One very early morning, not long after I had graduated from seminary, I decided to go for a walk. I got up from my bed and quietly got dressed so as not to wake up my roommate, grabbed my travel bible, and walked out of the hotel room that I was staying in. It was a bit chilly, and the sun was just coming up. My walk wasn’t long maybe five minutes, and eventually brought me to the shores of a lake. It was quiet, I was the first person who was out and about and there was a peacefulness that I haven’t often experienced. I sat down on a bench, and I took my shoes off and waded a few feet into the lake. I looked down while I was picking up a rock or two and noticed that the lake shore was made up of billions upon billions of tiny seashells. I then took a few deep breaths and began to read the gospel of Mark… To be honest, I could barely believe it, but I was standing with my feet in the sea of Galilee… Jesus and his disciples had once been here… Jesus had once looked across this vast sea just as I was doing at that moment and decided to cross to the other side, Jesus had once said “peace, be still…” and the sea I was standing in, did as it was told.
Jesus had just finished teaching those who had gathered on the seashore and he was amazing everyone with parables. But, at one point, he wanted to get away from the crowd. Jesus and his disciples then got into a boat, and started across. If we look closely, we’ll see in verse 36 that “Other boats were with him” Even at this early point in his ministry, the crowd that was following Jesus was growing. So, Jesus decided that while he had at least a little privacy, this would be a pretty good time to get some much-needed sleep… And then, the storm comes, and it must have been a big one, because the gospel writer reports that the boat was swamped, meaning, they were taking on water.
Now, if we were first century Jewish people listening to these words, we would immediately connect this story, to the story of Jonah… Before going overboard, Jonah was sleeping in a boat when a storm came and nearly capsized the boat. The difference here however, is that when Jonah was woken up, the sailors implored him to pray to his God that they might be saved. However, this was not the case with the disciples. The disciples wake Jesus up with a confrontation about his lack of concern, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing.” Quite the difference as far as faith goes.
So, Jesus wakes up and said to the sea, “Peace, be still.” And then everything was calm… Well, everything except of course for the disciples. The disciples were freaking out. Our translation tells us that after Jesus calmed the sea, they were in “great awe.” But, I feel like that is kind of downplaying things a bit. You know, it is interesting how we sometimes try to make the disciples out to be better than they were… Something a bit more human might say, the disciples were terrified of Jesus… and rightly so… manipulating nature is something reserved for the creator… manipulating nature well that was something that only God could do… This was their friend and teacher… And no matter how amazing his teachings were, and no matter how amazing his power to heal people was, this was somehow different. They were seeing Jesus perhaps for the first time as he truly was.
And alllll of this makes me wonder… All of this, makes me wonder: When Jesus asks his disciples why they are still lacking in the faith department… Was Jesus talking about the disciple’s lack of faith in him, that he could make the storm stop??? Or was Jesus talking about the disciple’s lack of faith in him, that is to say his character or intentions, because he made the storm stop??? And as a result of this lack of faith in the goodness and love of Jesus, they were terrified of him? I’d like to suggest, perhaps, that it was the latter. And, I’d like to suggest this, because Jesus, throughout his life was revealing the character of God to humanity.
In John chapter 14, Jesus says that “Whoever has seen me, has seen the Father.” And, while the disciples hadn’t been with Jesus too terribly long at this point, they’ve already witnessed him, cure the sick and cast out demons at Peter’s house. The unclean spirit in chapter one we spoke about earlier called him the Holy One of God, he cleansed a leper, healed a paralytic, restored a man’s hand and taught them incredible things about God. But it was here, on the sea of Galilee that the disciples finally understood that the power of God not only rested on Jesus, but it came from Jesus. And now, rightly so, they were terrified of him. These disciples, these first Jesus followers had spent every waking moment with him, but incredibly, still didn’t recognize him until this moment for who he really was. And, I would imagine that, now that they knew they were in the presence of God, they became very aware of all of their failings, of how they didn’t measure up. (Undercover Boss???)
If we were to back up a bit in Mark Chapter four, we would see Jesus teaching the crowd using parables, and saying that the truth was hidden from everyone except his inner circle of disciples. Then, just a few verses later, Jesus is talking to his disciples and has to explain everything to them again and again… And, it’s the same thing with us… I mean, how much easier could Jesus have made it, “Love God, Love all people.” Yet, we still seem to mess that up on a daily basis. We live in a world where people are fleeing war and famine with no clear idea where to go. And all of this is happening in the midst of a pandemic… It seems like every time we turn around, there is another mass shooting, or another influx of refugees looking for somewhere safe to run to… There are children starving to death, and not only are they starving to death across the world, but there are also children starving right here, perhaps across town, or perhaps even across the street. And while we can’t seem to agree on what to do about these things… I think… I hope… That we are all united in believing that these are sad, sad problems and something needs to be done. We are I think called to ask ourselves the question “What would Jesus do?” Well… “He’d be right out there with his people shoulder to shoulder… working to make this world a better and more loving place… The knowledge of this terrifies me, just as the disciples were terrified on the boat that day, because it reminds me of how I don’t measure up… Of how I’m’ brought up short, every day.
God has given us the gift of his world and the gift of each other, we are in a very real way, caretakers. And, what is frightening, is that this is the world we collectively have to offer back to God. That is what I think terrified the disciples… That is some heavy, heavy stuff… But, trust me when I say there is good news. The good news is that Jesus loves us unconditionally, no matter what… That is, I believe, what the disciples needed to have more faith in… And that is what we, need to have more faith in… For it is through that love that we are slowly transformed into the people God meant for us to be, it is through that love that we are sanctified one step at a time, one day at a time. It is through that love that we can find not only our rest, but also our strength to reach out to this hurting world to make a difference, and it is through that love that we are inspired to go out and treat others with the same grace, mercy, forgiveness, dignity, respect and love that God offers to us daily.