Wednesday, September 20, 2006


That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"

He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"

They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

-Mark 4:35-41
The disciples are in the boat and the storm hits. Panic ensues and questions are shouted. The storm has hit—and what will you do? What kinds of questions are shouted in this storm? What questions will confront you in the middle of the storm?

The first question is the panicked cry of: Don’t you care if we are being destroyed? This isn’t a bunch of landlubbers getting sea sick! This is Peter, James, John and Andrew—experienced fishermen. They know what’s happening. This is a perfect storm—and they know it. Nor is this an intentional prayer to God: Can you do a miracle here? They’re thinking: Jesus, get off the pillow and get a bucket! Does it matter to you that we’re all going to sink like a rock?

Jesus doesn’t answer the question—at least not in words. He merely gets up and speaks to the sea, and it calms down!

What kinds of questions do you ask in the middle of the storm of your life? For the first readers of this gospel, the storm came in the person of Nero Caesar. Their very lives were on the line—their friends were being burned alive on crosses and fed to wild animals.

Storms hit all around us. We can’t escape them. The last couple of weeks were filled with reminders of the storms around us: an earth quake off in the gulf of Mexico. It was mild, but enough to make you remember the 2004 Indian Ocean Tsunami; the Anniversary of Hurricane Katrina; the fifth year anniversary of 9-11. And storms keep on lashing at us—regardless of who you are.

What about you? What do you do when the storm hits? When the Doctor says “cancer” what will you do? When the lawyer calls with news of the lawsuit, when you get the call from the police about a terrible accident, when you’re hit with bankruptcy—what kind of question will you ask in the middle of your storm? Will you ask: God don’t you care?

By the way—did you notice where God was in all of this? He was in the boat! This is Emmanuel, “God with us!” God do you care? It seems like a strange question to ask. After all, this is the God who became human and shared in our humanity and struggles. Maybe we need to quit searching the sky for God and crying out for a God “out there” to save us from our storms. Maybe it would be better if we searched the boat—to find God sitting among us in the middle of our storm.

Another question is asked in the storm. Why are you afraid? Do you still have not faith? Like the first question, this one is unanswered too. For a long time I used to view this question as an angry accusation against Jesus’ followers. But the more I read this the more I get the impression this is a question of surprise from Jesus. He’s confronted demons, he has confronted illness, he has confronted leaders—and yet they still seem to have no clue about his power or identity. Jesus is stumped—he’s asking: Haven’t you been paying attention?

And so Jesus asks you a question in your storm. Do you trust me? Do you have faith? It is so easy not to believe isn’t it? It is so easy to lose hope—to think he doesn’t care and he won’t respond, he won’t strengthen our faith, he won’t help us endure, he won’t bring meaning out of the struggle. But Jesus points to all of the times we have witnessed his faithfulness. He points to the experiences of the church and the people of God from the beginning of time until now and he says: I have always been faithful. Don’t you trust me? Notice, though—this isn’t condemnation. Peter and the others aren’t kicked out of the group because of their fear. Jesus is faithful even when we doubt.

The final question is one of amazement and fear. Who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him! The question is almost rhetorical to the disciples. They are Jewish men who memorized the book of Psalms. They know their song book. Psalms like 107- He stills the storm to a whisper, the waves of the sea were hushed…and Psalm 85 - O Yahweh God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Yahweh, and your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them. It’s rhetorical in that only Yahweh God is the one who stills the sea! It is frightening because of the implication to these men. Yahweh is in the boat!

The story tells those first century readers Jesus is in control. He is God and as God he is worthy of worship and wonder. As we face our own storms have we come to understand just who this is we are following? Do we really the grasp the meaning of his name: Immanuel? And when the storm finally dies down and we’re left picking up the pieces—will we remember to acknowledge this Jesus?

These questions weren’t answered in the story—but they were answered, too. The very presence of Jesus in the boat says: He cares. The book of Revelation depicts Jesus walking through the lampstands which are symbolic of his people. The message is clear—Jesus walks among us. He is with us. Jesus don’t you care? Yes, yes, yes. He is right with us. Who is this? No need to even ask: He is God—he is the Lord even of the uncontrollable forces that haunt our days.

Only one question remains: Do you have faith? People are funny. The same event can drive some people away from God while others are driven right into his arms. What will it be for you?

The storm has hit, what do I do now? First, acknowledge your fear to God. It’s real and he knows it. Cry out to him for help, but when you do recognize you need to trust him for the results—even when the storm is at its worst. Recognize he hasn’t left you alone in the storm. He is in the boat with you. Finally, learn this story and reflect on it—especially in the middle of your storm.

May you recognize Jesus is in the boat with you. May you realize just who is really on your side—who is really with you. May you cry to him and hang on to him. And may he enable you to weather even the perfect storm.

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