One evening, Jesus hopped in a boat to travel across the sea. As they were crossing, “a great windstorm arose,” and the boat was in danger of going down. Jesus, though, was sleeping. In a panic, the disciples woke him, saying, “don’t you care that we are going to die?” Jesus woke and commanded the winds to stop, then all was calm. He asked, “Why were you afraid? Have you still no faith?” The disciples were amazed and asked each other, “Who is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?”
While I’ve never been in a boat in a storm, I have been through plenty of windstorms on land. With my feet on solid ground, I can admire and wonder at the beauty of the wind. Trees and other growing things bend and whipping. Light objects are whisked along. I feel the force of the wind on my body, pushing me. I see its strength, the way it shifts and changes directions. I see the relentlessness of its force, and its impact on the world as it blows through. I imagine that in a boat, with the power of the wind unleashed on the sails, the hull, its occupants, and the water itself, the power I admire would become dangerous and frightening. Waves and wind could easily overturn the boat and drown those traveling in it.
In this story, Jesus seems surprised that the others in the boat are concerned about the wind and see it as a threat to their safety. Before the disciples woke him, Jesus was sleeping thorough the whipping winds and the rocking boat and the anxious cries of the others. Of course, when he woke and stopped the storm, the danger disappeared. Then the disciples began to ask just who Jesus must be, with power to control the wind itself.
I’m not going to question the disciples’ fear, or their faith. Fear is a very natural reaction to a situation we recognize as dangerous. This story is early in Jesus’ ministry and the disciples are just beginning to see who Jesus is, what he is capable of, and what he has come to do. The windstorm was too much, too close, and too dangerous, for them to see the wider picture in which Jesus could and would bring them safely to land.
The disciples (and we) are in the midst of a life-long process of discovering who God is, what God is capable of, and what God intends to do in our lives and the world. Often, storms arise and we are so focused on trying to survive we cannot step back and see the wider view; to see that God is healing, moving, changing, and transforming the world and us. Forces that push against us and threaten to overturn everything can be dangerous. Yet, these forces can also be used by the author of life, the source of hope, the healer of all that is broken, to make things new.
Seems to me that this story invites us to move toward reliance in the presence of Jesus and confidence in the role that God plays in our lives and in the world. It invites us to try and see beyond what is currently frightening and overwhelming to look for what God can do and what God is doing. It invites us into awe at how God is using the elements and powers around us to make and remake hope and justice in our world. It invites us into wondering just what God is going to do next.
May you find courage and faith when you are surrounded by winds and storms.
May you call out to Jesus who will calm the winds and bring you safely to shore.
May you be filled with awe at the things God is doing in you and around you.