No matter how bad it gets, God is with us. Why are you afraid? God is with us!!
Throughout the whole Old Testament the sea symbolises the place where chaos dwells. Many times in Psalms God is praised as the one “who divided the sea by his might” and in Job “that he broke the heads of the dragons in the waters”. God’s power at the time of the Exodus is described as his “rebuke of the sea and control of the waters”. In the NT in the book of Revelation one of the wonderful things about the heavenly city is that there will be no more sea. The sea was always seen as a threat to the Jewish people.
So when Jesus calms this storm he, like God his father in the psalms, is rebuking the forces of the sea in much the same way as he rebukes the demons in the previous chapter. You’ll remember Jesus showed his power over the sea on another occasion too when he walked on the water.
It’s interesting that this trip at night across the sea was Jesus’ idea. It wasn’t that the disciples wanted to get away with Jesus for a relaxing time away from the crowd. So when the storm rose they had every reason to blame him when the weather changed.
Mark wants us to know for certain that the storm was horrendous – the boat was being swamped. So as experienced fishermen to be panicking meant that it really was a dangerous time – they weren’t over-reacting. You can see why they shouted at Jesus “Don’t you care that we are perishing?” He’d initiated this foolhardy trip.
And then he slept through it. His trust in God gave him this peace even in a storm – in contrast with the panic of the disciples at the chaos of the sea. The disciples on the other hand have not yet learned to trust in Jesus; they haven’t accepted the power of Jesus as the Son of God – in fact they aren’t even at the stage of seeing who and what he is, because at the end of the incident they were still frightened when they ask “who is this man? Even the winds and the waves obey him?” And that was even though Jesus, at the end of the parable of the mustard seed had already told them had they were special, unlike the crowd, and he would explain everything to them.
Unlike the disciples we know the end of the story – we know that Jesus truly is the Son of God and that he has power over chaos – or at the very least will be with us throughout the chaos.
Even so when we’re in the midst of storms or sufferings in our own lives it’s often very hard to recognise that Jesus is there with us. It often seems as though he is asleep on the pillow – and that’s perhaps because of our lack of faith or at least the smallness of our faith. You’ll know that poem so often printed as a mini poster, called Footsteps in the Sand when the two sets of footsteps become one and God says in answer to the query about why God wasn’t there in the tough time. “During your time of suffering when you only see one set of footsteps it was because I was carrying you”. It’s a very hard lesson to learn when we often ask in the face of awful suffering “Why does God allow this?” What we find it difficult to understand is that because God suffered when his only son was crucified he knows and understands our suffering and is there carrying us even though we often don’t realise it or even refuse to accept it. Sometimes it’s only a good while afterwards that we realise that we have been carried.
Everyone of us will have some rough times ahead, storms that will challenge us, throw us off course and even scare the living daylight out of us. Just as with the disciples, God does not promise us a peaceful voyage. God does promise, however that God will always be present. There’s the amusing story about the very religious man who was caught in his house in the middle of a flood. He prayed to be rescued. A rowing boat came to pick him up when the water was only at his front door – he refused it saying God would rescue him. The flood rose and he had to go upstairs. A helicopter came to pick him up but still he said “No, God would save him”. In the end he drowned and when he met God he asked why he hadn’t saved him. God replied “ I sent you a boat and then a helicopter and you refused to accept either. And sometimes that’s exactly how God saves us or is with us – in the presence or even just the prayers of his people. It’s a bit like Covid – people ask why did God send or allow Covid? He didn’t – humanity’s wrong use of creation in one way or another caused Covid. But, God shows he’s with humanity in the power and knowledge of scientists finding vaccines and even cures. So perhaps we have to listen again to what Jesus said to the disciples “Why are you afraid, have you no faith?” Amen