That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
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?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
1. When has God called you to go to the other side? Jesus led his disciples away from the crowd, away from needs and possibilities, away from people hungry to learn. Going to the other side sometimes means leaving a fruitful place. It might not make sense when Jesus leads us away from something. Until we get to the something else.
2. Are you expecting a smooth ride? At this point in Jesus’ ministry, the disciples were fairly new followers. How sure were they of who this man really was? Not sure at all. He was wise. He was powerful. They understood that. He was about the Kingdom of God, and they were too. They’d made decisions to follow him, but they didn’t know what that meant. “A furious squall came up . . .” What were they expecting of Jesus? I’m not sure. Maybe they were upset that he was sleeping. But maybe the resentment went deeper, like “why is this happening when someone like him is in our boat?” We can ask that same question when trials come, as if a life with Jesus means smooth sailing. It doesn’t. No where in scripture are we guaranteed freedom from storms or suffering because we’re in the same boat with Jesus.
3. Have you ever asked the wrong question? “Don’t you care if we drown?” the disciples asked Jesus. How flippant. How focused on circumstances. How outrageous to ask the man you’ve committed to following if He cares.
But we ask. It is the question that haunts humanity. The Serpent got Adam and Eve wondering if God really cared, because if God cared, why would He hold back from Adam and Eve? Abraham wondered if God really cared about giving him an heir, because why would He be so slow? The grumpy, wandering Israelites wondered if God really cared about them out there in the desert.
If we’re focused on our circumstances, this is a fully legitimate question. Which is why we’re told not to fixate on our circumstances. We’re commanded to look up, beyond ourselves, and fix our eyes on Jesus, the Author and Perfecter of our faith. The Son of Man, lifted up.
“Do you care?” is a way of saying “I don’t think you do, because if you did . . .” fill in your complaint.
So what question should we be asking?
4. “Who is this?” the disciples said to themselves after Jesus stood and commanded the storm to cease. And they were so right to ask. When you see your wise rabbi calm the waves with several simple words, you better ask if it’s time to expand your view on him. You better wonder if you’ve misunderstood who He really is.
The infinite God, who accomplishes deeds with his spoken word, invites us to continually ask, “Who is this?” And He answers, continually with “I Am.” Deeper and deeper this question goes and the Answer reveals more of Himself. When we cease to be amazed by God, we cease to explore him. And that should terrify us.
5. Jesus asks a question of his own: Why are you so afraid? Umm, really? “Because we are about to die,” I can hear the disciples defending themselves, and I want to defend them also. Isn’t Jesus being too harsh?
No. Because he’s not asking if the storm is fearful to them. He’s not asking what about their present circumstances do they find fearful? The focus of the question is not the fear but the why. His next questions proves this, “Do you still have no faith?” In other words, after hearing me teach, being in my presence, following me . . . do you still not get who I am?
They didn’t get it. He was “Teacher,” and so they feared. What they feared is inconsequential. That they feared because they didn’t get it, is the point.
So what does this mean for us? The dark is a scary thing for my five-year-old (and I admit, I’m not crazy about it either). Riding her bike without training wheels is scary for my seven-year-old. All of us have fears and those fears range across the spectrum from irrational to rational, small to large. I’m not the expert on ridding yourself of fear. But ask yourself long and hard, “Who is this?” and take a look at Jesus. When the answer to “Who is this?” takes your focus off “Do you care?” see if your fears lessen.
Examining who Jesus is will strengthen our faith, and that, in turn, will lessen our fears.