Scripture: Mark 4:35-41
We were driving down the interstate, which Kristy, James and I do quite often. We just dropped James off and started our return trip. The night was not too bad although we heard that a storm might come in. We were enjoying the trip laughing and talking. There were a couple of flakes beginning to fall then seemingly out of nowhere there was a total white out. The traveling speed instantly dropped from 75 to crawling as cars and trucks were swerving. The lines on the road disappeared and soon so did the road. I gripped the steering wheel tightly as all knowledge of the road we traveled several times a month suddenly exited my mind. Trying to ease some stress by cracking jokes about the flakes looking like the stars in Star Wars, we wondered if maybe we should pull off the road… that is if we were on the road.
Growing up in Kansas the weather was often the subject of conversations, because it would change so quickly. The more I learn about the world we all live in, weather is often the subject of conversations. When I was in Ukraine the students would often comment about the weather. While learning a different language a common phrase usually includes a comment about the weather. I am not at all surprised that weather was included in the gospel accounts of Jesus.
The Sea of Galilee we would really more of a lake around eleven miles wide and is surrounded by mountains. These mountains cause disturbances in the weather. The same dynamics that affect the gas mileage of our cars and that lift a plane in the air apply to weather. The heat of the sun, rotation of the earth, and electromagnetism also affect the weather. As the sun heats the air it raises the pressure and then as the air begins to flow like a river down into an area of lower pressure. As the wind blows and meets with air of different temperatures or speed this can cause spinning or even voids. The mountains surrounding the sea caused wind to change directions and pressures, which caused pockets of lower pressure air which was filled by wind coming from a different direction, carrying in what we would call a vortex of spinning air like a dirt devil along the dusty plains but on water.
This passage is impossible to consider without thinking about weather. Before we dive too deeply into the weather we do need to set the stage. Just prior to this Jesus was preaching to a large crowd of people on the mountains around the sea. The hillsides made a natural amphitheatre; so many people could listen easily. After spending a long period of time teaching both the crowd and the disciples they got into their boats to cross to the other side. I imagine that He probably did this later in the evening when most of the crowds were finding their place to sleep. The disciples were also fishermen so they were probably ready to head out to begin their daily work. So the fact that they were loading up the boat was not at all odd. So Jesus says lets go to the other side.
These men were seasoned, master sailors. Jesus had nothing to worry about so he decided to lie down and sleep for the night letting the others handle the technicalities of the boat. They get out into the sea, and suddenly out of nowhere the wind picks up, for most people this may not matter too much but when the wind changes on the sea it means that a storm. When a storm brews in the Galilee it could be deadly. They began to enter into their storm survival mode, meaning every hand was to be active bailing out water as the wave crashed over the sides. They would often tighten ropes around the haul of the boat to keep it from splitting. Others would even throw supplies overboard so that the boat would float higher in the water minimizing every chance of sinking. In most cases these men would have done this without any hesitation, as far as we know they did everything they could do.
When we get to the end of our ability and the wave are still crashing around us or even growing larger fear begins to creep in. Just like driving in a winter storm, we know what to do, how to do it, but our abilities go only so far, we can only see as far as the lights reach. We can only drive if our tires are making firm contact to the roadway. If we lose any or all of these factors we are left in that place where the outcome cannot be known. The blizzard or the microburst, both remove the human factor leaving us in the hands of nature. It is easy to be gripped by fear when there is nothing left that you can personally do. What will you do at that point?
Imagine yourself on that boat with the waves crashing over your head, people yelling at you to tie knots, secure lines, bail water which is entering faster than you can humanly move. While you are doing this you look up and see this one person just lying there at the back of the ship fast asleep. It is easy to assume that this person sleeping does not care what is going on. They began not only yelling at each other but also Jesus, the sleeping man. Now imagine the storms you are having, the waves of spiritual turmoil you are facing. As I was personally praying and preparing this week was struck with how large these waves have really been in our lives of late. At times we feel as if we are going to be swept overboard as we grip the lines. Some of us may feel we are nearly sinking spiritually. We struggle, we pray and we look up to the heavens and it seems that God is asleep.
