And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How[h] is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:37-40)
Consider the story of the disciples in the boat and storms. (Matt. 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-41; Luke 8:22-25)
They are crossing the Sea of Galilee because Jesus had asked them to do so. While they take off on the journey, Jesus rests – read sleeps! As we know a storm blows up, the sort that causes all on board, except Jesus, to think they are going to die! This would not be the only trip in a boat on this sea where things get woolly.
While we here on dry land, with a couple of thousand years between us and them, and knowing who was with them (and the outcome), can perhaps laugh a little at their level of stress, let’s consider the context.
Typically, the fishermen would undertake their trade at night as generally the fish they were after were closer to shore, but here we are seeing them set out on a journey during the day, and across a vast inland sea (measuring up to 21 km log, and 13 km wide) that is prone to sudden violent storms, partly due to the surrounding geography.
The boat itself was not complex. Based on excavations, and other historical records, would have probably measuring around 8.8m long, and 2.5m wide, and about 1.25 m deep. With a single sail, flat bottom, and maybe four oars, and a quarter rudder, this baby rolled like no one’s business – just getting into it could cause it to almost take on water. In storms, the waves can get to over 3 metres!
However, this was their backyard, and something quite familiar. A good percentage of the disciples were experienced fishermen, and all of them would have considerable experience crossing this sea in a boat.
So, perhaps we can appreciate that when this group were shaking Jesus awake, or fearful for life, they both had a good natural reason for doing so, and this was not from people who had no experience of such things…so the storm must have been fierce.
- As He promised, He was with them
- They were in fact on this journey because He sent them there – to cross to the other side (where deliverance comes, and the gospel spreads)
- They had experience God in their lives firsthand
- He sent them together
- He did not promise them it was necessarily going to be an easy crossing!
- He heard their prayers! One that went like “don’t you care we are going to die”. One at least said, “Lord save us”.
- And yet, despite knowing there ‘lack of faith’, He brings the stillness
- And finally, they get to the other side…in His time!
Today, we may not find ourselves in a smallish wooden boat, huddled together with 12 others, crossing a sea with storm force winds, but we do find ourselves in other journey’s that have some peril, even ones that can seem quite calm. Journey’s we can find ourselves on as God sends us, could include:
- Working for an employer/organisation – storms can come
- Family life – storms will come
- Parenthood – absolutely there is peril on this journey
- Childhood – it is not all laughs..
- Running your own business – The peaks and trough are part of this journey
- Marriage – well it is not all plain sailing
- A world undergoing a pandemic – enough said
- The mission fields – can be both dangerous and rewarding
- Church leadership – crazy stuff
- War – to real, often too painful.
Overwhelmingly, though, for many, the sea we are sent out on is that of fear and chaos. Often, in ancient Biblical time, the sea represented just that. And yet, despite its obvious presence, we can and do sail across in our boats with Him..and yet sometimes the storms that come do so suddenly, and despite our previous experience, they can feel like they will overcome us in any of these journeys.
But Jesus in this passage, and perhaps in the stories of our lives, provides us some keys to help stay afloat…and keep going. We are to remember:
- He is with us. Maybe at times it will seem like He is asleep, or even absent (on a mountain), but, He is even beyond with us, He is us
- He has revealed Himself in our lives in real ways as a reminder for these moments
- He does not call us to journey alone..as we look around, we see those who do journey with us. With those trusted few, in authentic relationship, they confide in each other, and encourage each other
- He sent us on this journey, and while fear or the storms of life may surround us at times, He knows we will and can make it to the other side.
- That we are called to a place of trust. Perhaps the most precious commodity in heaven is faith, and these journeys He sends us on are to develop this precious treasure
- Even when our friends fail us, He does not..yes He may respond in a way we do not expect, but eternity is the lens through which He looks, and He wants us to be with Him forever, and by His Spirit He leads us in the course
- Despite our little faith, He responds to our dependent prayers, that sound like “Lord save us; or, our desperate and fearful prayer, that sound like, “Lord, where are you, don’t you care..”. He is merciful.
‘For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.’ (Eph. 6:12)
As the Paul said, the real issues are in the principalities and powers doing battle against us in the heavenly places, and this is where Satan places games, even unleashing or fostering an atmosphere of fear, which like the air, can at times be all around us. We need to be aware that when this is the case the natural response to issues is a default of fear. By faith, and the power of His Spirit within, we are to rise above this, with the supernatural response which is one of trust, love, power, and a sound mind…where these battles are fought out.
As we come through to the other side, our faith goes a little deeper, and we can help others on a similar path. Perhaps this is why when the disciples again find themselves in a boat on this lake, and storm blows up, and Jesus is not with them, there are no desperate cries…just shear shock when Jesus shows us walking on water (see Matt. 14:22-33). They knew He was watching, and would help, but their faith had more opportunities to grow that day…in the wonder of who Christ is, and to be brave and try and not seek the safety of the boat, the known, and step out in to that place of chaos alone with Christ.