Saturday, October 1, 2011

Calming the storm

Even though I spent five years in the navy, I can't claim to be an expert on what it is like to live through a really bad storm at sea. That's mainly because I spent my entire five years on shore duty! However, I did spend four of those years on a fairly small island which experienced more than its fair share of near hurricane weather. We often had 100 mile an hour winds whipping across the island and it was a standing joke that it was one of the few places in the world where the rain fell mostly sideways!

I have also spend some time in Israel. I've seen the sea of Galilee & I've seen the kinds of boats they would have used for fishing at the time of Jesus. And I have no doubt at all that it would have been a very frightening experience to be out in such a large expanse of water in such a small craft during a bad storm.

And yet when this happens to Jesus and his disciples his response is to say to them: ‘Why are you afraid, you of little faith?' Why does he say that to them? To be afraid during a storm at sea is a natural reaction. And more, these are experienced fishermen. They were used to rough weather. If they are afraid, it must be a very bad storm indeed.

But Jesus asks them why they are afraid. What does he mean exactly? Does he mean, 'why are you afraid when you have got me in the boat? Haven't you seen all I can do? Have you no faith in me?' I wonder. After all, they are the sailors and yet they have woken up the carpenter during a storm to say 'save us.' They clearly believe he can do something to rescue them from the peril they are in.

Is his rebuke then because they don't trust him enough? They know he can save them, but they are still afraid? Or does he mean 'why are you afraid when the worst that can happen here is that you may die? Why are you afraid of death? Don't you have faith in all that I have told you? Don't you have faith in all that I have shown you to prove that what I have told you is true?'

No doubt there is something of both in his response. But for us today, I think there is particular importance in the latter idea. This life we can go through is often a stormy business. And one thing is sure: we will not get out of it alive. We will all die. But if we have faith in Jesus, in his promises, in his promised proved true by his deeds, then we do not need to be afraid.

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