As we live in these uneasy times during which much is unknown, my heart, mind and prayers are drawn to another moment in history when some followers of Jesus felt scared and helpless. This story can be found in Matthew 8:23-27, and a slightly more detailed account in Mark 4:35-41.
Jesus and His followers get into a boat one evening to cross the sea of Galilee. It says that while they were sailing “there arose a fierce gale”, so fierce that Jesus’s followers, many of whom were expert fishermen and sailors, thought they were for sure going to die!
In the midst of the storm and stuck in a little boat, they were totally helpless and without options, without escape. They couldn’t leave the boat. Because the storm was stronger than their efforts to sail, they couldn’t go back to the shore, to a time before any of this happened. Moving forward was as difficult as going backward. How long would they be stranded like this? And all this time, the boat was slowly filling with water. Each wave they crested threatened to capsize their vessel. Time was running out.
And Jesus was sleeping on a pillow.
The words of Jesus’s disciples as they wake Him, words many of us can easily relate to, show us their hearts. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?!”
Jesus stands, tells the wind and the waves “hush, be still,” and every individual molecule, every atom of the sea, changes its momentum and bends to the word of its Maker.
And then Jesus turns to His followers, turns to us, and says “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Jesus’s words to us speak not only to the moments when he is demonstrating His great power to save but also to the moments before He awoke, those moments when it seems as if we are crying out to a God who is sleeping, a God who isn’t responding.
It’s as if Jesus is saying, “I am with you in the boat. You don’t need to be afraid.”
Jesus wasn’t just saying “See, I calmed the storm. You don’t have to fear anymore.” He was saying, “Even when the storm was raging, since I was in this boat with you, you had no need to fear.”
Friends, I don’t know what is going to happen. I don’t know how long we will be in this storm. But I do know that the God of the universe, the one who can control every cell of coronavirus, is in the boat with us. He said He would never leave us or forsake us.
We can cry out to Him. We can let Him know our level of distress, our level of fear. Even though the disciples were afraid, even though they had “little faith”, He saved them. He didn’t punish them for their lack of belief, lack of trust. He cared for them.
And still He gave them a lesson, a lesson intended to calm our hearts even if the storm is continuing to rage: Whether I calm the storm or not, you don’t need to fear. I am with you.
Both the account in Matthew and the account in Mark begin the next story with a similar phrase…
They came to the other side of the sea.
There is a shore on the other side. In our current situation, we hear about it often, even in the media. We don’t know how long until we will get there.
But Jesus brought his followers to the other side of the sea. They were always going to get there. They didn’t need to fear because Jesus, the Good Shepherd, was tending to His sheep.
Psalm 23: A Psalm of David
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.Psalm 23
He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters.
He restores my soul. He leads me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff, they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me in the presence of my enemies; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD forever.