Did you ever have a close call? Were you nearly involved in a serious accident, or barely missed getting hit by a car? Perhaps you narrowly averted a disastrous mistake on the job. It’s a relief to realize you avoided a serious problem.
Jesus’ disciples had a close call on the Sea of Galilee. A furious squall swamped their boat and threatened to drown them (Mark 4:37). Although the boat’s passengers that night included experienced fishermen and sailors, this violent storm was especially terrifying, and they thought they were going to die. During a visit to Israel last year, I boarded a small wooden boat owned by a man who has sailed on the Sea of Galilee for many years. When I asked about the local weather conditions, the skipper explained, “Storms come up quickly here. In fact, a few days ago I had to cancel my scheduled tours because the waves were too high.” He claimed that during one storm he saw 12-foot waves on the lake. Imagine how frightened you would be in the middle of a storm like that! Matthew’s Gospel describes the storm with the word seismos, a term we associate with earthquakes.
Where was Jesus while the wind howled and the waves crashed? In the back of the boat, sound asleep. He was no stranger to close calls. Early in his ministry, an angry mob tried to throw him off a cliff. Another time, hostile accusers picked up rocks and threatened to stone him to death. Jesus was accustomed to danger, but how could anyone sleep through a violent storm? The panicky disciples woke him up by shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” They called him “Teacher” because even in the midst of the storm, they sensed he would teach them something. Their question drips with irony, though, for if anyone cares about those who are scared of dying, it’s Jesus Christ. Calmly rising to his feet, the Lord ordered the wind and the waves to quiet down—and they did! The forces of nature bowed at Jesus’ feet like dogs that knew their master’s voice.
Scarier than the Storm
We can learn several lessons from this miraculous incident.
- When we panic, the Lord remains quietly in control.
- When it appears the Lord is unconcerned, he actually does care about us.
- When we feel powerless, we should seek the Lord’s help.
- When necessary, the Lord who created nature can and will intervene in it.
- When the time is right, the Lord acts decisively.
- If we never faced a storm, we wouldn’t appreciate the Lord’s power over it.
- When the evidence is all in, faith is the most reasonable response.
As the boat settled safely onto the now-quiet surface of the lake, the disciples were frightened again, but now for a different reason. Jesus asked, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40). His disciples remained terrified after the storm died down, for they were compelled to face a logical question: “Who is this?” (v. 41). Even more alarming than the storm was the startling realization that they shared a tiny boat with someone more powerful than the wind and the waves!
Who is in the boat with you? That’s a good question to ask, even when the waters are calm.
David Faust serves as the Associate Minister at East 91st Street Christian Church in Indianapolis, Indiana.
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