By Jared Warner
Willow Creek Friends Church
Mark 4:35–41 (NRSV) 
Jesus Stills a Storm
(Mt 8:23–27; Lk 8:22–25)
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Have you ever had a day? You know the day I am talking about. It is a day where you wake up in the morning just knowing nothing will go right. When you finally force yourself out of bed after debating and convincing yourself it was not the weekend and it is really only Tuesday, your day fulfills the prophetic feeling within. Nothing goes right.
I have days like those often. I nearly think I need to stop using the term on of those days, because it has seemed to become my new normal. And a day should be one where I do not wake up with a stiff back and head ache. But I had one of those days recently. I don’t usually let people know the deeper things in my heart but I feel that today is one of those days where I need to.
As most of you know my oldest son is currently in the Air Force. Most of you know that James grew up in a divided family, his mom and I never married but we, along with our spouses, tried our best. And I do not think it is bragging to say I think we did a pretty good job. The day that James left for Basic Training was one of those day. I had to go to work early and I stayed up a bit too late because I wanted to see him before he left. So, I woke up exhausted. I went into work and there was this constant idea that kept repeating itself in my mind, “Does he really know.” I sent off the last few text messages that I could letting him know how proud and excited I was for him, but in the back of my mind I kept thinking does he know how much I love him. As the day went on, the words in my mind went from just a question and became an acquisition, “He doesn’t know because I was the dad that wasn’t.”
For the next six hours, my mind played every moment in his life that I wasn’t the dad I wanted to be. I wasn’t at his basketball games, I wasn’t at his track meets. I didn’t teach him to shave (Probably because he didn’t figure I knew since I had a beard most his life). I didn’t. I wasn’t there when he broke up with his first girlfriend, to be honest I probably do not know who his real first girlfriend was. I wasn’t. I had a whole epic poem nearly written in my mind of every shortcoming I had.
But I kept asking does he know. Does he know how much I love him. Does he know that every one of the trips I made to pick him up and drop him off were the highlights of my week. Does he know that I lived for the jokes that he would tell? Does he know? Does he know that I long for each silly meme he sends me because? For six hours my mind was raging in this storm of doubt and self-accusation. I was grateful that I was basically working alone that day because I really do not know if I would have worked well with others.
In my mind I was looking at the past 18 years and only seeing where I wasn’t the dad I wanted to be. I dreaded that those moments would be the legacy that I passed on, the dad that wasn’t. And I wasn’t for many reasons. Many of those reasons are good reason, reasons that my oldest son has actually said he was proud of his dad for doing. I actually asked him if he thought I should be a pastor again after taking a couple years off while Kristy finished school. Because I knew that moving to a different town at the time would change some things. His answer was absolutely because according to him, “I was not myself when I wasn’t in the church.” James was eleve at the time, and those words were actually the ones that spoke the loudest. Yet by being and doing what I do, I felt I sacrificed too much. I felt like maybe in my pursuit in following God, I gave up something important.
A storm was raging in my mind that day. Not just a storm but it felt like an all-out tornado. And I have to admit there was some rain too. When he sent his last text letting me know that he was safely to his destination. I asked him if he knew and he said, “Yes, I knew because you never stopped trying.” So often fathers stop trying, the fight to stay involved in the lives of kids that do not live at home becomes tiring and they just stop thinking that the struggle will cause more damage and they would be better off if I just wasn’t. James knew that and he saw that. In his generation it is more common for that to happen than for parents to be together.
We all have days. Days that seem like a raging storm blasting through our lives only to leave us feeling that the pieces it leaves behind are beyond repair. Those days we feel like our jobs are on the line, our business is about to fold, our marriage is on the ropes, or countless other scenarios. There are days.
Jesus told his disciples, “lets go to the other side of the lake.” And the disciples and Jesus loaded up the boat and they went. They did not realize that one of those days was going to hit, but it did. Mark does not clearly tell us where they were at, but in chapter 3, we know that they went home, so more than likely they were in Capernaum on the northwestern shore of the sea of Galilee. After the eventful evening of Jesus being called crazy and possessed with the prince of demons, Jesus went to the sea to teach. So today they are going on a sea cruise, which will land them on the eastern shore.
