That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Who does that? He doesn’t run for cover (as though that could be done in a boat). He speaks to the storm. In fact, he speaks to the storm in the same way he will soon be speaking to demons’sternly.
Quiet! Be still!
I remember a few years back I was part of a weekend outdoor gathering of college students in North Texas, a solemn assembly. On the first night of the gathering, a massive storm blew in; in the tradition of, “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.”
I was charged with pastoral leadership of the team of speakers and worship leaders who would lead the gathering. Did I mention there were about thirty thousand college students camping in tents? That would be the next worst thing to being in a boat in the midst of such a storm. Lightning was popping all around us. We were frantic. I gathered the leaders close and reminded them of Jesus calming the storm and urged us to go for it. And we did. I’ve never spoken so sternly to a storm before or since. To my and the group’s chagrin, the storm only worsened. In fact, a couple of kids were struck by lightning that night yet their lives were miraculously spared. Bottom line: we failed miserably in our role as storm-stillers.
In response to Jesus’ three-word command we get this response: “Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”
So what’s the big difference in these two scenarios (besides the fact that Jesus is God and we were not)? You know by now that I am convinced that as it was with Jesus so it is with his followers. I do believe it is possible for a human being filled with the Holy Spirit to take authority, even over the weather and command it to cease. Okay, I’ve never seen it happen, but I still hold out the possibility.
Upon further reflection on this story, I have another insight I’ll run by you. For my money, the big miracle that night was not that Jesus stilled the storm. The big miracle was that Jesus remained unflinchingly still in the midst of the storm. It’s actually better than that. In the face of a furious and obviously life-threatening storm, Mark gives us this tidbit: Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.
Looking back on that stormy night in Texas, one of the big differences between our group and Jesus was that we were absolutely frantic. Jesus was unphased by the storm, so much so that he could have slept right through it. That my friends, is what they call, “peace like a river.”
What if it’s our quality of peace within the storm that determines the capacity of our faith to calm the storm? If I’m honest, in the face of life’s many storms, I’m typically not napping. I’m doing my best to keep the lid on my anxiety.
Maybe that’s why the Holy Spirit inspired Paul to instruct us, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving . . .” (Phil. 4:6).
Peace is a fruit of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit was Jesus’ peace, not only beyond understanding but beyond measure. He will do the same in us.
We may never enjoy the opportunity to calm a hurricane, but in the midst of a furious squall like cancer or divorce or some other tragic circumstance, we may find it’s the Holy Spirit empowered stillness of our spirit that calms the winds and raises the faith of everyone in the boat around us.
I know people like that. You do too. Let’s become one of them. Fix in your mind’s eye the image of Jesus sleeping in the midst of that furious squall. Ask the Holy Spirit to raise your faith to the level of that possibility.
Spirit of the living God, fall afresh on me.
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