Jesus Stops a Storm
35 Later that day, when evening came, Jesus said to them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” 36 They left the crowd and took him in the boat just as he was. Other boats followed along.
37 Gale-force winds arose, and waves crashed against the boat so that the boat was swamped. 38 But Jesus was in the rear of the boat, sleeping on a pillow. They woke him up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re drowning?”
39 He got up and gave orders to the wind, and he said to the lake, “Silence! Be still!” The wind settled down and there was a great calm. 40 Jesus asked them, “Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
41 Overcome with awe, they said to each other, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!”
Have you ever heard of arithmophobia? This is, naturally, the fear of numbers. Maybe papaphobia?…The fear of the Pope. How about francophobia, which is, of course, the fear of French people. While you may not be afflicted with any of these particular fears, it’s all but certain that you do experience fear from time to time. We all do. And believe it or not, it was as true of the disciples back then as it is for us today. Today’s scripture is a prime example.
We start off right away with Jesus telling the disciples that they should cross over to the other side of the lake, the lake being the Sea of Galilee. I think it’s important to note that the “other side” was where the Gentiles lived, so this journey that Jesus was asking them to take was likely something these good Jewish men had mixed feelings about.
Not only were they headed to see the Gentiles, but they were also leaving a crowd of people that they had found favor in. One writer describes it this way:
“It is easy to be seduced by popularity and difficult to walk away from a favorable crowd.”
So they’re on their way when they find themselves in the middle of a storm. Let’s remember that at least 4 of the disciples are fisherman. Further, Mark 1 verses 16 through 20 has told us that these guys have been out on that very lake before, and probably survived many storms while on the water. It should have been a common experience for them, which would have given the non-fisherman of the group a little more confidence. Yet we learn that the disciples are terrified. They completely panic, which gives us some idea of the magnitude of this particular storm.
They look over in the midst of the chaos and find Jesus asleep. This could have told them one of two things. Either…
-Jesus was sure enough in the journey and the route
that He was not troubled by the storm.
-He was not concerned for the safety of His followers.
Let me simplify that. Either…
-Jesus was confident in His mission.
-Jesus was uncaring and lacking compassion.
As we humans always seem to do, the disciples assumed wrong, questioning Jesus on why He didn’t care that they were all about to drown.
His presence alone should have been a comfort to them. In fact, once Jesus has calmed the storm He asks them:
“Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
Personally, I think “yet” is the most powerful word here. There are so many implications in such a small word. By this point the disciples have witnessed first hand the many miracles Jesus has performed. They have seen Him cast out demons, heal countless sick and hurting. He has cleansed lepers, and given movement to the paralysed. They have seen the obvious love and care that He has for the masses. Even their presence on the journey is a gift, having not been chosen by any other Rabbi to learn from. After everything they have experienced, they should know that Jesus cared deeply.
In the last 8 months, I have been hearing God ask me this same question over and over again:
“Why are you frightened? Don’t you have faith yet?”
You see, God has been asking me to cross over, too. He has called me to move on from a place where I have my own crowd, from a group of people I have found favor in… This church, each of you… You’ve loved me without condition. You’ve helped me grow in faith and in character. You’ve been my family, and Dover United Methodist Church is my home. But God is asking me to head to a brand new place and work with brand new people…just as Jesus asked His disciples. My journey will take me to New York City for training, and then on to Washington D.C. where I will serve as a Global Missions Fellow with the United Methodist Church for two years.
I would love to tell you that my journey has been easy, and that my response to His call has been graceful… but that would be a disservice to the work God has put into me along the way. I have encountered storm after storm, it seems, and I have still yet to make it to dry land.
To say that there have been many moments of fear would be a gross understatement. Fear has become my new norm, to be quite honest. If ever I find myself without fear I begin to think I have forgotten something massively important and the cycle of anxiety begins all over again. It isn’t that I am afraid of the journey itself – I am excited and honored to serve. No, my fear is found in the unknown… I don’t know where I am going to live. I don’t know if I will have enough money. I don’t know anyone there. I don’t know what will be expected of me when I get to work. And I don’t know if I’ll be able to succeed in my new responsibilities. I feel like the disciples would have feared the very same things as they traveled to see the Gentiles. Not only did they have this massive storm to contend with, but what would happen when they arrived? Where would they sleep? Would they have money for food? They almost definitely wouldn’t know anyone there. What would they be asked to do – and would they be able to do it?
But just as Jesus calmed the storm for the disciples, God has done the very same for me throughout this season. In fact, I have never been more aware of how God is moving. Since starting this process, I have had more prayers answered than I ever dreamed possible. I have been overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit like never before. And over the course of 3 days this spring, I received 5 messages from God through 5 different people, assuring me like only He can that this journey is His will and that all will be good. Not okay, not so-so, but good!
And still, I have worried.
And still, God continues to prod me: “Don’t you have faith yet?”
Because if all these signs on this journey have not been enough, He has been reminding me a lot lately of all He has done for me in the past.
God has walked with me for more than a decade as I have struggled with mental illness – a condition that has been so debilitating at times that I’ve been unable to get out of bed for days – a condition that caused me to be fired from a job – a condition that has cost me many friends and caused years of unhappiness. God held my hand and kept me alive as I battled an eating disorder for 5 years, dropping to a measly 98 pounds. He put people in my life that kept a close eye on me while I withheld as much food as I could and purged my body of any excess. And God forgave me when I entered into relationships with not 1 – but 4 – married men over the span of 2 years… Men who were either my good friends or the husbands of my good friends. My lack of love for myself and disbelief that anyone – men especially – could love me, led me to reach out for it in all the wrong ways. But even though I had allowed my actions to cheapen me, God told me how precious and valuable I was. God forgave me long before I forgave myself, but all the while He continued to remind me:
“My grace is sufficient for you.”
Through it all, He never abandoned me. He endured the storm with me and calmed the seas. And more importantly, He transformed me into a new person – a chosen person.
Just as Jesus picked each of the disciples, showing them how much He cared for them, God has shown me yet again how much He cares by giving me this opportunity to serve. Because this path should not have been possible for me. With my history of mental illness, I never believed I would be allowed to participate in anything that required a certified stamp of “not crazy”. But God was with me, and I passed my psych eval. I believed my mistakes made me the most unlikely person to show Christ to others. But God was with me – He cleansed me and He gave me a mission.
We should all take comfort in knowing that fear is not unique for any of us. It is an extremely human condition that plagues us all at some time in our lives. We must not forget, however, that God never leaves us, no matter how much we believe He has.
God is always with us, and He conquers storms in the most unexpected ways. He commands the wind and calms the rough waters: “Be still!”
(Given by Amber Feezor)