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!” Mark 4:35-41
A lot of people use the Bible to find answers, but in the Bible we also find important questions. Have you ever thought about the questions that God has asked? The Apostle John wrote in John 1:1 that “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John tells us that Jesus is God. So when Jesus asks a question it is what I like to call a “God question.”
In our passage for today Jesus asks the question “Why are you afraid?” Everyone at some time or another will deal with some type of fear. I saw a list one time of the top 100 fears that Americans experience which included: Arachnophobia – The fear of spiders, Ophidiophobia – The fear of snakes, Acrophobia – The fear of heights, Agoraphobia – The fear of open or crowded spaces, and Cynophobia – The fear of dogs. The fears and conflicts that we deal with in life have often been compared to stormy seas. They come upon us whether we like it or not. They terrify us. They knock us around and threaten to destroy all our stability and security. We don’t know whether we can survive them. And we don’t know how long they will last. At least, that’s how a storm at sea would be for most of us. For Jesus, it was just a chance to grab 40 winks.
As Mark tells the story, the disciples were terrified that the boat was going to break up and everyone would die. But Jesus was asleep (on a cushion no less, Mark notes, adding to the contrast between Jesus’ tranquility and the disciples’ panic), apparently oblivious to their pending doom. They roust him and cry, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (v. 38). Of course, Jesus quiets the storm with a word, but then he chides the disciples: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (v. 40). Some of the lessons in the story are obvious. Jesus has power over the storms of life, experiences them alongside us, loves us, saves us from them and wants us to trust him more than we do.
Let’s look at a lesson that might not be so obvious. Storms don’t worry Jesus. He’s right there with us during them, but he’s perfectly calm about them. He isn’t terrified; he isn’t impatient; he isn’t worried. In fact, he’s so calm, he’s asleep. To us, he seems to be asleep at the switch. We wonder why on earth he doesn’t get up and do something. We start to wonder whether he even knows the trouble we’re in. Whether he cares. Whether he even can do anything about it. Whether he’s really all he’s cracked up to be.
Like the disciples, we believe he’s there. In the disciples’ case, they could actually see him lying there asleep. We don’t have that luxury. We believe he’s there, but most of the time he seems just as asleep as he was during the storm that day on the Sea of Galilee. The psalmist had the same cry in Psalm 44:23-24: “Awake, Lord! Why do you sleep? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever. Why do you hide your face and forget our misery and oppression?” Maybe that’s why Mark included this story.
The not-so-obvious lesson is that Jesus was just as much in control, and the disciples were just as safe in his hands, while he was asleep as while he was awake. Most of the time, life seems like a relentless voyage from one storm to the next. At least it does for me, and I expect it’s the same for you. One thing I’ve learned about myself is that during storms I’m usually a scared rabbit just like Jesus’ disciples were. But I’m also learning that I can take heart in knowing that Jesus isn’t scared, and he isn’t depressed. He might be asleep, or he might not be, but either way, like the song says, “He’s got the whole world in his hands.”
Even if he doesn’t wake up and quiet the storm, I’m safe with him. And if he does wake up and quiet the storm, he’s probably going to say: “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” This February at South Side we will spend time looking at the questions that God asks in the Bible in our sermon series “God Questions.” As we explore this series, we will grow as we find wisdom through these questions asked by God in scripture. So please join us Sunday mornings at 10:45 as we explore what answers may be hidden as we journey through the series “God Questions!”
South Side Church of Christ