Summary: The stilling of the storm on Galilee is a parable demonstrating that life is a roller-coaster experience but with Jesus in command allis well, requiring us to repond in faith.
RIDING THE WAVES OF LIFE
I once heard a minister use a memorable phrase in his prayer and it stays with me: it was "our short and uncertain earthly life and pilgrimage". Life is uncertain. This is true for the Christian as well, as we don’t live in some magic or charmed circle just because we’re believers. The story of ’Jesus calms the storm’ found in Mark 4:35-41 i very much to the point and I’m giving it an alternative title of ’Riding the Waves of Life’.
The writers of the Gospels had a gift in communicating their message in word-pictures. They or their close friends had followed Jesus on His itineraries between Galilee and Jerusalem and remembered the many interesting events. When they came to commit them to writing for the benefit of the next generation they were inspired to select those that would be helpful in making it clear why Jesus had come to be the Saviour of the world and what it would mean to His followers. These stories are still full of meaning for us almost 2,000 years on.
The gospel story came very relevant one summer’s day. My wife and I, together with friends, enjoyed a holiday near Looe in Cornwall. The weather was perfect for a quiet stroll around the picturesque harbour and what could be better than a boat trip around Looe Island a mile out from the shore. There was a pleasant breeze coming in with the tide but the sea appeared fairly calm as the little motor boat passed the harbour light. But it soon changed! As we approached the island the boat, open to the elements, began to pitch and roll alarmingly, at least to us landlubbers. We had crossed the flow of the tide and the direction of the wind, causing sheets of spray to come over the sides. It wasn’t until we rounded the windward side of the island that the calmer water was reached and only then the shrieks of the surprised passengers subsided. Life has many surprises for each one of us.
This little incident recalled to me the story told by three of the Gospel writers of a sudden storm on the Sea of Galilee. It was so severe that it imperilled the lives of the disciples, several of whom were experienced fishermen. Jesus was also on board but after an exhausting day of ministry he had relaxed and fallen fast asleep. The story is a parable of life’s sudden surprises, often unpredictable and unwelcome. No one is immune from them. They come whether we are in the faith or not.
The world in which we live is one of tremendous contrasts and contradictions. No wonder we’re baffled by it! For every step forward in peace there seems to be a terrorist round the bend. The astonishing beauty of nature is set against the ugliness of war, disease and famine. The same sky that one day is a painted picture of the colours of the sunset is the scene of a destructive hurricane. It’s a fair question to ask God ’Why?’ Mankind is clearly the culprit for some of life’s misfortunes, brought about by our own bad choices, neglect, greed and irresponsible behaviour. But beyond this there are circumstances not in our control, leaving us helpless.
The drama reveals that Jesus was so human that He was sufficiently exhausted to fall sound asleep in the midst of a storm. And He was so divine that even winds and waves responded to His rebuke. The elements recognised His true identity, although the disciples were puzzled. The story is full of little details and human interest, the hallmark of an eyewitness account. Yes, it really happened! Mark even tells that there were other boats in the little flotilla crossing the lake although they have no other part in the story.
It’s a striking parable of the Christian life. The story shows that when God invites us on a journey we must obey the call for He has a purpose in it for us. In a nutshell the story is to tell us the practical implications of Jesus as our Saviour: From what does He save us? Why, from evil and harm! But is it physical or spiritual or both? In what sense does He save us from them? Are we exempted from the storms of life? If not, how do we cope with them? This incident in the earthly ministry Of Jesus will help us to find answers to these questions.
The story of the stilling of the storm is rich in meaning in helping us to make sense of this life with Jesus as our Saviour and Companion. Here we meet the unpredictable and learn how to cope with it. Those who have witnessed a storm on the Sea of Galilee tell how the geography contributes to its violence. The inland lake is over 600 feet below sea level and surrounded by hills and mountains. Particularly in the evening, winds are funnelled down the sides of the slopes on to the lake. Without a moment’s warning, the wind whips up a sudden storm which, equally suddenly, may calm down. What can we learn from this life-parable? Surely it’s that: