Well…here we are. Week five of our storm stories series. We’ve seen Moses & the Israelites, Noah, Jonah, and Paul all stuck in life storms – physical in nature. Actual storms – pillars of fire and smoke/thunder and earthquakes, a flood, stranded at sea in the belly of a great fish, facing a Nor’easter while aboard a ship of prisoners and soldiers.
This morning we come to a place where indeed there is another storm but it quickly clears and the seas are calmed – as a direct result of Jesus’ command.
This instance is chronicled in Matt 8, Mark 4, and Luke 8. These three Gospels are referred to as the “synoptic” gospels. Synoptic coming from the Greek roots syn –together and optic – seen. What we notice in these books is that they have similar language but they are independent writers and different accounts. The Gospel of John doesn’t coincide much so it’s not included. The world of academia struggles with these books – were people copying? Were they stories that were edited over the years? Which was written first?
People of faith seem to be okay with these questions – we settle any dispute about their authenticity by recognizing that they are similar stories told from a different point of view.
Jesus and the disciples had just left shore and were headed out in a boat across the lake – the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had requested that they go to the “other side,” probably as a way to get away from the crowds as much as to get some much-needed rest. While they were out on the water, a storm came blowing through out of nowhere, which was and is still known to happen on these waters.
The Sea of Galilee was so well-known for its sudden and fierce storms and that the Jews were people of the land who were generally uncomfortable at sea, especially since they believed the sea to be full of frightening creatures. Israel did not have a sea port because its smooth coast offered no safe harbors. Their history had violent invaders – the Philistines – that came via water.
Even though the disciples were familiar with maritime unpredictability, fear and panic filled them as quickly as the waters filled their boat. And even though the disciples were becoming familiar with the miraculous reliability of Jesus, doubt and resentment swamped their minds.
The verses right before each of these accounts are of the disciples and other followers desire to be faithful. In Mark we read the story of the mustard seed. In Matthew we see a follower who says, Jesus I want to follow you. Jesus reminds him the cost of following is high – the Son of Man has nowhere to lie his head. In Luke, Jesus is told that his mother and brothers are off in the distance in the crowd. He isn’t concerned because he speaks of their ability to hear God’s word and put it into practice. In all three accounts we read of faithful people – those trying to have a heart for God.
Yet, when Jesus was in slumber, showing no concern, they thought, for what was happening to them at sea, they falter.
Haven’t we too been like these disciples? Devoted, following, on-board with Jesus – and then in the unpredictable squall of a lifetime, experiencing the swamping of overwhelming waves and doubting? Some of us may report bigger waves than others, but storms are inevitable and common to each of us.
If my experience is typical, most of us give in to the instinctive emotions of fear and panic. Easy to fall on when we are not in control. And those of us who are honest enough will admit that they wonder why Jesus isn’t doing anything about the current storm in our life. He could at least help bail out the mess, we reason. We think of how helpful he has been with others, but why is he sleeping in our time of need? Seriously, Jesus? A cushion – a pillow while I’m near drowning?! Jesus – I can’t find my keys again, I just lost another loved one, I refilled that prescription, I’m so busy – overwhelmed, did you know that so and so is sick? I lost my job!
Jesus’ words to his fellow sailors as well as to the storm were both instructive and comforting. They continue to be so for us today.
When we experience this peace we cannot be too quick to forget its origins.
We are susceptible to thinking that we can create our own calm.
“Go me! I’ve survived this round!” Meanwhile the rest of the storm goes blowing by and we find ourselves disoriented, confused, and disappointed.
I thought I was done with this….
Oh you of little faith
It was your faith that provided that calm. It wasn’t you!
“Who is this guy that he can even make the wind and waves cease?” Who is Jesus to you?
Have any of you watched the biathlon in the Olympics? It’s the event where the participants ski long distances, laps and stop to shoot at targets. If they miss the target, they ski additional laps. So you ski your heart out only to find out that your inaccuracy in the other half of the event leads you to additional work. Hmm… I think this is like the disciples in this storm – they have gone the distance with Jesus, faithfully loving God but a small hiccup leads then to lose hope and faith…perhaps even leading them to additional work – the work of cultivating faith.
Another interesting connection to the biathlon is that when the leading athlete finishes, the race, there is no big finish – they cross the line, the race I saw was alone, and they collapse with exhaustion.
Do we want to race through life like those disciples did – chasing after Jesus claiming we are faithful – only to experience set back after setback? Or could we learn to be steady – faithful. Full of confidence instead of doubt.
Remember that Jesus is asleep on a cushion – not because he doesn’t care, not because your storm doesn’t matter, but because he’s got this! Don’t give up- have faith! Remember your past promises to your God – faith like a mustard seed, your desire to chase him, your faithfulness to hear and act on God’s word.
Be in awe once again of what God does for us through the power of Jesus Christ – be the believer who says, “Wow! Who is this man that he can tell the wind and waves to cease?” Be the believer that shares a storm story with someone you encounter. That’s it for storm stories – no big finish – just a reminder to be faithful and collapse after the race, praising God for all that God has carried us through. AMEN.