The synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) record a very curious incident with Jesus and the disciples involving wind and sea and wild weather.
Here is the version found in Luke 8:22-25:
One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let's go over to the other side of the lake.”
So they got into a boat and set out.
As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we're going to drown!”
He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.
“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
It's curious for all sorts of reasons really, running the gamut of religious inquiry. For me it became interesting when I started thinking about all the other miracles of Jesus. He healed. Cast out demons. Brought folks out of tombs. Multiplied loaves. Water and wine and whatnot.
Once the Holy Spirit came, those in the church were able to also do some of these things. People were healed. Demons were cast out. All the flashy stuff. We don't hear anything about loaves or wine, but we also don't hear about contexts where this sort of stuff was necessary. Presumably, at some point the followers of Christ thought maybe packing lunches and preparing for parties was worthwhile.
But, with the weather thing it's different. Jesus wanted to go to the other side. The storm came. Jesus slept. No worries. Everyone else really worried, prompting Jesus to get mad at them for disturbing his nap. The raging wind and rain and waves he slept through. Their complaining he couldn't. So he stilled the storm. They were afraid and amazed. Jesus likely went back to sleep.
Paul had a similar sort of stormy weather in a few of his trips. Luke, in one of the marvels of sailing literature tells one story part of which we find in Acts 27:16ff:
As we passed to the lee of a small island called Cauda, we were hardly able to make the lifeboat secure. When the men had hoisted it aboard, they passed ropes under the ship itself to hold it together. Fearing that they would run aground on the sandbars of Syrtis, they lowered the sea anchor and let the ship be driven along. We took such a violent battering from the storm that the next day they began to throw the cargo overboard. On the third day, they threw the ship's tackle overboard with their own hands. When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days and the storm continued raging, we finally gave up all hope of being saved.
After the men had gone a long time without food, Paul stood up before them and said: “Men, you should have taken my advice not to sail from Crete; then you would have spared yourselves this damage and loss. But now I urge you to keep up your courage, because not one of you will be lost; only the ship will be destroyed. Last night an angel of the God whose I am and whom I serve stood beside me and said, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul. You must stand trial before Caesar; and God has graciously given you the lives of all who sail with you.' So keep up your courage, men, for I have faith in God that it will happen just as he told me.
Then, Paul stands up and rebukes the storm, which dutifully stops. In doing this he brings fear and amazement to all involved. Well, no. That's not how it happened. The last sentence of his response of absolute faith and utter confidence in the salvation of God ends with this little kicker, “But we will have to run aground on some island.” Jesus stopped the storm. Paul had to get folks to run aground on some island.
This wasn't the only incident. “Three times I was shipwrecked,” he writes in 2 Corinthians 11, “for a night and a day I was adrift at sea.” Paul lived but the storms had their way with him, taking him to his destination but sometimes with a bit of a detour.
Storms that are stilled by Jesus must be endured by Paul, and others. We might heal. We might raise from the dead. We might preach goodly words about all manner of deep things. We might preach to thousands. We might save millions. We may prophesy in his name, and cast out demons in his name, and do many deeds of power in his name. Still we can't stop the storms that upset our ships and cause us no end of worry. Indeed, our loss of faith in these storms will cancel out any of the other things we have done for Christ. Because, after all, Jesus only asked for us to get to the other side of the lake.
So we endure the storms, and not physical ones. We are tempted in every direction. We are crushed by our own sin. We are beaten and stoned and shipwrecked by our illicit desires and foolish failings. We cannot still the storms, even those that risk our safety and those around us. Sometimes the only answer is to ground ourselves upon the nearest island and find another route. Our faith in such things isn't in our abilities anymore, it's in the promise that if we have faith we will get to the other side. Sometimes, this means grabbing whatever broken plank is nearby and hanging on for dear life, trusting the tide will bring us where we need to go, where we have been told to go.
Jesus who was without sin, could quell the storm. We get shipwrecked.
Still, he says to us as to the disciples, “Where is your faith?”
Patrick Oden lives and works in the mountains of Southern California. Education web design pays the bills. Writing and enjoying the beauty of God's Creation fills his soul.
Visit his website at www.dualravens.com
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