I was falling asleep the other evening and thinking about all the “storms” we have been facing over the past few years. Many of the storms have caught national and international attention. Some of the storms are personal and private. However, I was feeling a bit overwhelmed and depressed…. perhaps a bit exhausted with the relentless waves of heavy and painful stories. I ,once again, like to reflect on a very familiar story that has been with me all my life (I originally published this a few years ago…..so, I guess it’s as relevant today as it was then).
Jesus says to his disciples, “Let’s go to the other side.” Jesus was on a mission then, and He is on a mission today. Where is He taking us?
I remember as a young boy having a picture hanging in my bedroom that depicted a young man piloting a boat at its helm in the midst of a storm. Jesus stood behind the young man with one hand on his shoulder and the other showing him where to steer in the the high seas. Today that painting hangs on a wall in our house that is full of paintings, each with a story behind it. I typically have not paid much attention to it until the other day, realizing how prophetic that picture was hanging over my bed as I was that young boy (and still am).
Recently, I was drawn to a story in the New Testament about Jesus and his disciples (I call them interns). The story is found in the Gospel of Mark in the 4th chapter. Jesus has just finished a series of teachings and talks regarding faith and His Kingdom, using a lot of parables. The day has been long, and He says to His interns that it’s time to get into the boat and go to the other side. Various Bible scholars will argue that the other side represented a Gentile (non-Jew) region and that a good Jew would not be caught dead on the “other side.” However, Jesus is on a mission. The eight-mile journey occurred during the night, and while traversing the lake, a violent storm hits the occupants. The storm was so violent that these hardened men, many fishermen, actually feared for their lives. The one that appeared unafraid and was actually fast asleep was Jesus, not the least bothered by this terrible storm. The interns, in utter fear, wake up their teacher with an accusation that it was obvious He didn’t seem to care. He first responds with action; He calms the storm, and He does this by commanding it. He then turns to His interns, now that the storm has subsided, and asks them two questions (that’s what Jesus does best, He asks really good questions). Why are they so afraid and where is their faith?
I have reflected on this story over the past few weeks, and there are a few things that have caught my attention. Let me share them briefly.
We are in a storm
There is no question about it, and it’s global. The storm you and I are in is universal though it is affecting us all differently. We are walking within the shadow of death… not simply the loss of life, but also the death of the economy, organizations and frankly, a way of life. We wake up every day looking at a death statistic. We are in a storm, and we are afraid we may die. Several theologians make the case that the storm was not simply a weather-related storm, but demonic forces at work. Perhaps that’s true and if so, that adds another dimension to the storm we are in (more on that later). Rembrandt van Rijn depicts this scene in his beautiful painting (which by the way has been stolen and yet to be found), where you can feel the wind and rain, the angst, the fear, the chaos.
However, we find Jesus in the boat sound asleep. We may think that He is simply detached, aloof, too distant to understand our emotions and our pain. However, He has chosen to be PRESENT. He could have simply asked the interns to meet Him on the other side or watched from afar. No, He decided to journey through the storm by choice. He knew a storm was coming and still chose to join them. He knew they would need Him because He knew they had little faith.
I find it almost comical that Jesus is actually asleep. I am not sure what kind of sleeper Jesus was, but as far as I know this is the only time in scripture that we see Jesus asleep. Many times we read that Jesus was an early riser, seeking time to pray, but asleep in a crisis? My cynical and sarcastic side reads this wrong. Jesus appears selfish, more concerned with His needs then mine. However, this is not true. He is demonstrating to me that He is at PEACE. Jesus never knew fear; it’s not in His vocabulary. How many times in scripture do we hear the phrase, “fear not” …a lot?
Once Jesus is awakened from his sleep, His first action is to quiet the storm, and He does this simply with a command. I’m not even sure He yelled it (it’s hard to yell coming from a deep sleep unless you are frightened). I believe He simply said, “Peace be still.” Wow, no wonder Jesus never knew fear since He had that kind of power. He demonstrated to His interns that He is a God of POWER.
A teaching moment
Jesus as the consummate teacher and shepherd uses this as a teaching moment. I don’t believe He is angry, but He is corrective in His tone as He asks two questions around fear and the lack of faith. Faith and fear have an interesting relationship since faith is the antithesis of fear. Satan uses fear as his weapon all the while Jesus uses faith. Recently, Dr. Tim Royer, a friend and neuropsychologist remarked that as humans our greatest fear comes from anticipated fear. We use our God created and given imaginations to imagine what could be and, in our fear, we can often abandon our faith. Think about sin itself. James talks about sin being sourced within our evil desires (imaginations), and sin is designed to drive a wedge between us and Jesus. Fear is designed the same way. Jesus is with them in the boat, yet they ignore Him and default to fear. Jesus is teaching them that faith will always overcome fear.
Lastly, yes, we are in a storm, but there is no reason to be afraid because Jesus stands at your back, one hand on your shoulder and the other pointing to where He wants to take you. Jesus is taking the interns to the other side, where they are met by a demon possessed man who has been terrorizing the whole countryside. Jesus had a reason to go to the other side; He wanted to start something. He wanted to demonstrate His presence, peace and power in a dark place. I believe that when the storm ceases and it will, we will arrive on the other side. Due to the storm, our faith will have increased, and that will give us the power to overcome the evil that will affront us. Our faith in Jesus will break the chains that bind culture. We pray for revival – it’s coming, but we first must weather the storm. I believe this will be the beginning of a new season of His healing in a dark world. I believe that is why Satan sent the storm, because if he could have taken the disciples out there would have been no conversion on the other side. Actually, what an insult to the anemic power of Satan, that Jesus chooses to actually take a nap during Satan’s vicious storm. Lately, when I have found myself afraid, I have visually put myself in the boat and will intentionally look over at the sleeping Jesus, where I find a calm. One last thought shared by my friend, Jason Upton. Isn’t it interesting that in the Garden of Gethsemane, while Jesus was awake, the disciples slept, an antithesis to the story of Jesus in the boat. Perhaps a lesson for us is to rest when Jesus is at rest and be awake when He is awake. Have faith, the best is yet to come.
Stephan N. Tchividjian is the president and founder of the National Christian Foundation South Florida. Visit southflorida.ncfgiving.com to learn more.
Read more articles by Stephan Tchividjian at: https://www.goodnewsfl.org/author/stephan-tchividjian/