Word for the Week
Short reflections on Bible passages, with a frontline focus...
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!’
Do you know what it’s like to be rebuked with a question? It’s certainly something that Jesus did with surprising frequency. And there’s a fascinating example of this in the calming of the storm.
Jesus and his disciples are sailing across a lake after a full day of teaching, when a violent storm erupts. Lake Galilee was known for its storms. They were often sudden, fierce, and chaotic. On this occasion, the waves sweep over the boat, and it’s nearly swamped. But curiously, Jesus remains asleep. In desperation, the disciples wake him.
The similarity between this episode and Jonah 1 is striking – two prophets are asleep in a boat in a storm, woken by someone, and expected to intervene in some way. But the resonance between the accounts ends when Jesus gets up and calms the storm, simply by rebuking it.
It’s not only the wind and the waves that Jesus rebukes though; it’s also the disciples. ‘Why are you so afraid?’ he asks. ‘Do you still have no faith?’
Why is Jesus so hard on them? The disciples are in danger. The boat is being swamped. And their response is to ask Jesus to step in. Surely that’s what they are supposed to do?
Perhaps the problem is that, although the disciples approach Jesus for help, they do so with an attitude of panic instead of trust, doubting that he really cares for them. That’s an indication that they’re not as close to him as they could be, that they really don’t understand who he is. If that’s the case, perhaps Jesus’ rebuke is less about their lack of faith in God’s ability to calm the storm and more a response to their suggestion that Jesus doesn’t care if they drown.
God is not only present with us in the specifics of our everyday lives, however fierce and chaotic, but God is for us. God is our ever-present help as we endure the searing pain of loss, experience abuse from a customer, see our boss taking credit for our work (again), or try to cope with the isolation that has come through lockdown.
God is utterly committed to our wellbeing. Of course, that’s not to say that God rescues us from every storm we face or always acts in ways that we would like. But God’s action in history has always been motivated by love, as evidenced in the Bible’s unfolding story. It’s in light of this that, whatever our situation, we really can place our trust in God.
Are there difficult areas in your life in which you can see God at work? Join in the conversation in the comments below.