"What are you afraid of?" Wally Fus asked our staff this question today during our weekly meeting. He asked us to voice what truly creates fear in our hearts. "Why are we afraid of that?" he asked. Each of us was able to think of things that caused us genuine fear. For some of us it was a fear of failing. For others it was a fear of aging. For others it was fear of our family suffering. Interestingly, none of us confessed a fear of death… but many of us did mention that we feared the process of dying.
After we discussed our fears for a bit, Wally had us consider Matthew 8:26-27. "Look at this. Here is what Jesus said: "Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!" Then he got up and rebuked the wind and waves, and suddenly there was a great calm. And the disciples were amazed. “Who is this man?” they asked. “Even the winds and waves obey him!”
It occurred to each of us that the disciples feared for their lives during a storm. They were out on a violent sea, getting tossed about, and they knew their lives were in peril. But it seems they forgot who was with them. [Oh, they remembered Jesus was with them… But Jesus is Emanuel ("God with us")]… but they wanted Jesus to be bailing water and rowing just as hard against the winds and waves as they were! They rushed to wake Jesus up and cried out to him in panic, "Don't you care if we drown?! How can you rest at a time like this?!" They were, shall we say, more than a wee bit afraid… and they didn't understand what Jesus was doing.
I've always wondered how Jesus woke up. Did he startle awake? Did he slowly yawn and stretch out his arms? Did he rub his eyes and gruff his voice and shoulders? Do you think he smiled? I wonder if Jesus was enjoying the storm? He obviously was able to get comfortable enough to rest. Huh… I do think Jesus may have been enjoying the sensation of danger out there on the sea. Imagine, the Creator of the universe had the opportunity to ride in his own storm! That would be kind of like the creator of a rollercoaster strapping himself in for the thrills – maybe. Anyway, I tend to think that Jesus wasn't shocked by what was going on when he awoke. i know that when I'm sleeping near my kids, I always know where they are and what's going on around me.
When Jesus woke up, we do know that he spoke to the disciples first. If I sense danger, the first thing I do is try to protect my life or the lives of those around me. I don't first try to have a conversation. My point is that Jesus sensed no fear… no danger… no worry. He simple asked the disciples, maybe with a coy smile, "Why are you afraid?" Then he gently but significantly reprimanded them for their lack of trust in him.
Next, Jesus stood up. That alone would have been a miracle. Huge swells of sea, violent winds battering against him. And he stood up. He then stretched out his arms… just as a speaker might do when he wants silence because he has something important to communicate. And then he rebuked the wind. "That's enough!" And it was…
The Good News is that even in the storm, Jesus is with us. He is not afraid. Neither should we be. He is in control, even if it appears he isn't helping us bail out, or even if he isn't struggling against the currents for us. His posture is one of peace… in the middle of what is causing us our greatest fright. Jesus is amazing. In the end, he may calm the storm… or he may just calm our hearts. In the middle, we must learn to trust.
It's hard to imagine the reaction Jesus wanted from the disciples. I am sure that in that boat I would have shaken Jesus awake in my panicked state of mind too. Did he want them just to sit there and twiddle their fingers during the storm? Is that what faith is? An aloofness? Is that what Christ wants?
No. He doesn't want us to have a lobotomy. He is not asking for turn-your-mind-off commitment. He doesn't want dead faith. I think he wants us to put on him all of our afraid-ness… to trust him with it. In the trouble, he doesn't want us to be despairing. He wants us to
remember who he is and where he is and what he is all about.
The disciples were a bit put off that Jesus wasn't "helping" them. That's an easy attitude to develop when we're overwhelmed in a storm of life. The great thing about Jesus is that he knows we're freaking out. He is aware. He can see us fighting against impossibility. But he is peacefully waiting for us to come to him. He wants us to lay our fears on him and then to try to understand and embrace how Jesus can be calm in such a time as this.
Only one person could have genuinely made the following statement: "Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God. Trust also in me." (John 14:1) It's no wonder the disciples grew to fear Jesus… not with fright, but with reverence. And in the end, they learned to face the greatest of storms with joy and trust.
Nothing can separate us from God's love. No trouble is too great to overwhelm Jesus.