When evening had come, Jesus said to his disciples, ‘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. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ 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. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ 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?’
Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?
Water is dangerous. The view of a calm lake is certainly soothing to the troubled soul, but not so when a storm comes. When the water becomes something we cannot control, well, then we need help. As the storms rage around a boat we need expert seamanship or a lifeboat. The image in today’s reading is both dramatic and a stern lesson to those who feel that they can manage their own lives without the love and help of God.
In the book of Genesis we read the story of God’s creating everything. In the very first verses of the Bible we are presented with an image of a great storm raging as a wind from God swept over the face of the waters. That storm was calmed by the light of God becoming known in the universe. As the storm abated and the light of God shone out, God saw that it was good.
Also in the book of Genesis we read the story of Noah. We read that Noah was a righteous man who walked with God. But Noah was alone in his righteousness. So early in the story of the world the earth was corrupt … and the earth was filled with violence. All was so bad that God felt he had no choice but to start again. And this, of course, was achieved through a terrible, uncontrollable flood which left the only righteous man and his family alive.
Again in the Old Testament, we are told the story of Jonah, who was called to be a messenger of God but who chose to run away from that calling. As he sailed in the opposite direction a storm led to his incarceration in the belly of a fish, a dramatic lesson for those who ignore the strength of God’s call in their lives.
Water is dangerous. The power of water is far beyond our feeble human strength. Water can only be tamed by the power of God.
When we are feeling overwhelmed by the circumstances in which we find ourselves we often call out to God. We call on God’s mercy. We make promises to God as though we are in a position to bargain our way out of trouble. We join the disciples caught in the storm on the Sea of Galilee as we cry out: do you not care that we are perishing?
Of course, God does care. God cares very much indeed. God cares so much that he asks us to join in our own rescue by demonstrating just a little faith. So often we cry in despair, and that despair is no more than a demonstration of anger that we are suddenly not in control. Jesus asked his despairing disciples: Have you still no faith? If we listen carefully, as we cry out in despair and fear, we may well hear the same question being asked of us.
Today’s reading gives us a lesson in how to deal with the despair and the anger that is so prevalent at the moment: have faith in God. Yes, there are storms raging, but it is God alone who can calm those storms. Let us place ourselves in his hands, and then let us enjoy the calm that will sweep over us through the wonders of God’s grace.