In the Same Boat

Today's lectionary reading is from Mark 4:35-41 in which Jesus stills the storm on the Sea of Galilee. I've always loved this passage. Take a look at it if you've got a Bible handy. Or open up another window and go to and type it in.

First, the text offers us important insights about Jesus, both in his humanity and his divinity. His humanity is obvious and realistic: he's tired from teaching the crowds and his disciples take him into the boat, "just as he was." I like that! No superhero Jesus here. He's real and human and whipped. He catches some shut-eye in the stern of the boat even as a storm churns in over the lake. He must've been very, very tired as the great windstorm causes waves to almost swamp the boat--and still he remains asleep. The disciples must jostle him awake, confounded as they are by his apparent narcolepsy. "Teacher, don't you care that we're perishing?!" they shout. They're put off by how out of touch he seems, possibly by how self-indulgent his little nap appears at a time like this. "At least share our fear," they seem to imply. The humanity--and the silence, if not the impotence and ineffectiveness--of Jesus cause them to feel overwhelmed and unsafe. Yet, let's not forget: there he is, with them in the boat, sharing their fate. If they go down; he goes down with them. That's got to count for something.

So the humanity of Jesus, along with his apparent disregard and possibly ineffectiveness, causes the disciples great consternation and fear. "What can this guy do to help us?" they wonder. We may feel the same today. Jesus is in our orbit; we acknowledge him in our midst...but he seems asleep...or distracted...inattentive to our cries and to the waves and wind around us. "Lord, don't you care that we're perishing?" we yell. Thank goodness the text continues--and the real humanity of Jesus entwines itself with his breathtaking divinity.

That's the second lesson and perhaps the primary one of our passage. Jesus does indeed wake up; he does in fact care--and he most certainly has the heart and power to help the scared disciples. He rebukes the hostile elements--leaving the disciples in awe. "Who is this," they marvel, "that even the wind and the sea obey him?" This Jesus is divine, God in human flesh, the one who has power over the creation he has made. Don't just consider the very real humanity of Jesus; above all, don't think he doesn't care. He's present in the storm, with them in the boat, and more than able to provide for them in their need. So the real humanity and the powerful divinity of Jesus are clear lessons here. But we're left with a challenge.

"Why are you afraid?" Jesus asks his scared followers. "Have you still no faith?" Having witnessed what I've done, heard my teaching, lived with me, don't you get it yet? Don't you know that I'm with you? Don't you know that when you're with me, ultimately, nothing can harm you? Sure, the wind and waves will come; sure, the boat might even sink--but don't you know I have the power of life and death and that I am able to meet your needs no matter what? Of course I care!

The message is that we're all in the same boat. Jesus shares the storm with us in our humanity. He's subject to the same waves and wind that rock our lives. But, more than that, Jesus also has the power to transform our plight and deliver us. He may seem silent or asleep--but don't be fooled. Even the wind and the sea obey him. Whatever your storm today, do not fear.

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