~by Pastor Mike Middaugh
This post is part of a series on the miracles of Jesus. Each week I will look at one miracle performed by Jesus to explore its meaning and significance. I’ll be using several resources to help me out, including an excellent new book by Pastor Jared C. Wilson titled “The Wonder Working God,” published by Crossway.
One of the scariest experiences of my life was finding myself in the middle of a high-mountain lake in Glacier National Park as a storm blew in over the mountains. I was 14 years old and in a boat with my little brother. My other brother, the youngest, was in a flat-bottomed boat with mom and dad, but Christopher and I were in a canoe. I have never seen a storm come in so fast, even to this day. One moment we were floating and fishing in the sun, the next the sky was darkening, waves were rising, and the wind was whipping across the lake. We thought we would be overtaken.
It is in moments like that when we find ourselves crying out to God for help.
On calmer days we are quite good at convincing ourselves that we are in charge – that the decisions we make and the actions we take will control the outcomes of our lives. But then, on darker days, there are events and circumstances that so consume and overpower us that we realize we have completely lost control.
Having spent some time of the water I know the power of a storm and the chaos that ensues. Nothing has the ability to remind us of our own mortality and insufficiency quite like the forces of nature. It is understandable then, when considered this way, how Jesus’ disciples responded as a storm overtook their own boat upon the sea. Experienced fishermen and sailors they were, but this was no small storm. “The waves were breaking into the boat, so that it was already filling.” You may recognize this week’s miracle, which is commonly titled Jesus Calms the Storm and found in Mark 4:35-41.
As the waves pounded, the disciples cried out “Rabbi, do you not care that we are perishing?” Their statement suggests the end is near, that they have no hope of regaining control. Since nothing else has worked that day, they wake their Lord and demand to know, “where are you, why are you sleeping, don’t you care about our lives?”
To their shouts Jesus arises, he speaks quickly and calms the sea. The wind, the waves, the clouds and the even the boat respond to his words. “Peace! Be Still!” And why should this be surprising, for Jesus created these in the first place.
There are many meaningful things we can draw from this story:
Jesus is Lord of the wind and the waves, all of creation answers to him.
Jesus is always in control, even when he is asleep, even when he is surrounded by murmuring critics, even when he is later arrested, the gospels show us that Jesus is never not in control.
And a more subtle, often overlooked aspect of the story shows the paradox of this man. He is God and controls all creation, and yet where is he when the storm comes up, but sleeping in the stern. Full of power and authority he still needed sleep. He humbled, giving up some of his divinity, in order to to become a man.
Yet the greatest truth of this miracle story, I believe, is found at the very end. Two times in this story do the disciples experience “great fear.” The first, of course, is at the hand of the wind, but the second is far more revealing. Even after the storm is calmed they look at their Lord and are struck by a revelation – since he could calm the storm that must also mean he allowed it. The storm that nearly killed them was permitted by their God.
This part of the story reveals a much more complex aspect of our faith. Jesus invites his disciples into a genuine, self-forgetful, self-abandoning type of faith. A faith that says, “I may not understand you and yet trust in you I will.” Or, as in the words of Job “though He slay me, I will hope in Him.”
This new aspect of their Lord, caught them off guard, and I expect they hadn’t realized what they signed up for. Their fear is the result of an internal wrestling match – in their minds they want a God they can control, who will solve their every worldly problem, but in their hearts they are realizing the God they need, and the God standing in front of them will not be summoned or ordered around, but that is in fact even better, because that means he is truly GOD. And as they find out through being with him, he is also good.
Thinking back now to my own encounter with wind, waves, and deep water, that day on the high-mountain lake turned out OK for everyone in my family. There was some intense paddling, and even a failed rescue attempt by a large boat with a motor, but we managed to stay afloat and eventually the wind pushed us to the shore. My prayers were answered just the way I wanted on that day.
However, I also know there will be other days when I won’t understand the outcomes. There will be times when it may seem to me like God is distant, and I may not understand why he allows certain storm clouds to billow into my life. But through it all, this story about Jesus from Mark chapter 4 reminds us that even when it seems like we are perishing and all is lost, our God is not asleep in the heavens. He has not checked out for the day. In fact, he is in the boat. He was always there right there, and in control the entire time.