Wednesday, 20 June 2012
They have cast their lot in with this teacher called Jesus and now before their very eyes and with a single word he calms a storm in which they thought they might perish.
He has such power and authority that even the wind and the waves obey him.
If the disciples were worried about the storm and its power now they have a man standing before them who has even greater power an authority.
“Who is this man?”
Of course this question is the central question of Mark’s gospel and the very first verse of Mark’s gospel tells us the answer to the question: “The beginning of the good news of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
Jesus is the Son of God.
But the disciples in the boat are yet to find this out and in Jesus admonishment of the disciples he questions them, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”
In the story Jesus might be questioning their lack of faith both in the face of the storm and their safe passage but also their lack of faith in understanding who Jesus is. They lacked faith when they faced the storm and they lacked faith when they faced Jesus power and authority.
This is a question that will follow the disciples all they way through their journey in Mark’s gospel they travel with Jesus and as they witness to all he does and ultimately who he is. The good news though is that he is with them through it all.
Now this story of Jesus claming the storm is one of those stories that is not simply a great miracle story but is layered with meaning for us as the church as well as for our personal spiritual journey. So let us dig a little deeper.
First off it is pertinent to note that the image of the boat, the metaphor as it were, is often used as a symbol of the church and has been an image of the church since the earliest times. The idea that we get on board the boat to travel through the seas of life together with Jesus is one which we might find quite appealing.
But just as the disciples soon discovered that being in the boat with Jesus does not mean that the waters are always calm so too our spiritual journey together is not all smooth sailing.
There is a storm that surrounds us. For many of us it feels as if the winds and waves of life batter our fragile hull whilst Jesus apparently takes a doze in the corner.
Despite the idea that there is a storm raging around us I suspect that often we as Christians are suffering the delusion that it is fair weather out there and things a going along nicely. We make our faith comfortable and avoid risks, especially the risk of waking Jesus, something I will come back to in a moment.
But then again sometimes the storm crashed in and we are awoken from our delusion that things are OK.
A few years back I went to a leadership training night in which a group of ministers invited people who are in leadership in business and the community to speak with us.
Towards the end of the evening a bloke around my age, who works with disadvantage and troubled youth, got up and when asked, ‘What is one thing that you would want to say to the church?’ he said forcefully and simply, “You are irrelevant and you are inconsistent”
I do not think this is news we want to hear. It implies that the storm that rages around us, our Western culture, can toss us wherever it wants because we are meaningless to it. This is news we may not want to hear but it should wake all of us up from our comfortable slumber. Even more importantly it should us to remember who we have dozing in the back of the boat, but as I said waking Jesus up can be risky too.
As the American Biblical scholar Fred Craddock once pointed out being in God’s presence is what everybody wants and is what nobody wants. You see if we wake Jesus he is going to ask us about our faith and why we are afraid and these are questions we may just not want to answer.
The disciples were afraid of Jesus, his power his authority, who is this guy? And as much as there is the compassion and love and mercy of an encounter with Jesus there is also the questioning and confronting with who we are, where we are going and what we believe.
I remember reading once that prayer is like entering the lions den. In God’s presence we hear the good news and we know Jesus is with us, but that’s also a bit scary, Jesus is with us!
When woken from his slumber Jesus power and authority calms storms and confronts us with whether or not we have been heading the right direction, “Have you no faith?”
This is a question about what we are up to in the boat while we think Jesus is sleeping because there is a storm raging around us and we run the risk of allowing ourselves to be overcome by the storm.
One of the other leaders who came to the night asked the ministers, “When do you know that your congregation is doing the right thing?”
One of my colleagues responded with the words, “When we are being persecuted.” That’s a pretty confronting idea!
In Jesus own ministry he upset people; he challenged existing power structures in the society and the religion; he called people to live differently, to different personal and communal behaviours. Jesus shakes the tree; he rattles the cage; he knocks over the money changers tables.
We are called to share in his work, not just make padded seats for the boat so the ride can remain smooth.
The good news of the story for us is that whether he is awake or asleep Jesus is with us and he cares. As a congregation we face the storm together knowing Jesus is with us. This is a source of hope and I am often buoyed by the care and love shared by other Christians.
But the challenge to us, the call of faith, in the story is Jesus question “What are you afraid of? Have you no faith?”
Whatever our answer to these questions we know that Jesus will continue to walk beside us just as he did with the disciples.
Take a moment to consider have you left Jesus sleeping in the back of the boat? Are you prepared to wake him? Or is he already standing in your midst asking, “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”