewww . . .” The crowd of residents recoiled in horror.
Asked Jesus, with kindness: “Is it boats or people you fear?”
The leader of the residents replied: “It’s the boats, but since you can walk on water, apparently, your body is a vessel and is therefore banned from this lake. You may have been walking on other lakes, for all we know.”
Jesus nodded. “Yes, all bodies are the vessels of my Father’s spirit. But I haven’t walked on water for thousands of years.”
The second-in-command warned, somewhat severely: “Listen, we have explained this to you. We can’t take your word for it. You must leave. Please go now. Don’t make trouble or else.”
Another resident: “Amen to that! Cuckoo! Cuckoo!” And the crowd laughed and began to jeer the visitors.
“By whose authority do you decree these things,” Jesus asked the leader when the din had died down.
The leader replied: “We have a lake association. We made the rule.”
Asked Jesus: “What is a lake association?”
The second-in-command piped up: “We are a small group who represent the people living around the lake.”
Asked Jesus: “And it is their will to accost us in such fashion?” He gestured to the crowd.
Second-in-command: “Well, not all of the residents were onboard with our boating restriction, but we know what’s best for them. That’s why we were elected to represent them. We do what we feel is needed to be done — and to enforce the rules,” he added, motioning to the crowd.
“With weapons,” one of the disciples asked with a note of incredulity.
The second-in-command answered: “Not everybody leaves so willingly. We’ve had some problems.”
Said the leader: “It’s nothing personal. It’s just the rule.”
Said Jesus, gently but firmly: “I do not live by the rules of man, but by the rules of my Father. You may own homes on a road by the sea, but you do not own the sea. It belongs to my Father, and to all who wish to traverse it. That is His rule. No man can overturn that.”
Jesus turned to his disciples: “Come, let us walk on the water.”
As they set out onto the lake, the residents rushed to the water’s edge, shouting obscenities, waving spears and throwing stones at them. The men with lassos swung, released — and missed. Most of the stones also missed the trio as they walked on the water, or hit them lightly about their legs and fell into the lake.
Then, one stone cast by a burly man hit Jesus in the back of the head. Standing on the surface of the lake about 15 feet from shore, Jesus and the disciples turned to face the mob, who continued to pelt them. A stone hit the forehead of Jesus and blood trickled down his face. The disciples, too, bled from wounds on their faces. Jesus looked up at the sky, raised his arms and cried a familiar refrain: “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.”
A mist rose up from the water around them. And when it dissipated, Jesus and the disciples were gone, leaving their papyrus boat on the shore.
It seemed a thousand voices chattered and exclaimed at once: “They disappeared!” “Where’d they go?!” “What happened to them?!”
The second-in-command motioned for silence. “Good riddance to them. They were frightening. God knows what they could have done to us. Next time, we should beef up our arsenal. If you have hunting rifles, bring them.”
There was a chorus of men’s voices: “I have one” and “I’ll bring one.”
Someone asked: “What about their boat? What should we do with it?”
And the second-in-command said: “Well, if no one else wants it, I’ll take it.”
He had consensus.
“It’s all yours,” the leader said.
So the second-in-command launched the papyrus boat onto the lake and rowed to his cottage while the mob dispersed.