Matthew 8:23-27 (NIVUK)
23 Then he got into the boat and his disciples followed him. 24 Suddenly a furious storm came up on the lake, so that the waves swept over the boat. But Jesus was sleeping. 25 The disciples went and woke him, saying, ‘Lord, save us! We’re going to drown!’
26 He replied, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid?’ Then he got up and rebuked the winds and the waves, and it was completely calm.
27 The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!’
I had to smile to myself the other day. I was looking through some old family photos and we stumbled across some of the children when they were little crashed out in the back of the car; two sweaty dribbling children totally relaxed and limp. They’d always deny that they ever fell asleep in the car and so on this occasion, a drive back from holiday, I took a snap as we pulled into the driveway to prove it.
Can you remember a time when you were so tired, so worn out, that you simply couldn’t keep your eyes open a moment longer even if you wanted to? This was how Jesus felt in this story. He’s just burst onto the public scene preaching the Sermon on the Mount, accompanied by a trip around the area healing people suffering from all sorts of illness and ailments. Wherever he goes now, he creates a stir. People know who he is and are talking about him. He can’t get a moment’s peace. Crowds gather constantly to be with him, to see what he’s going to do next and to hang on his every word.
In need of a break and he gets into a boat and whilst the disciples take him out onto the Sea of Galilee, the one place where the crowds can’t really throng, he gives in and falls deeply, soundly, asleep.
His sleep is so deep, so total, that he doesn’t notice when a furious storm blows up. The wind angrily tears into the boat and the waves toss it this way and that, threatening to toss it like a pancake and send him and all the crew into the devouring tumult of the tempestuous deep below.
Such storms on Galilee can come out of nowhere, they’re almost unpredictable, catching even experienced fishermen such as the disciples by surprise. Of course life can be like that too can’t it, all can be calm and easy, but then out of nowhere events throw up a storm that catch us unawares, maybe bad health or bad news, depression or simply a series of little things that throw us off balance. What makes it so hard to cope with is that it is out of our control, just as the storm in this passage.
It can seem at such times that in some way God is punishing us, or ignoring us. The disciples felt something of that in the boat on that day, there they were facing the storm and what was Jesus doing, he was sleeping! But maybe we can learn something from them. They didn’t give up or give up on God, they went to him and woke him up, ‘Lord save us, we’re going to drown!’ Prayer is a great antidote to the storms of life.
Opening his bleary eyes, Jesus responds, ‘You of little faith, why are you so afraid’ as he is brought to consciousness. He rises and rebukes the wind and the waves, and much to everyone’s astonishment, they stop. We might be unable to control the storms of life, but God can. Matthew writes ‘it was completely calm’.
I can think of times in my life when I have prayed prayers like this. Sometimes God responds and takes the storm away – as a Trustee of our denomination we have been facing a potentially financially disastrous situation, completely out of our control, but after much prayer, God has resolved it and replaced our panic with calm. Sometimes, however, he doesn’t take the storm away, but instead gives us a sense of calm and reassurance in the midst of the storm that gives us the courage and resolve to keep going. Either way, like the disciples here, I find myself saying, ‘What kind of man is this!’
Wormley Court Service Talk, 20.03.19
Posts labelled ‘From the Pastor’s Pen’ reflect our ministers’ views and not necessarily those of Wormley Free Church/The Countess of Huntingdon’s Connexion