Summary: Storms of various kinds come our way in life, some threatening to overwhelm us or capsize our boat, but Jesus wants us to know that he is there and we can trust in in the midst of the storm.
From the beginning, the primordial waters and sea were given great respect. The earth was at one point covered with waters, according to genesis and scientists. God tamed the chaos of the sea somewhat when land was created. God made a boundary for the seas with the land. Still, the seas - and even sometimes lakes- are a force to be reckoned with, as they churn chaotically. Through history the water was often viewed as a place where evil lurked (perhaps that is where we got the loch ness monster from?). There was much uncertainty about the waters and about the storms that raged on them. Fisherfolk and sea traders alike understood the power and might that the raging sea could possess. Currents and storms left boars at the sea’s mercy, and even the best of captains could be crushed under wind and waves.
In our gospel lesson we see that even the professional fisher folk were surprised at the severity of the storm. They knew the sea of gallilee, they knew it was famous for its sudden, severe storms. Yet the severity of this particular storm surprised even them. They panicked, and so like most of us do, they expected Jesus and everyone else around them to react in the same way. One thing we don’t realize is that the presence of the Kingdom often means opposition and conflict. Many expect that once they become a chrisitian, the storms of life will not turn their world upside down. Both in our churches and in our own hearts, we try to avoid conflict like we would tossing seas. Though we often experience life as chaotic threatening, and frightening, we tend to view this and any conflict as “unholy”, and infringement of secular “chaos” into sacred” calm. However, Mark is telling us that that is just how life is, conflicted and chaotic. The kingdom’s presence does not mean the end of conflict in our communal or individual lives. It does mean, though, that we have another lens through which to look at life. And the disciples forgot that. While they are afraid for their very lives amidst the chaos of the storm, Jesus rests in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. So when they saw that Jesus was calm and not panicked, their fear led to anger, because they felt that meant Jesus didn’t care. They cried out at that point, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing.” That is kind of how we react to the storms of our lives. When there is chaos all around, and we are being tossed about so that we think surely we will be overwhelmed by it all, we tend to wonder, “lord, where are you in all this?” So we can identify with the disciples somewhat. They ask him, in essence, “don’t you get it man, we’re gonna die!” And still Jesus reacts to their panic and anger with calmness and gentleness. He didn’t yell at them for getting upset at him, he didn’t sharply answer their question as we might, “of course I care, who do you think I am, watch me fix it!” In fact, though he responded to their need, he did not answer them. He simply stood up and spoke to those pesky waves, “peace be still!”
And suddenly, in the place of the violent chaos of the storm, there was calm. Only then did Jesus answer the disciples- and that, with a question in return. “why are you so afraid,?” he asks. Do you still have no faith? Jesus turns their question of his concern for them around. He reveals their own insecurities and lack of faith. Jesus has been calm amidst the storm, and it is the disciples who have shown their immature faith. See, doubt is not the opposite of faith- fear is.
We live in a society that fosters fear rather than faith. Fear is everywhere. We fear or our safety in our homes and on the highway. We fear for our health, perhaps moreso with this swine flu pandemic. We fear out security, both personally and nationally with terrorism so present. We even fear for our children in their schools -from K-college, the world has gotten so they are not even safe there. One listen to the evening news and you often want to go hide your head under the pillow or run for the hills wondering what this world is coming to. The Bible recognizes the reality of fear, but it encourages faith instead. Jesus expresses divine power in calming the sea, not for his own benefit, but in order to calm the disciples, so show them that they do not have to be afraid in the midst of storms. They can be confident because Jesus is in authority, in control.