Summary: It’s probably been a busy day of ministry for Jesus and His disciples when He tells them to follow Him to the lake – what we call the Sea of Galilee. They are going to the other side – about six miles across – and they haven’t been in the boat long before
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As someone who grew up in Florida, I have a certain fascination with hurricanes. In fact, one of the most recent times I was scheduled to speak at a church in Florida, they had to cancel because a hurricane was bearing down on them. I shared with church leaders that people had gone to great lengths to avoid hearing me preach, but evacuation seemed a bit much!
It’s amazing to think of how devastating such storms can be. Visit New Orleans or the Mississippi Gulf Coast and you’ll see they are still trying to recover from Hurricane Katrina. Just a few years ago, Hurricane Andrew caused more than $26 billion in damage. News reports say that Hurricane Charley’s final damage estimate hit about $15 billion.
Part of the problem with these big storms is that even with all the amazing technology at our disposal, we can’t always predict where and when they’re coming. You remember that forecasters thought Hurricane Charley was going to make landfall around Tampa; instead, it blew into an area much further south and took thousands of people by surprise. You just can’t predict when or where a storm might hit.
Thinking about that reality reminded me of an episode in the life of Jesus. Luke tells us about it in the 8th chapter of his gospel, verses 22-25.
It’s probably been a busy day of ministry for Jesus and His disciples when He tells them to follow Him to the lake – what we call the Sea of Galilee. They are going to the other side – about six miles across – and they haven’t been in the boat long before Jesus falls asleep.
They are part way across when it happens: one of those unexpected storms falls upon them. Such storms are not uncommon there. The water’s surface of the Sea of Galilee is about 680 feet below sea level, and it is surrounded by steep hills. Cool air comes through those hills, hits a ravine and suddenly encounters the warm air that’s been trapped over the water. Even our modern-day TV weather guys could tell you that combination of factors will make for volatile weather conditions!
Describing the same event, Matthew says that the storm is a shaking (or seismos) of the boat. Luke calls it a whirlwind. They were both right. If you’ve ever seen a picture of a first-century Palestinian fishing boat, you know they were wide but not very deep. You can just imagine a violent storm coming upon them without notice, the wind shaking the boat as the rain and the waves began filling the boat with water. This was no ordinary squall, because the fishermen are as scared as the non-fishermen. The fishermen started bailing water as fast as they could while the non-fishermen wondered what to do. And they were all terrified.
Storms do happen, don’t they, and they often come without warning. It happens in nature, and it happens in our lives. I suspect you can think of some storms that have come into your life unexpectedly – an illness or even the sudden death of a loved one; the shocking loss of a job that you thought was going well; a spouse comes in one day and says, “I’m leaving.” You never saw it coming, but all at once you found yourself in the middle of a storm.
Storms come for all sorts of different reasons. Sometimes we bring a storm on ourselves -- because of things we do or say. We make a bad decision or a foolish choice and a storm may result. We listen to some bad advice and reap the consequences. We try to cut corners or get away with something we know we shouldn’t do, and then we experience the results. We’ve all been in that kind of storm at one time or another.
Then again, there are other storms that show up through no fault of our own. You’ve exercised and eaten a healthy diet, and still you get the call from the doctor, who says, “We’ve gotten the test results, and there is some bad news.” Or the economy takes a downturn, your company has to let people go, and you find yourself knocking on doors and wondering when you’ll see the next paycheck. That’s a storm.
Some people think that storms only come when you are out of God’s will, but we know that’s not true, don’t we? Just look at these disciples. They have done exactly what Jesus asked them to do, and now they are caught in a vicious storm. Storms don’t only come to the lives of bad people. In Matthew 5, Jesus says that God, “makes the sun rise on both good and bad people. And he sends rain for the ones who do right and for the ones who do wrong.” Sometimes you find yourself in a storm even when you are exactly where God wants you to be.