Today we’re going to talk about another crossing. It’s found in the book of Mark, chapter 4.
Here’s the story: “Late that day he said to them, ‘Let’s go across to the other side.’ They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, ‘Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?’
“Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Settle down!’ The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: ‘Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?’
“They were in absolute awe, staggered. ‘Who is this, anyway?’ they asked. ‘Wind and sea at his beck and call!’”
(verses 35-14, the message paraphrase)
Fear vs. faith
It’s the ongoing battle that we all fight.
In this story, Jesus and his disciples are crossing the Sea of Galilee. At the beginning of Mark 4, we read about Jesus standing in a boat-pulpit in the edge of the water, teaching the people on the shore. I don’t blame him for standing in a boat…these people, whom He loved with all His heart, had been following Him everywhere and, quite honestly, suffocating Him. Plus there were probably good acoustics and a heavenly backdrop!
After a long while of teaching, Jesus told the disciples that He wanted to cross over to the other side. The Sea of Galilee (more like a lake) is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide (at the longest and widest points.) At this particular point it was probably about 5 miles across to the other side.
Jesus stayed in the boat he was standing in. He’d been teaching all day. He was tuckered, probably hungry, and He wanted to rest.
The Sea of Galilee is well known for sudden, violent storms with no warning whatsoever. The disciples were no strangers to this body of water. They made their living fishing on this lake; these were no amateurs. No doubt they had seen plenty of storms out here. So when these experienced fishermen reacted with “What will we do?? We’re all gonna die!” (said like a southern grandma) when this storm acts up, we know that it must be one booger of a storm. They “feared a big fear”!
You know who didn’t “fear a big fear”? Jesus. Once again we see him as the insouciant Son of God. His human side fell fast asleep because he was dog-tired, but his God side kept Him asleep.
Ok, you know that you and I would have done the same thing. “Asleep!? Jesus, how can you be asleep??” They just assume He doesn’t even care that they’re all gonna die. I can see Jesus, waking up, rubbing His eyes, calmly and confidently standing and looking out at the storm. And I love how the Message Paraphrase says it: “The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass.”
And that’s that.
Jesus doesn’t have to worry because He knows they’re not going to die; He knows this isn’t the end of the story. It also doesn’t hurt that He can command the wind and waves…and they obey.
He’s not concerned.
So why were the disciples? And why are we?
Well, the disciples were very new to their faith. They’d been following Jesus, but they hadn’t quite begun the path of belief yet. They were still learning to believe.
Some of us are the same way, especially when storms crash into our lives. We love Jesus, we follow Him, but have we actually reached the point where we believe in who He is and believe in what He is capable of?
We tend to fall back on our fear instead of grabbing hold of our faith. We have centuries of proof that Jesus can be trusted…even stories in our own lives where Jesus calmed our storms…yet we revert back to how we acted before we believed.
Here are some things about fear:
Fear isn’t a sin. It’s unwise, but it’s not a sin. Fear is an emotion…and God gave us our emotions. It is our choice to be fearful, just like it’s our choice to choose faith…just like it’s our choice to choose love, kindness, selflessness, self-control, etc.
On a good note, fear can drive us to make certain decisions that are very wise. For instance, if you’re walking in the woods and there’s a rattle snake on the path in front of you, be very afraid. But let that fear move you to move!
However, fear can’t be a motivation for every move we make. In fact, when facing future decisions, we need to determine the next steps on our path based on our faith, not our fear.
Fear can cause us to make a lot of stupid decisions. In our current situation, fear has caused people to do dumb things:
• hoard toilet paper and hand sanitizer and chicken and eggs and bread and…
• watch every minute of news and read every article that they can find, all. day. long.
• assuming every tickle in our throat (or your sneeze) is COVID-19
• sitting frozen in place for hours
• getting depressed & self-focused
Sometimes I wonder if Jesus wants to grab us by the ear and ask us, “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” He’s told us to have faith, yet our fear shows through way more often than it should.
Faith isn’t some mystical word or idea; it’s very practical! If we are motivated by faith, our next steps include:
• obeying mandated isolation
• reaching out
• encouraging others
• trusting God
We’re in the middle of a very stormy sea right now, just like the disciples were. “We’re all gonna die!” is probably something that has crossed your mind more than once. Just like the disciples, we’ve never experienced a storm like this. But if we are believers, if we trust our Leader, then we can have no doubt that Jesus is in the boat with us. We can rest beside Him. We can be calm, because He is calm. We don’t need to panic, because He’s not panicking. And He will calm this storm in His time.
And when He does, we’re gonna ask what the disciples asked: “Who is this? Even coronavirus obeys Him!”