If you’ve attended college, you know the kind of dream I’m talking about. It goes something like this: You’re a student again on a campus that looks totally unfamiliar, and you’re running to get to an exam that started five minutes ago and that you just remembered you forgot to study for. Sorry! Looks like you’re not going to graduate.
This week's texts tell the story of deliverance from our many troubles.
They deliver us from the oppression of self-consciousness. They deliver
us from that sinking feeling, that sense that the boat is going down and
that we are beyond the reach of peace. Jesus all but scoffs at fear and
faithlessness: "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"
I struggle to make peace with Jesus ordering the sea into peace. If we were to stumble across a time traveler’s videotape and find that it all happened just as Mark reports, I’d still be troubled. Because this isn’t the way the world works. People don’t go around saying, “Peace! Be still!” to the wind and the waves, and find that the wind and the waves obey. And I don’t like the “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” business. Of course Jesus’ disciples are afraid!
It must have been the mother of all squalls. Some of the disciples were seasoned fishermen, skilled in the art of navigating dangerous waters. But this was a red alert. They were going to perish—and the one person who might turn the situation around was sleeping peacefully in the boat’s place of honor, the stern. They woke Jesus up with a strident “Don’t you care, Teacher?” But he did not respond to their lack of faith. Instead he responded to the peace within himself, and produced a calm that impacted nature as well as the frightened disciples.
In considering Mark’s story of Jesus’s stilling the storm and rebuking the wind, the Book of Job is helpful. It reminds us that in the Old Testament creation is described in part as a great struggle between God and the sea. In fact, the sea is presented as a monster that only God’s ineffable power can tame.