• The airplane hits an air pocket and suddenly drops ten or more feet, your stomach freezes, wondering what will happen next. • You are new to Oklahoma and you hear the tornado siren goes off on a Saturday at noon. You do not know what his happening – no one else seems concerned but you wonder what will happen next. • In one of our recent blizzards you find yourself stuck in your house and the lights start flickering. You wonder what will happen if the power go out. You wonder how you will stay warm in heater goes silent. • The doctor comes in the room. Her face seems sterner than the last time you spoke. She starts, “I do not like what I see in these test results. It looks like we have a problem.” • When the flood waters hit last summer, you found yourself hydroplaning toward an intersection. No matter how hard you hit the brakes they do not respond. You look and you see an oncoming truck. You wonder if the car will stop. You wonder what will happen if it doesn’t. • In moments like these we feel out of control. We don’t know what will happen next. The taste of fear fills our mouths. We wonder, we wait, and we tremble. Sometimes we hear ourselves crying out, “Oh God, please help me!”
This morning we find Peter and the other disciples floating in a boat, leaving behind a series of stories of changed lives. A litany of broken people with broken lives had come to Jesus and found healing at his side. Jesus had loved, and taught and healed and it was time to move on to another place. On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. Jesus had them heading across the Sea of Galilee and something happened that would shape Peter and the other disciples forever. It seems to come out of nowhere. The Sea of Galilee was known for its sudden and severe storms. The disciples run right into one. The storm rises, the boat is tossed, and Jesus sleeps. The storm grows in intensity. You can fell the waves crashing against the side of the boat. The waves slosh into the boat. You can fell the water’s weight and see it growing deeper with every single second. The disciples understood the danger of what was happening to them. They thought they were about to lose the boat. They thought they might drown. They were terrified because the situation was completely out of control. They were frustrated because there was Jesus – asleep in the bow of the boat. You can feel their fear. You can feel their anxiety. David Garland, in one of his commentaries on Mark, cannot help but note the irony that these weathered veteran professional fishermen were terrified by the storm and the rising water in the boat – and the carpenter’s son lay unfazed asleep. Peter and the disciples know something has to happen – something has to change The NIV reads; they woke him up and said to him, "Teacher, don’t you care we are about to drown?" Eugene Peterson’s interpretative translation, The Message, tells it this way, They roused him, saying, "Teacher, is it nothing to you that we're going down?" They were clear that Jesus had cared for others, but in their moment of crisis they were not sure that Jesus would care for them.
In a panic they cry out to Jesus. They had been called to follow Jesus. They had listened to him teach. They had watch him heal and caste out demons. But they still did not understand Jesus’ power. They still did not understand that they were in the boat with God. In my mind’s eye I can see Jesus as he stirs. There is Peter hovering over him. His feelings of terror are written all over his face. Our passage tells us; 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. Mark wants it clear. The storm did not subside. It stopped immediately! The Greek here is more graphic than the English can convey. It is not he pious “Peace! Be Still! “Hershel Hobbs tells us that Jesus literally says to the wind is “Be muzzled” Or in a more contemporary vernacular, “muzzle it!” Jesus told the wind to muzzle it and the wind stopped immediately without even a whimper.
With the storm handled, Jesus turns to address his trembling disciples. He said to them, "Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?" Jesus had been tugged, pulled on, caste out demons, healed the sick, and taught the crowd about the way of God. Another crowd was waiting for Jesus on the other shore. The journey across the sea was Jesus’ time to rest and recover. After all Peter and the disciples had seen and heard, they still did not understand that it was God in the boat with them all along. It is easy to take a shot at the disciples because of their fear and their lack of faith. But, you and I know that when we find ourselves out of control; tossed about and in seized by fear in the eye of a storm in life that we too can sometimes we feel like God is asleep.
We too can sometimes feel that God does not understand the pain and the agony we are feeling. Our reality is that storms are a part of life. Sometimes we think that our boat is going to get swamped and sink. Our temptation is to think that we are the only ones to face a storm or believe we are facing the storm all alone. Mark’s gospel was the first gospel written. It was received by a church in the midst of persecution and struggle. Many felt like they were going to die before God heard their cry. I think part of the reason God led Mark to share this story was to tell them – and to tell us - that God is present and is stronger than the storm. While God’s timing is not always like ours – God is with us and can and will respond. God stills the seas – even if is not the way we would choose. God wants us to replace fear with faith. It’s hard!!!!! Fear seems more natural for us. We like control. We like to know what’s ahead. We like it when life’s waters are calm. We get nervous – even fearful when we feel the storm’s wind begin to blow. We sometimes tremble when we see the waves cresting over bow. But sometimes it takes a dramatic storm for us to understand that God has been in the boat with us all along.
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?" God’s power to still the storms is a promise worth claiming – we are not alone – we will not drown – God is with us, even with the pain of the storm of emotions seems unbearable. So where are you? Are you on the way from one shore to another? Do you feel the wind blowing? Are you in the middle of a raging storm feeling like you are about to lose everything? God does not promise us the waters of life will be calm. But hear the good news! God is in the boat with us and has been all along. It is time for fear to give way to faith and for us to claim the peace that only God can offer. Amen.
(1) David E. Garland, “Mark,” The NIV Application Commentary, (Zondervan: Grand Rapids, 1996),p.191. (2) Hershel H. Hobbs, An Exposition of the Gospel of Mark, (Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, 1970), p.78.