September 25, 2014
Dear brothers and sisters,
The good news today is contained in a well-known story from Mark 4:35-41.
On the day, as evening drew on, he said to them, “Let us cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat just as he was. And other boats were with him. A violent squall came up and waves were breaking over the boat, so that it was already filling up. Jesus was in the stern, asleep on a cushion. They woke him and said to him, “Teacher do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was great calm. Then he asked them, “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
Mark includes some details in his rendering of the story that I don’t remember. One is that the disciples took Jesus into the boat just as he was. All the translations of the Greek Bible include the same phrase. What does that mean? Why was that important to Mark?
Just as he was. Up to this point in Mark’s gospel Jesus is presented to readers as a teacher and a healer. In his disciples eyes that is what Jesus is — a man with extraordinary charisma as a teacher and remarkable power to heal, but a man nonetheless. But he was a puzzling figure — he challenged religious authority; he seemingly disavowed his family; he violated the sabbath. He taught and acted upon his own authority — as bestowed by God. As he told the scribes in the story of the healing of the paralytic, “The Son of Man has authority to forgive sins on earth.”
Who is this man Jesus? I’m feel sure that question crossed the minds of his disciples frequently. They are about to find out another dimension — Jesus as miracle worker. Maybe the storm represents the minds of the disciples as they wondered just who this man was, who was it they were following, where was he leading them, what was the plan. I can understand that they would be alternately inspired and fearful — inspired by words and actions, eager to be a part of his mission, and fearful about what could happen to them all. Inspired by the present and fearful of the future, back and forth. It wears on the mind.
The storm was the fear about to overtake them, whipped to a point of swamping their boat. Jesus asks them, “Why are you terrified?” He constantly asks me that question, too. What am I afraid of? Then he chides them, “Do you not yet have faith?” They have seen evidence over and over of the power of his word and the results of his intervention in people’s lives. I have seen plenty of evidence in my life. What is it that keeps me from unquestioning faith in his love and forgiveness? Why does fear continue to nearly swamp my faith, to overwhelm my trust and confidence in his saving power? Don’t you care that I’m in peril, Jesus? Of course, he does. He must get pretty exasperated with me continuing to ask that question when he has shown me and told me again and again how much he loves me. His answer is to tell me to put aside my fear because faith cannot triumph when fear has gripped my mind or my heart. I was reminded of that this week and again in this story.
Jesus is a teacher and healer. That’s how I have seen him like the disciples to this point — just as he was. However, he’s also a miracle worker. He has to be in order to effect a transformation within me, to help me turn away from fear and toward faith, to accept that he understands what I fear and gives me his love as the means to overcome my fears. Barclay writes, “He gives us peace when life’s problems involve us in a tempest of doubt and tension and uncertainty….He gives us peace in the storms of anxiety….In the storm of anxiety he brings us the peace of the love of God.” That’s the way in which Jesus is a miracle worker for me.