Posted on Jun 24, 2018 by Pastor Dave Whetter
As we have heard the past couple of weeks, Jesus had been teaching and preaching in his hometown of Capernaum, a small fishing village on the north shore of the Sea of Galilee. Last week we listened to how Jesus had been using parables to teach his followers what the kingdom of God was like, and as I noted then, Jesus was teaching that God’s kingdom was going to be in the “seediest of places.” As we begin today, we are told as that day of teaching came to an end, Jesus said to his disciples “Let us go across to the other side” (4:35). Jesus gave no explanation as to why he wanted to leave; we are only told that they left immediately. None of them, not even Jesus, bothers to run home to get anything; they leave just as they are.
Now keep in mind, it was evening, and in those days, night travel of any means was not recommended. But, we know at least four of Jesus’ disciples were experienced fishermen, so traveling by boat wouldn’t have been difficult. But, we also have to keep in mind what kind of boat they were using. If you look at the screen you will see the remains of a fishing boat that was discovered on an archaeological dig in the Capernaum area that has been dated to around the time Jesus lived. These fishing boats weren’t very big, and it is no wonder that, for the most part, in those days fishermen stayed close to shore. But, in this story, we know they are going across the Sea of Galilee, so they will travel far from shore because Jesus has said, we must go to the other side.
For me, this story is the ultimate call of the church. The call of the church is always to go to the other side, and this story foreshadows what is to come. In fact, in just two weeks we will read the story of how Jesus sent the disciples out in mission two by two. In that story he instructs them to go just as they are, to take nothing (Mark 6:1-13), the same way we are told he went in this story. He went just as he was. This story also foretells of how Jesus will command his followers to not stay in safe places, but in fact, he will send them to far corners of the world, so that they can fulfill the ultimate call to make disciples of all nations. This story describes the mission of the church, and as the church, we are called to get in our boats and go to the other side.
In fact, do you know the technical name of the area in which you are sitting? It is called the “nave.” Nave comes from the Latin word “navis” which means ship. This is the same Latin word from which we get our word “navy.” For centuries, the church viewed church buildings as a ship, it was the place people gathered to partake in their journey with Christ. You are sitting in the nave and you, as followers of Jesus are those disciples to which he has said, let’s go to the other side.
I don’t know about you, but most days I do feel like I am on a boat that is on rough seas. Even when I took a few days of vacation a couple of weeks ago, the news of children being taken from their parents at the border, the attempt by our government to use scripture to justify such immoral and unjust acts, and then news that two sheriff's officers were shot and killed in Kansas City, KS, all made me feel a little sea sick. I, too, was shouting, “Jesus, do you not care that we are perishing?". This question that the disciples asked on that night as they were crossing to the other side was a great question. I mean, several of the men on that boat were experienced fishermen, seasoned veterans of the sea, and if they thought the seas were rough, then they must have been rough. In fact, they thought the storm was so bad that they thought death was imminent and they wanted to know why this man, who they had already witnessed cast out demons, heal a man with a withered hand, cleanse a leper, and heal a woman on her death bed, seemed not to care that the people who he was closest to were about to die. I, too feel that way many days, don’t you? And so often I feel like Jesus just isn’t listening, because I get no response. I mean, since hearing about the thousands of children in these detention centers, I have been praying for an end to the madness, and, yes, the executive order has stopped the madness momentarily, but thousands of children still remain away from their parents, and all I hear is the blame game with each party blaming the other. I keep saying, Jesus do you not care that your children are suffering?
But, Jesus did respond to the disciples’ pleas that night. Mark tells us that in response, “[Jesus] woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm” (4:39). I can only imagine the relief that the disciples felt when they saw and felt the storm come to a dead calm. But, I will argue that their moment of relief was short lived, because once he calmed the storm, Jesus had a couple of questions that I will argue are part of the reason that this story ends with them not only questioning who Jesus really is, but also being filled with great fear. Oh, I know our translations says, “great awe,” but the more accurate translation is “great fear.” My question is, “The storm was over, why would they be afraid now?”. Well, because of what Jesus said next.
“Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” (4:40) Seriously? That’s how Jesus offers comfort? These men thought they were dying; they needed help. But Jesus was saying, look, with everything you have already seen me do and everything I have taught you already, do you still not believe that you, with me by your side, have all you need to calm the storms of this world? You want me to perform the miracles, which I just did, but the truth is, with just a little faith and belief, you have all you need to “weather the storms of this world.”
If you are sickened and filled with fear because innocent children are being taken from their parents because their parents are seeking a safe and better place to live, then do something about it. If you are filled with fear every time you hear, or read, about another shooting, then don’t complain, go do something about it. If you are tired of witnessing people being treated unfairly and/or unjustly because of the color of their skin, their nationality, their gender, their socio-economic status, their sexual identity, or for any other reason, then Jesus says to you, get in your boat and go do something about it.
I will argue this is what filled the disciples with “great fear.” Jesus was saying, I calmed the storm for you now, but you will need to do this for yourselves in the future. The storm will return when they get off the boat as we will see next week, but Jesus will stay with the disciples and he does with you and I today, and he will once again show them how to calm the storms of life. As they continue to cross the sea in the aftermath of the storm, the disciples have to ask themselves, “Who then is this…?”. This man just calmed the wind and the seas, something only God can do. So, to follow this man means we will be called to travel some very rough seas. To follow Jesus meant they, and you and I, will need to keep getting in the boat with Jesus.
Brothers and sisters, the church, that is you and me, are the boat that ought to be willing to enter the rough seas of this world, to bring calm on a sea filled with rage and storms. We can’t sit back and cry for help when we are the help. We have been given all we need to do the work of Christ and we have the power to bring calm to the dangerous and rough seas of this world, if only we are willing to travel to the other side. As we too cry for help in this broken world, do you not hear Jesus saying to us, Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith? Amen.