Presented June 24, 2018 by Jim Guida
Based on Job 38: 1-11 and Mark 4: 35-41
I want to preface today’s reading with a “PREVIOUSLY—ON LAW AND ORDER—THE GOSPEL …” and let me add that if you want some terrific summer reading, there is no better adventure than those stories written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. But, back to our story …
Although they call it a lake in Mark 4, Jesus and the disciples were at the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus began speaking to the growing crowd, teaching them. In fact, and I’m reading from Mark, “The crowd that gathered around him was so large that he got into a boat and sat in it out on the lake, while all the people were along the shore at the water’s edge.” It is here that Jesus told the parables of the Sower of the Seeds, the Hidden Lamp, and the Mustard Seed. So, from there …
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!”
To put this story in its timely context, there was a Jewish myth at the time that the original act of creation involved God in a desperate, but finally victorious, contest with the forces of chaos and evil, which were identified with the waters of the sea.
But that seems incongruous to our understanding of Genesis. On what we consider the third day, we read:
And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place, and let dry ground appear.” And it was so. God called the dry ground “land,” and the gathered waters he called “seas.” And God saw that it was good.
It’s almost a bedtime story, so calm and peaceful, with its repetitive, rhythmic meter.
But if we read Job in a manner different than the excellent reading from Gary, we can envision some sort of badass God. [shouting] WHERE WERE YOU WHEN I LAID THE EARTH’S FOUNDATION? HUH, PUNK? WHO SHUT UP THE SEA BEHIND DOORS WHEN IT BURST FORTH? YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME? Some of that may be my own embellishment, but in reading our Bible, an Old Testament voice should be very different than a New Testament voice.
In the Testament known to those in our story, a storm was frequently used as a metaphor for the evil forces active in the world, from which only the power of God could save them. In Psalm 89, we read a foreshadowing of the Jesus story, centuries before it takes place: Psalm 89 reads “Who is like you, Lord God Almighty? You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them.”
And while sudden, violent storms were—and are—common on the Sea of Galilee, where our disciples were getting tossed around, the implications of Jesus of Nazareth “ruling over the surging sea” was obvious to all these practicing Jews.
Job is advised, and in turn, we are advised, to recognize human limits and trust that God will take care of what Job and others cannot know or do. But our human vanity won’t allow this. We want to know; we must; we have the right to know! But when we are able to let that go, we have something else to replace it.
It’s easy to say, “have faith.” But look at the disciples in our story. Did they lose faith in Jesus during the storm that could have easily capsized the small boat and drowned all of them? I am sure when they found Jesus, sleeping peacefully at the bottom of the boat, at least one of them must have thought “What the hell, Jesus? We’re dying up here and you are taking a nap?” These were regular guys, fishermen and working fellas. (Sainthood didn’t come until later.) And we do know they asked Jesus, “Don’t you care if we drown?”
Of course, Jesus cared. But let’s look at the connotation of sleep in an Old Testament sense. Even today, we’ve all had sleepless nights, worrying about money or family or health. In this Biblical context, the ability to sleep peacefully and untroubled was a sign of perfect trust in the sustaining and protective power of God. Proverbs 3 tells us “By wisdom the Lord laid the earth’s foundations, by understanding he set the heavens in place; by his knowledge the watery depths were divided, and the clouds let drop the dew. When you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Psalm 4 tells us, “In peace I will lie down and sleep, for you alone, Lord, make me dwell in safety.”
And certainly, we all know the more recent bedtime prayer, “Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray the Lord my soul to keep …” We’ll skip the rest of it.
So, this story is much more than just Jesus taking a nap. It represents his trust in his Father, who will always look over him and protect him. And it’s that faith he finds missing in his disciples. “Do you still have no faith?” he asks them. After all the disciples had witnessed up to this point—their going to him immediately when he called them, the driving out of the impure spirit, the healing of Simon’s mother, the healing of the man with leprosy, the healing of the paralyzed man and of so many others in the growing crowds, which brings us to our story today.
No one should have had more faith in Jesus than the disciples. Yet they were still afraid! They had no faith.
And if even those with Jesus while he performs all these miracles lack faith, how can we maintain our faith, 2,000 years later, as believers in the Christ, the one true son of God the Creator?
We MUST believe in something. "I believe I'll have another drink."
We must have faith—there has to be a higher power. That higher power may the Creator God found in “in the beginning …” It may be an internal force inside each of us. It may be Science. Or turtles, all the way down. But everyone has faith, even if it’s the faith that there is nothing in which to have faith
But faith—especially our faith in Christ—is not faith if it is not always. Periodic faith is called hope. We hope for events - a better job, a good relationship, better things. But with faith, we believe. We believe in a purpose. We believe there is a reason, even—especially when—we don’t know what the reason is.
If you haven’t got a faith, what do you have? You live day to day, you do the best you can and someday your die. Finish estoria!
But our faith—our Christian faith—promises eternal life; a life in heaven with all our loved ones, in the loving arms of Jesus.
But while this afterlife is promised, what about our living on earth now? What does our faith do for us in the present?
Faith gives us focus—enough to overcome obstacles—to move mountains, according to Mark 11. Mountains of fear. Mountains of despair. Mountains of heartache.
If you are facing some dilemmas in your life, faith in Christ is a solution to resolving them. If you are not facing some dilemmas in your life, I believe that you are dead and I’m sorry to hear that.
But with faith, we have hope. Not the other way around. With faith, we have peace. In the storms of life, Jesus brings us the peace of the love of God. He gives us calm in times of internal conflict, confidence in tempests of doubts, and comfort in storms of anxiety.
Trusting Jesus—giving him your problems—is an effective solution for dealing with emotional and spiritual challenges. If you have a storm within you, bring it to Jesus, who will tell us, “Peace! Be Still.”