Sometimes things can get a whole lot more complicated than we initially expect. Following His parable on the growing seed and the mustard seed, Jesus invited His disciples to get into the boat and cross to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had been teaching the crowds in parables and had attracted such a large following he had to teach from a boat just offshore. So, they all piled into the boat and headed out across the sea. The Sea of Galilee is a large lake—maybe as big as Mille Lacs—and it was prone to quick windstorms blowing off the nearby hills late in the afternoons. The disciples knew this—they fished on the lake for a living and knew its ins and outs. But this day they just followed Jesus as He invited them into the boat. They were probably all tired and wanted to get away from the crowds, so the possibility of a storm didn’t seem to concern them.
The storm, however, is just what happened. It got to be such a powerful storm that these experienced fishermen realized they were in deep trouble. In the midst of their frantic attempts to save themselves from the fury of the storm, they must have noticed Jesus sleeping in the back. That HAD to be totally annoying to be so frantic and working so hard, then seeing someone sleeping through it!
When they woke Jesus up, they didn’t beat around the bush. “Teacher, don’t you care if we are going to die out here?!” They must have been screaming at Him to be heard over the storm.
Jesus got up, braced Himself, and exclaimed to the wind and the waves, “Peace! Be still!” probably in much the same manner as you’d talk to your dog to try to settle him down.
Immediately the wind and waves obeyed Jesus and there was an eerie, ‘dead calm’ as Mark describes it. I can imagine all of them just standing there looking at Jesus. They were wondering, “Who IS this?” He is obviously more than just a teacher or rabbi. He has the command of the awesome power of God Himself.
What do you think the odds were that Jesus purposely led them into that storm? I’m thinking 10 to 1 Jesus had this whole thing planned. We aren’t that far into Mark’s Gospel and the disciples are still trying to figure Jesus out, even though they’re following Him and listening to His teachings.
The translation of Jesus’ response to the disciples, “Have you still no faith,” has been challenged by Dr. Don Juel. He was one of my profs. at seminary and a specialist in Mark’s Gospel. Dr. Juel felt that Jesus’ response should be, “Why are you afraid? Do you not yet have faith?” This response seems to make the most sense to me. In trying to get the disciples to understand and believe in Him as the Son of God, He leads them into the storm to show them the kind of power He holds. The story tells us that their faith was not fully formed, and they needed continual reminders of what they were getting into with Jesus. There was nothing peaceful or calm about their journey with Jesus.
Jesus leads the disciples onto the sea, into a terrible storm. The sea, we remember, was a symbol of chaos, darkness, and evil in ancient times. Jesus leads them into all this, teaching them the power He holds is from God. The early Christian Church came to use the symbol of the boat (window) on the stormy sea as the symbol of the church in the world. We are reminded that Jesus holds the power to calm the storms, destruction, and evil in this world.
Today, as we gather, the world seems to be a chaotic place. Things are changing rapidly, and we seem to be moving away from a place of faith in Christ. The CoronaVirus seems to be mutating into other threatening strains. Illnesses and circumstances beyond our control cause great concern in our lives and in the world as well. Our cities are becoming much more dangerous places. The world is continuing on a dangerous path as well. Political issues seem to be working their way into churches, threatening division instead of working toward unity. We could easily find ourselves feeling like the disciples on the boat in the midst of the storm. We might even find ourselves asking Jesus, “Lord, don’t you care?” It is frightening to be in the midst of those storms life throws at us. It is unsettling and tumultuous when things happen that are out of our control.
But then there is Jesus exclaiming to the forces of chaos that surround us, “Peace! Be Still!” In the midst of the storms Jesus reminds us that He is in charge, that He has secured our lives, and that He alone can bring peace in the midst of the storms. Things may not turn out just as we would have them turn out, but Jesus has the final say, and He holds the power to bring calm and peace.
Jesus calls us to place our faith and trust in Him. We need to get into that boat with Him, and give Him control of our lives, even when we are not sure of what lies ahead. We can be assured that He is in control, and our lives are secure with Him.
Following Jesus is an adventure that can leave us exclaiming, “Who then is this?!” when we witness the peace and calm He can bring to us in the midst of the storms in life. One of the things that is so amazing for me is being with people who know they are dying. Something that is shared with me over and over by people of faith is: “I am not afraid of dying. I know Jesus is with me, and I will be OK.” There is a peace that descends on them that is freeing and wonderful. It’s the peace of faith that comes in the midst of the frightening storm to bring a calm that reminds us of the power of God.
Sometimes Jesus leads us into calm peaceful waters. Sometimes Jesus invites us to sail with Him into the storm. Faith, for us, means that we rely on Jesus and trust Him as much as we are humanly able. We follow Him to places we aren’t able to go alone, knowing that however rough the storms get, He will bring us safely through to the other side.