Friday, December 10, 2004

The Storm

Getting inside Mark 4:35-41. Picture the scene:

Jesus has had a busy day, at the very least he had spent nearly all of it sitting in a boat out in the sea of Galilee a few yards from the shore teaching the vast crowds that swarmed along the banks. It was getting on a bit and he said to his friends “lets go over to the other side of the lake”. And so they set off, a number of other listeners followed in similar small boats. The boat you are in is about 8m long and 2m wide and its shallow, only 1¼m in depth. When you get 13 fully grown men into one there isn’t much room left and it doesn’t sit too high in the water. But its calm and the sun is setting behind the high hills surrounding the lake. As you get out into the lake rowing along to the quiet murmur of voices discussing the days parables, you notice that Jesus has flaked out at the back of the boat on a small platform that ran across the back – his head resting on the helmsman’s leather bench. Probably not the most comfortable place in the world, but then when you’ve had as busy a day as he had where did it matter where you slept.

After all here’s something you could do for him. You were the fishermen, the men who knew the Sea of Galilee and who had spent a lifetime in the boats on the lake. You can take him across the lake.

Then you notice a change in the colour of the sky, the surface of the lake has become choppy, the quiet murmur of the others stops and you look at each other – the journey isn’t going to be as easy as you thought. Still this was not the first storm you had been in. The storm picks up, it's like a whirlwind, the wind racing round and round the basin formed by the high mountains. It whips the sea and enormous waves come crashing down on the boat. Peter and James and Andrew and John are at the oars, the big fishermen pulling for all they are able, the rest are bailing out the water, but as quickly as they do is pours back in again. You keep on rowing and bailing, bailing and rowing. The waves are so high you can’t even see the far shore, the darkness surrounds you like a heavy quilt and its hard to row when you are being thrown about all over the place – the boat at times seems a jumble of arms and legs thrashing about in the water. One minute the boat is hurled high up on the crest of a wave the next it crashes into a deep trough surrounded by a wall of green menace.

Never in all your life have you been in such a storm. It’s hopeless. The men are exhausted, soaked through and the boat is almost filled with water. Never has the end seemed so close. You shout at the others to bail faster and the rowers to row harder, and you turn round and catch a glimpse of Jesus at the back of the boat – and he’s still sleeping so you let fly at him too “Don’t you care if we all drown?”

You feel bad for taking it out on him – after all, what help could a carpenter be? Even an extra pair of hands wasn’t going to be much use at this stage. But he sits up – instantly awake. With a glance he takes in everything – the mountainous tumbling crashing waves, the howling wind, the swamped boat, the exhausted, bedraggled and despairing men in front of him.

“Be silent” – And the wind stopped.

“Be calm” – And the mighty waves and tumultuous seas went as smooth as a mirror. Where there was once a wall of sea now in the distance you could see the twinkling lights on the far shore. An eerie quiet filled the air. The pitching and rolling of the boat ceases. You look at the others in utter disbelief. Jaws hang open. Was it all a dream? No – there stands Matthew still up to his knees in water, bucket in midair staring in sheer astonishment at the glassy smooth surface.

It’s too much to take in. “The wind and the waves obey him.” An overwhelming realisation creeps over you. Only one Being has control over the wind and the waves. The maker of Heaven and earth. And he is in your boat.

A look of sheer terror spreads across the faces of the others as they realise it too. Before them is the Holy One who has lived forever. What they knew in their heads, as a fact - the awesome power of God - they now saw the reality of it.

Friends this is our God.

Sometimes we forget just how utterly overwhelming he is. Lets not forget Jesus is the mighty maker of Heaven and earth. And he is as much with us as he was with the disciples that day.


DM said...

One thing I appreciate about this passage is that he probably knew there would be a storm -- but he had them go anyway. And they learned something, as a result. In our lives, too, he has us go into storms sometimes. And there's always a good reason.

A correction: You give the dimensions of the boat in miles.

Mark Loughridge said...

Opps - when I was reading over it I made the change from meters to miles having convinced myself I was describing the Sea of Galilee - Mental blip.


Kim said...

I've heard this portion of scripture exposited many times, but I never get tired of hearing it. Thank you for engaging our senses as we read it!

Mark Loughridge said...

Thanks Kim - sometimes I find it really helps to try to get into a passage - many of the miracles are so familiar to us that we have lost the amaazement.