Jun 18

Rev Gav

Where is Jesus in the storms of life?

We do not have a distant, impersonal God, but a God who journeys with us, and stands with us in our suffering, and this is a great comfort.

Mark 4.35–41

We are obsessed with the weather aren’t we? In the United Kingdom, discussing the weather is a national obsession, and I was pleased to discover this is also true for us living in Bermuda where we depend on the weather, almost entirely, for our water. Rain is not just rain. It is ‘tank-filling’ rain. We depend on the weather for our fresh crops and garden produce, without the sunshine we would have no tourism, and from June to November we stay close to the forecast, clicking on our weather apps or watching the news to see what will happen to those tropical depressions forming on distant shores. Right now we are entering ‘hurricane season’.

In the Gospel of Mark, there is a story about Jesus calming the storm and it features extreme weather — something that we living in Bermuda know a thing or two about — so let us remind ourselves of the story before we explore how it can be relevant to us today.

Jesus had had a tough day. The crowds that had gathered on the shore of the Sea of Galilee were so large that he had to get into a boat to preach and it is not too much of a stretch to imagine that he was exhausted. He needed time out, and so with him in one boat, and at his request, a whole flotilla of boats headed off to the other side of the lake. While they were in the middle of the lake a huge squall came up — a severe localised storm, something akin to a mini-hurricane. The disciples were experienced fishermen and were used to handling boats, yet this storm was so bad that even they thought they were in danger of drowning. Despite the storm, Jesus was asleep in the stern of one of the boats with his head on a cushion! Was it because in his humanity he was simply exhausted? Or was it because in his divinity he was at peace? Either way, the disciples woke him up and, over the sound of the storm, with the waves crashing over the boat and it rocking and banging, Jesus spoke to the wind and the waves and told them to be still. The storm was instantly calmed and he asked his disciples why they were afraid and where their faith was placed. The story finishes, in the typical style of Mark with a cliff-hanger, with the disciples asking, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

The story of Jesus calming the storm follows on from other demonstrations of Jesus’ authority. He had demonstrated authority over the human body with healings, and over the spiritual world with casting out demons, and now he was demonstrating authority over nature — and there is only one who can control creation, and that is the Creator.

However, the story is not only a demonstration of power but is also hugely symbolic for it echoes the first part of the story of Jonah, and Bible scholars say the wording used in both stories is very similar. In Jonah there was also a storm, the protagonist was asleep in the hold of the ship, the crew were afraid, they woke the protagonist up with a question, the storm was calmed, but importantly, it ended up with the crew worshipping God. Who delivered the people from Jonah’s storm? The Lord God Almighty. Who delivered the disciples from the storm? Jesus. Mark wanted his readers to make the connection between the two.

Both stories are also symbolic in a deeper way. Water, in the Bible, represents chaos, and Jesus, through his creative and redemptive work, had come to bring order out of chaos in people’s lives. The calming of the waves was symbolic of the work he had come to do in all creation, including me and you.

Jesus calming the storm is a reminder that none of us are exempt from the storms of life, and indeed, we may be led right into them. Human nature has not changed and when we find ourselves in a storm we, like the disciples, cry out to God, “We’re drowning. Where are you God? Don’t you care?” and it is never wrong to call out to God, in fact, what else are we to do?

And so we get to the point of the story. Where was God in the middle of the storm? Right there in the boat with his friends. And where is God when we find ourselves in crisis? Right here in the boat with us, shouting above the noise and turmoil, the pain, and the suffering, “Why are you afraid? Have faith in me.” Friends, we do not have a distant, impersonal God, but a God who journeys with us, and stands with us in our suffering, and this is a great comfort.

When Jesus asked if his disciples had faith, it was not a faith in what God could do for them but to have faith in the person of Jesus Christ, therefore, we too must put our faith in Jesus. We may think that doubt is the opposite of faith but it is not. Fear is the opposite of faith. Doubt and faith can co-exist and, although we may doubt and cry out, we are still able to put our faith in Jesus, and when we do this, it drives out our fear, for God is able to bring peace into our hearts, even during the worst of storms.

Today, if you or a loved one are sick, ill, infirm, your body is not functioning properly, and you feel like you are drowning, have faith in Jesus. If you are struggling to keep your head above water with depression, mental health issues, lowness, or anxiety, have faith in Jesus. If your relationships are failing, and they are breaking up around you, and you are hurting, have faith in Jesus. If you are struggling to make ends meet, and you find yourself sinking under the weight of debt or poverty, have faith in Jesus.

May you put your trust in the Lord Jesus Christ and have faith in him. May all fear be cast out and may you know God’s peace, for the boat will not sink, and the storm will not last forever.


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