One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us 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.” (New International Version)
The opposite of faith isn’t little to no faith – it’s fear.
Fear, at its core, is being afraid of getting hurt. Fear is an emotion which alerts us to some danger that may break my heart or my body.
Being afraid, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad. It’s more about why fear bubbles up for us.
So, what makes you afraid? Why? How does fear influence your life?
Fear is often at the root of unhealthy behaviors such as:
- Vilifying another, afraid that others I don’t know or who are different from me might harm me, my family, or my community.
- Hiding my emotions, afraid my weaknesses or failures will be exposed or exploited.
- Serving others, afraid that I won’t have worth, meaning, or purpose without helping.
- Achieving or winning, afraid that I will be irrelevant or unwanted.
- Smiling and being upbeat, afraid of facing and feeling the deep sadness within me.
- Procrastinating projects, tasks, or conversations, afraid of being disliked or rejected.
Today’s Gospel story has Jesus at the center of the storm. The wind and the waves, the storm, is not the central element of the story. Jesus is. And that’s an important distinction, because whenever we put outside circumstances as the central elements of our own stories, anxious fear is the inevitable result.
The disciples were surprised that even the wind and the waves obey him! They were afraid because of the furious storm. Yet, Jesus was sleeping, not the least bit fearful. The disciples woke him, and in shallow breathed words of anxiety stated they all were going to drown because of the extreme conditions.
In my mind’s eye, I imagine Jesus slowly awaking and lazily rising from his slumber, simply rebuking the wind and waves, with neither any anxiety nor any hurry, and then chiding the disciples for their inability to place their faith in him.
The disciples’ expectations of and faith in Jesus were way too low! That’s what fear does. It diminishes faith. Like Chicken Little, who thought the sky was falling and all was ruined, we become chickens of little faith.
Many people believe God hears and answers prayer. Yet sometimes, our faith can be so small that, when God answers those prayers in ways far superior to our expectations, we are slack-jawed and astonished by it. Luke’s Gospel records several instances of people being surprised by Jesus:
Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. (Luke 2:47, NIV)
They were astounded at his teaching because he spoke with authority. In the synagogue there was a man who had the spirit of an unclean demon, and he cried out with a loud voice, “Leave us alone! What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are, the Holy One of God.” But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be quiet and come out of him!”
Then the demon, throwing the man down before them, came out of him without doing him any harm. They were all astounded and kept saying to one another, “What kind of word is this, that with authority and power he commands the unclean spirits and they come out?” (Luke 4:32-36, NRSV)
I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.” Then he said to the paralyzed man, “Get up, pick up your stretcher, and go home.”
The man immediately stood up in front of them and picked up the stretcher he had been lying on. Praising God, he went home.
Everyone was amazed and praised God. They were filled with awe and said, “We’ve seen things today we can hardly believe!” (Luke 5:24-26, GW)
Jesus was driving out a demon that could not talk; and when the demon went out, the man began to talk. The crowds were amazed. (Luke 11:14, GNT)
Jesus is more marvelous, wonderful, powerful, and awesome than we know. Jesus will take care of us; he will not let his people be destroyed. And, what’s more, he has the power and authority to heal us.
Whenever we truly grasp who Jesus is, and how much he loves us, there is no room for fear, only faith.
Even though the disciples’ faith was small, Jesus still responded to it with grace because even small faith is faith. Grace is undeserved help. Our Lord helps anyone who approaches him, whether with little faith or big. Our small faith is no obstacle for Jesus in delivering us from the storms of life.
You might be presently experiencing a violent storm in your life. Please know that Jesus can bring peace.
Perhaps you have a besetting sin that dogs you every day. Jesus can deliver you.
It could be that depression follows you like a lost kitten wherever you go. Jesus can bring new life and fresh joy to your life.
Maybe there is an estranged relationship you have lost hope over. Jesus can restore it.
Perchance you think your neighbor, co-worker, or family member is too far from God to ever know Jesus. By now you know the response….
Our expectations of Jesus are much too small! We can pray big prayers because we serve a big and powerful God who has the authority to command even the wind and the waves!
The Gospel of Mark portrays Jesus as the ultimate authority over everything, including powerful storms. Christ uses that authority to bestow grace, even in the face of the smallest of faith in his followers. Jesus cares about people and seeks to deliver them from the dominion of darkness.
So, may we participate with Jesus in his agenda for this world.
May we submit to his rule and authority.
May we exhibit the same care, compassion, and concern for people as Jesus does.
May we find our faith, especially amidst the worst of situations.
Lord Jesus, Son of God, I believe all things are possible through you; help my unbelief! Take my small and seemingly insignificant faith and use it to calm the storms in my life and demonstrate your authority even over the wind and the waves. Amen.