Summary: With Jesus in our boat, we have no need to fear. God’s presence and power in our lives stills our storms and calms our fears.
Matthew 8:23-27 “Why Do We Fear?”
You probably know this already, but our crystal balls don’t work very well. A year ago who would have thought that we wouldn’t feel any more secure flying than we did in the days after 9/11? Who would have foreseen that we’d be pouring troops into Afghanistan while we are pulling troops out of Iraq? Or, that Michael Jackson would die, that vampires would top wizards at the box office, or that Arizona would enter 2010 still without a state budget.
We begin 2010 with a similar lack of prophetic expertise. We don’t know what the war or the economy will do. We may set goals for ourselves, our families, or our companies and careers, but we really don’t know where we will be when 2011 rolls around. Because we do not know the future, we enter this new year with a mixture of fear and hope—perhaps a little more fear than hope.
The story of the disciples and Jesus in the midst of a storm both ask us the question, “Why do we fear?” and also teach us why we do not need to fear.
The disciples follow Jesus into a boat in order to travel from the west shore of the Sea of Galilee to the east shore—the country of the Gadarenes. When they are far from land a great storm arises and threatens to sink the disciples’ boat. Things quickly get beyond the disciples’ control.
There are times when we make decisions that lead to disaster or tragedy. Deciding to travel I-40 in the middle of a blizzard invites disaster. Investing in a “sure thing” stock on the advice of a co-worker invites financial ruin. This story of Jesus and the disciples doesn’t address instances like these of our own undoing. Rather, the story deals with those times when life falls in upon us and threatens to destroy us. Matthew uses words that indicate the storm was powerful and frightening like an earthquake.
Situations like these cause us to ask the question, “Why do bad things happen to good people?” This question has no answer except, “Such is life.” We are never able to discover the “Why?” These are the lost jobs, the chronic or serious illnesses, the car accidents, and a host of other tragic possibilities.
These are also the situations that cause us to fear.
The disciples panic. The harder they work to get things back in control the farther things get out of control. They are frantic.
In contrast to the disciples, is Jesus. He is asleep in the stern of the boat unconcerned about the storm raging around him. The disciples wake Jesus and plead with him to save them. Getting up, Jesus looks at his disciples and asks, “Why do you fear?”
The disciples don’t answer Jesus, but we can postulate what they might fear because we fear the same things.
The disciples fear:
The unknown future. We seem to be able to deal with the known future even if we don’t like it. Our trouble comes from the unknown. This is the realm of boogey men, monsters, and things that go bump in the night.
Things getting out of control. A little admitted fact is that we are all control freaks. Fear quickly overwhelms us when life gets out of control.
The fragility of life. We fool ourselves everyday by convincing ourselves that we are invincible; we can withstand anything and everything that life can throw at us. This simply isn’t true. A blood clot the size of a pencil lead can cause a life threatening heart attack or stroke. A millimeter can be the difference between life and death.
As we read this story, it is obvious that Jesus knows something that the disciples don’t know. They are filled with fear while he is asleep in the stern of the boat. What is it that Jesus knows?
It is important to focus on God rather than the storms of life. Life is tempestuous; God is our rock and our fortress.
Even though we are not in control, God is.
God holds us in the palm of his hand and wants the very best for us.
God’s love is steadfast and we will never be separated from it.
Jesus’ question to the disciples, “Why do you fear?” was not a condemnation. Jesus’ purpose was not to make the disciples feel ashamed or guilt. Jesus’ words were and invitation to the disciples and do us to release our fears—to allow God’s perfect love to cast out our fear, and to walk in faith and courage into the new year.