We begin to second-guess ourselves; maybe we even backtrack a bit thinking we can find what we need back where we were. This is ok to a point but if we do that we will never get to the other side, and the other side is where Jesus has called us. Our instinct is to turn go back to solid ground to get out of the storm as quick as we can, but if you were to be on a boat in a major storm it is actually better to get out away from the shore in to the deeper waters. Yet where is God? He’s right there with us. He says you can handle this, and if you cannot I’m right here.
The winds are blowing yet through it all Jesus is able to find rest. That is the second thing that struck me. I have not been on many boats, but the few that I have been on I am pretty sure you would know if the wave were picking up. There is something about the rising and falling and the pitching that even thinking about it makes my stomach churn yet He slept. It was not to the point that Jesus felt that He needed to intervene for the safety of His disciples. He trusted their abilities. He had faith in them. Think about that Jesus had faith in them. Jesus gave us the greatest task, to carry the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to the ends of the earth. He had faith that we would be able to do this. He trusts us with His kingdom. That is a little scary. Jesus has faith in us. He has gifted us and strengthens us with our own personal abilities; He then groups us together with others that have abilities that differ from ours so that we together can carry on the mission that He started. He then leaves it in our hands. What an awesome responsibility. He left His well being in the hands of these fishermen. They saw Him as their king and as far as they could tell He was about to sink with them to the bottom of the sea and He was lying there taking a nap. This was so significant to the writers of the gospels that it is the only time they ever mentioned that He slept. He was not at all concerned.
What are we afraid of? Why are we worrying? Jesus has faith in our abilities. This does not mean that we should neglect our responsibilities. We still need to pray before we enter into any work, to consider and ask for the Spirit’s leading. But we also need to trust the Spirit and just go to the other side like we are asked to do. We can have that restful spirit like Jesus had. It comes from being so intimate with God that His mind and ours are in tune.
As I read this passage I asked a question, why did he want to go to the other side? He was engaged in ministry where he was why did He want to go to the other side anyway? Scholars have been asking that for quite some time. They have not been able to answer the question with any real conviction. It makes me wonder. I read on after these verses, the next activity that Jesus engages in is one of obvious spiritual warfare; He meets up with a man filled with unclean spirits. This man is so wild that chains cannot hold him and he lives in the tombs. This demon-possessed man was filled with so many demons that he called himself Legion. He went to cast out the unclean spirits that held a country in fear.
This gives me hope in life. We face many trials, yet Jesus has faith that we can do the job he has set before us. Our mission is to get to the other side, to carry the Gospel of Jesus to a country or nation held in bondage by a wild and unbound spirit of evil. Where is our faith? We can only do what we can do, we can only teach, act, and speak out of our own experiences. We can only testify of our own lives, how life with Christ is to us. After that we have nothing to do. The storm is there to try to stop us; it is there to tempt us from going on. It is telling us that we cannot do it, that we do not have the resources, or the numbers. But Jesus is right there resting in our midst. He has faith for us. His mission is to spread the Kingdom our mission is to go where He leads.
We live in a country that is held in bondage of sin. We live in a land that rejects the holiness of God in such a degree that we find a home in tombs. We in a culture that rejects and perverts what is good to the point that we no longer desire goodness and instead yearn for the unclean. Yet we are called to go out into that world and make disciples in the Name of the Father, and The Son and of the Holy Spirit. Jesus has faith that we can do what He has called us to do, because He will equip us to do it. His disciples were gripped with fear and they cried out His name, Jesus rose from His sleep, rebuked the waves and the winds, and the boat safely reached the other side.
We are called to be a people Loving God, Embracing the Holy Spirit, and Living the Love of Christ with others. We did not just put those words on paper because they sounded good, but we prayed about them discussed them and came to the conclusion that Yes that is who we are to be. As we enter this time of Holy Expectancy let us consider the storms of our lives, let us consider how those storms are affecting our ability to live what God has called us to live. And let us lay them down before Jesus and let Him rebuke them so that we can enter into the land on the other side of these doors to minister to the people around us.