We might think that this is just a casual trip, but the disciples realized where they were going. They were heading to an area that was largely Greek influenced. They were heading into an area where their countrymen lived more worldly lifestyles and catered to the gentiles, they were heading to Decapolis.
Often times we focus on the storm in this story. Yes, it was a storm but it was more than a storm. Storms happen all the time on the sea of Galilee, it is actually one of the things that particular sea is known for. Weather is a clash between extremes. Hot dry air meets up with cool moist air and they produce torrent and electricity. The majority of the land of Israel is nearly arid, on the verge of being a desert. It is very fertile but it can be extremely dry. The air coming off of this land will move over the sea which is significantly cooler and you have nearly spontaneous storms produced with very little warning.
Of all the backgrounds of the disciples, the most common among them were fishermen. These men were experienced sailors, there life and livelihood came from the sea. They knew how to weather a storm, yet here they are in the midst of a gale they have were not prepared for. The waves are high, they were crashing against the boat, and were getting so high that the water was crashing over the sides and filling the boat. I am not an experienced sailor, I do know that since boats are in water it is common that some water will get in, but I also know that too much water in a boat usually means that a boat ceases being a boat. Mark tells us that the boat was not only taking on some water, but it was already being swamped. These experienced sailors were concerned.
There is something that I learned about weather when I was growing up. Western Kansas is also known for storms, and most of us out of necessity picked up some knowledge of weather prediction. I cannot really explain it in words like the people on TV, but I can look at a map, look at the clouds, look at temperatures, and pressures and know if plans should change or not. I learned this from observing my parents. If they were not worried, and I was I looked at the information and learned. Eventually I was able to sense when to be concerned and when to carry on. Because on a farm you stay in the field until you absolutely cannot stay any longer. These men, were experienced sailors, they knew when to be concerned and when not to be. They knew exactly how to position their boat to tackle the waves and stay above the water. They knew, but they were concerned.
Yet when we read this story, Jesus was not concerned. They were yelling and bailing water out of the boat, they were turning the boat to meet the waves properly and they were fighting a losing battle. This chaos was raging all around and Jesus was asleep. The boat was swamped and his cushion was getting soaked, yet he slept. This tells us something, either Jesus is a really heavy sleeper or he was not concerned. Jesus was not an experienced sailor; his family’s trade was carpentry or stone work. The sailors were frantic, and Jesus slept. Was he just naive? This was a storm.
This storm was also brewing in their hearts. They were going out of their normal routine, they were going into the Hellenistic stronghold, more pagan than Jewish. They had just heard the respected leaders of the temple, a mosaic lawyer, accuse this teacher of being in league with the devil, and now their teacher is taking them into a pagan land. They doubt their calling, they doubt their faith. They are asking themselves if it was possible that they had been deceived. Sure, they had seen him heal many, they had seen lives being released from demonic bondage. They had seen this teacher speak with authority and even challenge the respected leaders with words that even silenced the most knowledgeable among the lawyers. They believed yet they doubted, a storm was raging in their souls. The storm inside was just as treacherous as the one without. Their souls were being swamped in the same degree as the boat. And here is the teacher just laying there on his cushion sleeping, he doesn’t even care that they are about to die.
They cry out to Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” I know that cry. I have cried the similar words. In the raging storm of the dad that wasn’t those same words came to mind and more. I even cried, “Lord what is all this for if all I get is a reputation as a dad that wasn’t, when all I wanted was to be a dad?” Scripture is filled with laments. It is filled with mighty men and women of faith crying to God, with the very question, “DO YOU CARE?” Mary and Martha said it when they buried their brother. David, the man after God’s heart, often wrote songs about his laments. Jeremiah was known as the weeping prophet. And there is even an entire book of Lamentations. Life is hard. It is filled with days of raging storms. Days we wonder about our faith, where we question if God cares or even exists. It is as if he is sleeping on a cushion while our lives are being swamped.
