Living on an Island, it is not unusual for us to be able to watch the sea rapidly change in its behaviour over the course of a day or even an hour. From glistening, shallow, lapping waves to larger breakers from the wake of passing ships and I think we can all recall images of the sea being drawn into a ‘furious squall’ during the winter months. But, I think today’s gospel reading is speaking on a much deeper level than an apparent calming of a tumultuous storm on a lake.
Mark recalls that Jesus approached his disciples as evening came and said to them ‘Let us go to the other side’. In the Jewish world, a new day begins in the evening – as in the creation; ‘evening and morning, created he them- and that was the very first day.’ So this new day begins with Jesus setting apart his disciples from the rest of the crowd. ‘The other side’……..a new way, leave the old way behind and come with me. A fresh start.
How many times have we, in own lives been on the brink of a new venture, that is so exciting we tell everyone that it will be plain sailing from here on, nothing can possibly go wrong; Decisions have been made, plans put in place, everything has come together and the end is in sight. May be that is what the disciples thought, a simple sailing to the other side of the lake, what could possibly go wrong? Afterall, the weather must have been clement as other boats were out with them. But faith isn’t like that. It’s not always easy. Sometimes God’s plan for us is very different from the plan we had envisaged for ourselves and the journey to get there may have unexpected obstacles and be, without doubt, scary but God doesn’t promise to stop the bad things from happening. That was never his promise, but what he does promise is to be with us, by our side – in our boat- through those bad times. Jesus was in that boat, experiencing the storm along with his disciples. He wasn’t distant, looking on at what was happening from afar. In fact, Mark tells us he was asleep, in the stern, on a cushion. This can be seen in different ways. Firstly, Jesus felt at ease enough to trust the fishermen to do their thing, he wasn’t a fisherman or a sailor but he had confidence in their abilities, their own skill set. What a wonderful thing it is to think that Jesus has confidence in us all to be who we were called to be. Conversely, from the disciples point of view, the fact that Jesus was not paying attention to their situation, made them feel anxious, unsettled, in peril. How abandoned do we feel if we lose sight of God, when we start to imagine that he is not there or not listening? In today’s busy world there are many voices that can swamp our own little boats, leading to a lessening of faith and the sudden onset of fear and overwhelming. It may feel like Jesus is asleep, but we need to hold on to our faith and listen for that authoritative voice, commanding the storm to ‘be still’.
Jesus asked his disciples ‘Why are you still afraid? Have you still no faith?’ Jesus could have stopped the storm early or even have prevented it happening but the disciples needed to know who he was and the lesson from that is one for all of us, throughout our lives. Storms are not optional, but fear is. The way we respond within our own storms can affect our lives greatly. Once the disciples felt out of danger they realised what Jesus had done. They questioned each other – Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him! But it should be Jesus’ questions to them that cause them to realise, theirs and our focus should not be on our storms but on the storm calmer, who is always by our side.
If the disciples were shocked by what Jesus revealed himself to be during that crossing, how do you think the other boats felt that were also out in the storm but without Jesus in their boat? What an example, a calling to be part of the boat who has Jesus beside them.
So may be this week we should seek to find an opportunity to show others what it is like to have Jesus in our boat and that although the storms still come, it is important to have faith in the knowledge that Jesus is with us. Always.