A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” (Read the whole passage)
For the past few weeks, Mark has been taking us on an intense ride through the beginning parts of his gospel. The pharisees began by plotting to kill Jesus for healing a man with a withered hand on the sabbath, Jesus’ family believed he has crazy and wanted to take him away, and last week Jesus told parables about the Kingdom of God being like the mustard bush, the worst weed in the garden.
Yet still, with our own news is full of extremes… world cup upsets, legalization of another kind of weed, and of course children being ripped from families at the US border… it isn’t like these intense scenes from Mark are that different from what is going on around us.
Today, of course, is no different. The disciples find themselves on an ill fated boat ride with Jesus. As they cross the sea of Galilee, a violent storm comes upon them. As fisherman, they shouldn’t have been surprised as violent storms have the habit of coming on suddenly on Galilee. But even as experienced fisherman, they wake Jesus because they are afraid of drowning.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
It is a rather loaded question. It is not a direct request for help. It is not the usual cry to God that we might expect. It is not a “Help me God or Save me Jesus”.
It is almost as if the disciples are saying,
“Wake up Jesus! Wake up so that you can drown with us!”,
And Jesus does wake. Jesus wakes up and rebukes the wind. He literally muzzles it. He tells the waves to stop and be still. And then Jesus chastises the disciples.
“Why are you afraid? Have you still no trust” or more accurately, “Why are you cowardly? Do you still not trust?”
And then something interesting happens. The wind and the waves were calm. But the disciples become fearful. More than fearful. They fear a great fear. They are Terrified upon terrified. Frightened upon frightened.
And instead of looking to Jesus, they look to one another.
“Who is this in the boat with us? Who is this guy that even the wind and the waves obey him?”
We know these fears of the disciples well. We have been through the storms of life too.
Our storms might not be found in boats, but they rock us just the same. They are the accusations that so many throw about, “Do you not care about children being ripped rom their parents?” They are the fears of trade tariffs and economic hardships. They are broken relationships and hurting families, illness and disease. Our wind and waves are change and upheaval. In our congregations, our cries to Jesus and asking if he cares are about the future, about declining numbers, about uncertainty and conflict. And sometimes it can feel as if these storms hit us, one after another.
But all of these fear and worries sit on above a greater fear buried deep within us. fear that comes from a more primal place. Fear rooted in sin, in self centeredness. Fear rooted in our wanting to be God in God’s place. Fear that shows itself when we are faced with the reality that God is in control and we are not. Fear that makes us wonder, who is this Jesus. Who is this Jesus that is in the boat with us, in our homes with us, in the church with us?
Whether we admit it or not, we like to think that Jesus is only around when we bother to pray or read the bible, but probably goes home when we are busy. We like to think God is an ever available problem solver, always waiting but never intruding. And as congregations, we act as if were we ever to close up shop, God would close up shop too.
And so on days like today, when the storm is calmed and we cannot help but see God in the world and in our midst, we are left with the disciples asking, “Who is this Jesus?”
Who is this Jesus?
The storm is the least of the disciples’ problems. In fact, the disciples ask the question that is at the core of their being. “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
Do you not care?
We long to know that we are cared about, that someone, something out there believes that we matter.
And does this Jesus actually care?
Does Jesus care about us, about me?
Deep within us is the fear that no one cares, that God does not care about us. That we don’t mean anything, that we are of no value. When the dispels ask Jesus, “Do you not care that we we are perishing?” It wasn’t about the storm, it was the fear that Jesus might not actually care about them after all.
Do you not care Jesus?
And yet, it is precisely because God cares has come to be ride with us in our boats. Because God cares about sin and death that God has been born in flesh.
God has come to live life among us, and God come to die with us.
It is isn’t the storm of wind and waves that Jesus has come to still.
It is the storm of death.
Jesus has come to muzzle death.
Jesus has come to die on the cross in order to silence death.
As the disciples wonder at who is this Jesus that is in the boat with them, their wonder is not truly about this one among them who even the wind and wave obey. It is a wonder about whether this God in flesh actually cares about them, about creation, about all of us.
And for us who know the end of the story, the wonder is no different. The wonder and fear of the one who can muzzle and silence death from cross still doesn’t make us certain that we are cared about.
But that is our stuff.
Because Jesus still comes into our boats. Just as Jesus road in the boat with disciples, Jesus rides with us into our storms, our places of fear and uncertainty. The places where we fear that no one cares about us, we fear that we will die and becoming nothing.
Just like the disciples whose fear was only multiplied by not knowing who this Jesus is, we too fail to see Jesus in the storms and in the calm. And yet, Jesus gets into our boats anyways. Jesus comes into our world, lives among us and goes to the cross anyways. Because there in the boat and in the storms, there on the waters of creation where the distance between creation and creator is shortened… Jesus claims us. Jesus names us as God’s own. In the waters of baptism, Jesus reminds us that whether we live or we die, we belong to God.
God is in control whether we like it or not. God is saving us from sin and death whether we see it or not. God is loving us, whether we like it or not.
“Do you not care that we are perishing? “
“Do you not care God?”
And there in our boats, in our storms, in the midst of our accusations and fears, Jesus reminds of just how much God cares for us. That no matter the wind and the waves, we belong to God. That no matter how many jobs might be lost because of one man’s pride, or how many families might be separated because of cruelty and fear, or no matter what dangers that might cause us to believe we are dying we encounter,
Jesus is with us, in our boats, in our cages, in our fears and in our anxiety… reminding us that we are not alone, and wether we live or wether we die, we belong to God.
And even when we still have no faith,
God has faith in us and for us,
because God cares for us,
and for all.