We have all had days. Sometimes the days pile up to become weeks, months, and some of us have even had years. At times we find ourselves sea sick from the tumbling waves, unable to move forward and hanging on for dear life. We cry yet again, “Lord do you even care that we are perishing?”
Jesus stands from his cushion, and rebukes the sea, “Peace! Be Still!” The winds calm and the waves die down.
I want us to just imagine that scene for a moment. Imagine the rolling waves. Imagine the whipping winds, the salty sprays. Imagine the fear you feel as your boat is being swamped. Imagine crying out, your voice cracking from fear and exertion. Imagine seeing you teacher, your lord, the messiah just laying on a mat sleeping while your life is falling apart. Does he care? Does he know?
The reality is that Jesus did know exactly what was going on. He knew their feelings and what was going through their minds. He knew the spiritual wrestling match they were enduring, and he also knew that they needed to struggle so that they could become aware of the reality beyond the current turmoil. They cried out, and Jesus responded. “Peace! Be Still!”
He did not respond until they asked. And even after they asked they had to continue to sail across the sea. Think about that for a moment. What are we doing while the storms rage in our lives? Often, we use what knowledge or wisdom we have making attempts to fix things. Our fixes, our attempts to correct the situation while in the midst of the storm often compound the problem. Like a sailor attempting to face a wave only to turn too late or too soon and instead of riding the wave they are rolled. We try and keep trying, yet we struggle alone because we have not spoken out.
Scripture tells us we do not have because we do not ask, or when we ask we ask incorrectly. They fought the storm, they struggled, but why? Jesus was there asleep yet they did not wake him until they felt they were perishing. It is as if they do not want to worry God with their problems. Saying I can’t come to God until I get my life in order. Yet the struggle continues because it’s a storm it is out of your control. You are caught in the middle and cannot see beyond the next wave. They do not ask so God does not step in. Or maybe we do speak up, but in our torment, we cry, “take me out of this place!” We ask incorrectly. We are in that place for a reason, maybe it was a choice we made or maybe it is because that is where we are needed. And the deliverance we seek is not the deliverance we receive.
They finally cry out to Jesus and he brings fair winds, and a calm sea. Then he asks, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” Let those words saturate your soul. Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith? Apply those words to your storm as you reflect on the life of Jesus. Jesus healed many, why are we afraid to speak about our illnesses? Jesus released people from spiritual bondage, where is our faith as we fight our chains? They had seen Jesus perform many things, they had experienced his peace as he faced the most heinous accusation imaginable and saw his calm response. How did he do it? As we reflect on His life and lifestyle we find that he made it his custom to worship in the synagogue, he would often withdraw to the isolated places to pray, and the would then reengage serving and ministering to the needs of the community. He showed us the lifestyle of spiritual peace. It requires not only personal devotion but community encouragement and engagement. It is both personal and private, and very public. Why are we afraid? Have you still no faith?
Often, we are afraid because asking for help is a perception of weakness. Because we do not want to be seen as weak we stay silent while the storms rage, and our souls are swamped. We are often afraid because we want to control the outcome, or the direction. I have this goal and I will get there and I am afraid to veer of course because that is an unknown realm. Why would we go there? Where is our faith?
We do not have because we do not ask and when we ask we ask incorrectly. The disciples struggled in vain when all they had to do was wake up the teacher. All they had to do was speak, let God know about the storm that is raging within and without and ask for peace and fair winds to move through. For hours I struggled with the torment of the dad that wasn’t, for hours even days I wondered if I did enough to show and tell my son the pride and love I have for him, I struggled but I struggled alone. Some might have known that I was struggling but I did not voice it. I did not want to be seen as weak or as lacking faith. It was not until I spoke that the storm calmed. And to be honest I did not know the words to say, yet God did calm my storm. As we enter this time of open worship and communion as Friends let us speak, let us ask Christ to help us through the storm and let us be still so we can find the right paths to the other side.