Our most recent family pic with only Andrew missing

Thursday, June 18, 2015

What Are You Afraid Of ?

35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

Nearly every film made about Jesus includes this scene as a defining moment. So do the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke).

The geography of the Sea of Galilee makes it especially susceptible to sudden violent storms. This is part of the reason that the gospels generally describe Jesus and the disciples sailing more or less along the shoreline rather than directly across the open body of the sea. If you were closer in, you could make a tack for the shore and ride out a sudden storm with minimal damage.

But in this story, Jesus says, “Let’s set out for the opposite shore.” That meant sailing directly across the sea. And worse, it was getting dark, which meant the temperatures were more unstable.

That a storm would suddenly arise on this sea under these conditions is unremarkable. What is remarkable is that Jesus would lead his ship and the others with them to cross this sea at this hour.  He had to know he was likely leading them into serious danger. Meanwhile, he went to sleep on a pillow, leaving the disciples to face the violent storm on the open sea.

This kind of experience is the heart of many initiation rites and survival training programs across many cultures and times. When they face danger together, initiates learn both the limits and the depth of their resources.

These disciples learned their limits right away. The storm was too big for them. And it was too big for them even to be respectful of their master. Their words (“Don’t you care we are about to be capsized?”) reveal panic and disrespect at once.

What happened next slammed them against more of their own limits. Jesus told the sea to “shut up,” just like he had told demons before, and the wind stopped and there was an immediate calm. Jesus’ probing questions teach them even more. “Why are you so frightened? Do you have no faith at all?”

The words used here are important. Jesus first asked why they were frightened. And immediately they move from fright to what the Greek puts as being “afraid with a great fear.” Our NIV says "terrified",others, “filled with awe”. All are too tame. What is being described here is what is known as "the fear of the Lord." Jesus’ question and action moved them from “circumstantial panic” in the face of real physical danger to what we might call or “holy terror" ... healthy fear of the Lord.

It was then, in the face of such holy terror, that they could ask the right question: “Who is this man, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

Discipling involves helping disciples to learn their own limits, and in finding them, to discover also the power of God who transcends them. And when we do, that can shake us to the core. 

Now one way of looking at this story is for me to ask: Are you afraid? HAH ... you should have more faith! ... but that's not what Jesus does. Jesus does not rebuke the disciples. He rebukes the storm. He tells it to shut up, and it does.

That’s what terrifies them.

Demons calmed or cast out of people had become routine.

This was different. Demons were just another spiritual force, relatively limited in the destruction they could cause. This was wind and sea, elemental forces of nature.

“Who is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

A commentary I read up says: "This is Jesus, weird and wild. This is Yoda sending Luke Skywalker into a cave, knowing he won’t prevail. This is Morpheus telling Neo to leap across a chasm to a building on the other side. This is a mother bird forcing her barely fledged chicks out of the nest to fly. This is a father climbing with his child to the top of the high diving board and saying, “Jump”. "

So, What Are You Afraid Of ?

Let us go over to the other side. 
Is Jesus calling you to the other side?
Jesus often calls us or sends us "to the other side" ... to the other side of the railway line, sometimes just to the "other" ... the sick, poor, lonely, depressed, dying ... who is "the other" that you are afraid Jesus might be calling you to?
Sometimes it's the other city, country, job ... where are you afraid Jesus might be calling you to?

Leaving the crowd behind

Sometimes that's the biggest part of our fear ... what we have to leave behind or who we have to leave behind. The call of Christ is often to "leave behind". The constant call to leave behind our sin, our addictions, is often one that leaves us fearful.
What are you afraid of?

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.

And let me say, just in case you haven't discovered this in your Christian walk yet, things might well get worse before they get better, you might get stretched to what you think is breaking point, you might find yourself crying out: "I can't take anymore of this! ... I'm drowning!" You might well even get to a point where cry out to Jesus:

The disciples ...  said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

And that is not a stupid question. It is in fact a question of deep faith, a question we only ask of someone who deep down we believe should and does in fact, care.

And here is the good news, the gospel: At exactly the right moment, not a second before or after, the Lord Jesus Christ, your Lord Jesus Christ, will say to the storm, will say to the thing you fear, not to you, but to that thing, He will say: “Quiet! Be still!” 

And it was completely calm.
The calm will come.

And then, but perhaps to all of us today, He will gently ask:

 “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?
And this isn't a sarcastic or accusatory question. This definitely isn't questioning your salvation faith ... this isn't questioning whether you are saved or not, this is Jesus just saying: "My beloved, why did you think this would be the moment I would fail you? I have never and I will never leave or forsake or fail you ... NEVER ... NEVER.

What are you afraid of?

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