October 12, 2008
Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. Without warning, a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!”
He replied, “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
The men were amazed and asked, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
Matthew 8:23-27, NIV
The small craft left the western shore of Lake Chinnereth filled with weary travellers. They were on a pilgrimage – a purposeful journey – as the Lord had commissioned them to cross the lake. For hours that day he had sat in the boat, just a little off shore, and taught the crowd that gathered on the bank. Following that his disciples quizzed him about the meanings of some of his parables and he answered them patiently. Then he said, “Let’s go over to the other side.”
The “other side” was populated by people of a different race. Though it was only eight miles in width at the widest point, from east to west, culturally the gap was much wider.
The surface of Chinnereth sits 700 feet below the Mediterranean Sea level, just 30 miles to the west. Mountains surround it on all sides, rising from 1500 feet to 3500 feet above sea level. These unusual surroundings create unusual atmospheric phenomena, and quick and fierce squalls are common.
The Christ was exhausted. The day spent in dealing with both the multitudes and his disciples, he had had no break and went right to sleep as the boat set out. A sudden storm came on the boat and the disciples, many who were experienced fishermen, were thrust into a state of panic. Rousing him from his slumber, they cried, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He rose and in just a few words rebuked the wind and the waves, “Peace! Be Still!” Then he turned to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid?” chiding them for their lack of faith. We don’t have a record of what he did next, perhaps he simply laid back down and continued with his nap. But the disciples were impressed, “Who is this?” they queried. “Even the wind and the waves obey him.”
Storms are those events in life that require more resources to handle that we have at our disposal, they are events where we have no or limited options for actions that would resolve the problem and we must tough it out, or weather the storm, as we say. But in these moments we discover the amazing greatness and strength of Christ who calms the storms and calms our hearts.
The disciples learned that day that storms happen when Jesus is in your boat and in your life. They also learned that storms happen when you do the will of Christ, since he commanded them to cross over. But it is better to be in the middle of a storm with Jesus in your life, doing the will of God than anyplace else on earth. I know of missionaries who face dangerous situations everyday, who are in storms regularly, but are playing that strategic role of shining the light of the love of God in a very dark place.
But this is what we can all do when we go through storms, shine the light of God. Two important things seem to happen as we go through storms in life. First, we ourselves grow closer to God. There is a depth to our walk with God, to knowing and understanding Him, which we only experience in moments of difficulty. Most of the names of God in the Bible came from revelations given to people in the midst of difficulty.
Second, we are able to give a witness that would not be given otherwise, often in a very dark place, the kind of witness like an adult child who for years tenderly cares for her aging mother in the throes of dementia, or the cancer patient who undergoes painful and difficult treatments, or the man who loses his investments and quietly and determinedly builds another fortune back bit by bit.
Sometimes, as we cry out to him in prayer, Christ stands up and says to the storm, “Peace! Be still!” Sometimes Christ heals the disease, sends speedy financial relief, resolves the issue at hand, and we should always pray that he would take away the storm we are going through. At other times, however, as he did on the eve of his crucifixion, Christ turns around and addresses those enduring the storm, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Lord Jesus, we bring our troubles to You today, the storms we are going through. We need help, friendship, strength, wisdom, encouragement, and peace. Calm our storms and calm our hearts. Amen.