I am in the process of reading Timothy Keller’s book, King’s Cross, a study of the life of Jesus through the eyes of Mark as told in his gospel. A few nights ago, I read the story of Jesus calming the storm and have not been able to get it out of my mind. Though this passage is incredibly familiar, let’s try for a moment to actually put ourselves in the sandals of the disciples as we read the story again.
“As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed). But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water. Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” When Jesus work up, he rebuked the wind and said to the water, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm. Then he asked them “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41
Listen to Keller’s description of the scene: “Jesus woke up, and two amazing things happened. The first was his words themselves, a command of utter simplicity. He didn’t brace himself, roll up his sleeves, and raise a wand. There were no incantations. He said: Quiet! Be still! That’s it. To a hurricane, Jesus simply says, Quiet! Be still! – just as you would talk to an unruly child.
The more astonishing thing is that the storm obeyed like a compliant child. . . .Have you ever seen water that is smooth as glass, no waves at all?. . . if you’ve ever gone on an ocean cruise or lived on the shore, you know that even when the winds stop and a storm ends, the waves keep pounding for hours afterward. Yet when Jesus said, Quiet! Be still! Not only did the winds die down but the water instantly went dead calm.”
It has literally blown me out of the water to think about and imagine this scenario – to try to put myself in the disciples’ place – to think about the power that God displayed that day – but to think of it not only in the context of nature but also in the context of my own life.
Keller continues: “Before Jesus calms the storm, they’re afraid – but after Jesus calms the storm, they’re terrified. Why? Before Jesus was awakened, Mark says, the boat was nearly swamped. . . . The disciples . . . knew the boat was just seconds from being totally filled and they would die. They woke Jesus and said, “Don’t you care if we drown?” This picture goes to our hearts, because everyone who’s ever tried to live a life of faith in this world has felt like this sometimes. Everything is going wrong, you’re sinking, and God seems to be asleep, absent or unaware. If you loved us, the disciples were saying, you wouldn’t let us go through this. . . . Jesus calmed the storm, and then he responded to them. Did he say, I can understand how you felt? No, he asked, “Why are you so afraid?” Can you imagine what the disciples must have been thinking? What do you mean, why are we afraid? We were afraid we were going to drown. We were afraid you didn’t love us, because if you loved us, you wouldn’t let these things happen to us. But Jesus’ question to them has behind it this thought: Your premise is wrong. You should have known better. I do allow people I love to go through storms. You had no reason to panic.”
Why were the disciples so terrified? Because this God was so powerful he could command nature – which also makes him someone they cannot control and that is scary. Obviously the disciples would come to understand that although they could not predict what Jesus might do or what he might allow, they knew he loved them because he laid down his life for them.
I Chronicles 29:11-12 says this:
Yours, O Lord, is the greatness, the power, the glory, the victory, and the majesty. Everything in the heavens and on earth is yours, O Lord, and this is your kingdom. We adore you as the one who is over all things. Wealth and honor come from you alone, for you rule over everything. Power and might are in your hand, and at your discretion people are made great and given strength.
The Old Testament is filled with references to God’s incredible power, but in the New Testament we see examples of not only the power of Jesus, but also of his power demonstrated in the lives of his people. The power that calmed the sea is now living within us as believers.
Psalms 68:35 says:
God is awesome in his sanctuary. The God of Israel gives power and strength to his people.
I’m amazed to read through the book of Acts and see how the power of the Holy Spirit was at work in people’s lives. These new believers were never described as “nice” people. Sometimes I think that is the loftiest goal that we have as Christians. (At my funeral, please don’t let anyone stand up and say that I was “nice.” I’m doubting that my family would say that anyway.)
The believers in the book of Acts were brave and strong and bold. His same power is available to us as believers today. That power is there to help us through our struggles and the storms in life, but it is also available so we can help and encourage others.
What would it look like for us to grasp that concept in even a very small way in our lives? Sisters, we have been not been given a spirit of timidity but one of power and love and self-control. May it be so.