Our weekly devotion from the sainted Rev. Earl Feddersen:
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
Anyone who has ever been in a severe wind storm, especially in a boat, can have genuine empathy for the disciples in the story from this Sunday’s Gospel. The story begins with Jesus saying, “Let us go over to the other side (of the Sea of Galilee).” Now, remember, they did not fire up some 200 horse Merc’ and zip across. Mark doesn’t say if they traveled under sail or singing round after round of “Row, row, row your boat.” He does say that Jesus took a nap.
Several disciples had made their living on this water, so it was nothing new to them when a storm rolled off the Golan Heights and the Sea of Galilee responded. But it’s one thing to have the wind and waves outside the boat–it is another when the waves start coming inside. I have been in a boat when waves came over the side, trying to wash tackle and people out. It is not a joy-filled moment. It’s memorable, but not enjoyable. My boat will float, even full of water; theirs probably would not.
They panicked and woke Jesus with: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Jesus saved His comments to them until after His words to the wind and the waves. He rebuked one, and said, “Quiet! Be still!” to the other. Mark notes, “The wind died down and it was completely calm.” Then Jesus addresses the panicky twelve: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
At that point, Mark closes the story with: “They were terrified and asked each other, Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!'” Most scholars agree that Mark used that as a rhetorical question, designed to make his readers draw an inescapable conclusion.
There are some subtle points in this story that I think have great importance. Notice that after Jesus brings immediate calm out of cataclysmic chaos, His question to the disciples is still in the present tense: “Why are you so afraid?” Did some lingering fear of the storm prompt His question?
As I said, I have been in a boat when waves came into it. But I have never been in a boat when someone spoke to the wind and the waves and made them be still!
Few forces in life compare to the wind. The words “hurricane” and “tornado” strike terror in the hearts of any who have been in the middle of those demonstrations of brute strength. But imagine what was going on inside those disciples when, after the wind was gone, a Power much greater was still right there in the boat with them! “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
How do you make peace with the wind? You can’t! It blows where it wants, as hard as it wants. You can’t control it, manipulate it, appease it or please it. How do you make peace with that greater Power–God Almighty–right there in the boat with you? Same answer.
Many scholars agree that this is a transition point in Mark’s Gospel. The book begins with a series of proclamations, then comes a series of parables, then a series of miracles. This is the first of the miracles, but it also provides rather clear proof of the proclamation that Jesus is the Son of God. It also has a parabolic nature of its own. It sets the stage for the stormy conflict still coming. The rages of the sea were often identified with the conflict between good and evil– God and Satan. Jesus’ demands here are similar to His orders to the demonic spirit at Capernaum: “Be quiet! Come out!” (Mark 1:25)
When the last of His conflicts came, why didn’t Jesus demand silence from the religious leaders, Pilate, Herod and Satan, just as He did the demonic spirit, the wind and the waves? Why didn’t He simply strike those people dumb and helpless? Anyone who thinks people are harder to control than wind and waves had better think again. The answer is that God is not a God of control and power, but a God of Grace, mercy and love.
Jesus had not promised, before they set out across the lake, that there would be no wind, no storms, no danger. He did not promise it afterward either! As a matter of fact, He promised that their job and our job as ambassadors of His reconciliation would be thankless, difficult, dangerous, even deadly! But He also promised to be with them, and He promises to be with us. God doesn’t guarantee us smooth sailing, but He does promise to be with us in the boat.
We cannot control God any more than we can control the wind, but we can trust Him! We can believe that He would rather be one of us than remain aloof from us. We can believe that God is in the boat with us no matter what life hurls at us. We can believe that in Christ, as a result of our sins, God chose not to kill us but to die for us. We can believe that He has made us His missionaries–ambassadors of His reconciliation.