After all of my thinking and meditating over the past few days on the idea of storms within my spirit, I chuckled a little this morning when I saw that my devotional plan led me to this passage for today.
That day, when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:35-41)
It has always been a favorite story of mine, and I’ve heard lots of teaching on it. Maybe you have, too.
On first reading, I’ve always gone to the fact that Jesus – wholly man and wholly God – spoke to the wind and the waves and calmed them with His voice. I think many of us immediately go there.
There’s a storm……waves crashing around a tiny fishing boat……and Jesus shouts at the storm. Any of us would look crazy doing something like that, but not Jesus. No, not Jesus. At this point, the disciples are learning not to be surprised by anything Jesus does. He hangs out with tax collectors. He heals people by touching them and, sometimes, without even seeing them. When a sudden storm whips up around them, the disciples do the only thing they can think to do, and after all that they’ve already witnessed of him, it seems logical.
“Wake Jesus up! He’ll know what to do! He’ll do something about this!”
They do, and He does.
A few months ago, though, I heard another point made about this story that blew me away. Today, as my thoughts have revolved around this story, this is more the direction my meditations have gone.
Why were they afraid? They had no reason to be. They should have realized that because Jesus said they were going to the other side of the lake, they were going. to make it. to the other side. of the lake.
Granted, the storm was unexpected. Granted, they probably were too afraid at the moment to remember, “Oh, yeah…He did say that, didn’t He?” They were more focused on survival than on learning deep theological truths about who God is and what He wanted to teach them in that moment.
“SAVE US, JESUS!” they cried. “DO SOMETHING!”
And I can almost imagine what Jesus was thinking as he awoke to the panic and terror of his friends. I imagine he was a little frustrated. I imagine he wondered what the fuss was about. I imagine that what he wanted to say was, “I told you we were going to go to the other side of the lake! What made you think it was going to be easy? What made you expect an easy passage? Why can’t you just trust that when I say something, it will be…regardless of what happens in the meantime? When are you guys going to get it? COME ON!” (At least, that’s what I would have wanted to say…)
But what he did say, with patient love in his voice, was, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They looked at him. He looked at them. And then I think something pretty phenomenal happened.
In the deafening silence that comes after the storm, they stared into each others’ eyes. They shivered in the cool night air and wrapped their outer garments tighter around themselves. They shuffled their feet in the boat and looked around. Maybe they hung their heads a little, the way a child does after a raging temper tantrum. They looked back into his eyes and when they did, they understood better who he was.
They came to understand him not because of the calm passage across a dark sea, but because of the storm. Because of the fear. Because of the waves that threatened to do them in and the waves that soaked them through and through. Because of the darkness and the doubt.
Had the passage been smooth, perhaps they would have all been sleeping and would have missed that opportunity.
The next morning would have come and they would have been just fine. But would they have had that moment with Jesus? No. Probably not.
So yes…they should have trusted what Jesus said. He said they were going to go over to the other side of the lake, and regardless of what happened in the process, the disciples should have known they weren’t going to die. Jesus said they were going to make it, so they were. Period.
But in their doubt…their fear…their utter panic and terror…THAT is where they had the unique opportunity to learn something about Jesus that could only be learned in a storm.
We can’t learn of the power of our God to calm the waves when the sea is smooth as glass.
We can’t appreciate the stillness of a windless day until we’ve been knocked down by the wind.
We can’t fully see the beauty of a starry night if we’ve never seen the darkness of the storm clouds.
Clearly, it is preferable that we would trust Jesus in all He says. We should see Him for who He is and believe all He says and never, ever waver. That would be ideal, but we are human. Storms can be so scary and the darkness…well, it’s so dark. It’s hard to embrace all of the uncertainties in the face of such painful and terrifying realities.
And so our Jesus, who sees us as children, uses those moments to show Himself to us. There is a storm, and it is real. We call Him, though, and there will eventually be stillness…
…and then, it’s just us. Staring into each others’ eyes. One of us is wondering what in the world just happened, while the other is thinking simply, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
And you know what? I think the next time the waves begin to crash and the wind begins to whip around our lives, we’ll have a little more faith. We’ll remember. And we’ll call on Him sooner.
Maybe that was the point in the first place.