Job 38:1,8-11; 2 Corinthians 5:14-17; Mark 4:35-41
Jesus came to lead his followers to his Father’s Kingdom. His concern was to make them spiritual men and to ground their spirituality in the truth.
Already we must pause and take note that many people claim to be spiritual, even deeply spiritual, but their spirituality has been somehow ambushed by false teaching, human teaching, and actually leads nowhere. I recall a woman who asked me to attend her sick husband who, she claimed, was deeply spiritual. It turned out he studied at some length the Star Signs column that appeared in the daily paper. It all seemed to begin and end there.
Jesus’ mission was to bring mankind to the fullness of truth; no easy task.
To open the eyes of a man born blind was far easier than opening the stubborn or obtuse eyes of those among whom he walked. It seems that he failed with some, but his genuine followers soon began to learn that the Kingdom of God was among them. And so, as they accompanied their Master from village to village, heard his instruction and witnessed his actions, they began to see that he was the Teacher of the Truth they longed to learn. They opened their hearts and minds to him and learned to trust him, though not without doing violence to their own preconceptions.
Jesus always seemed to be catching them by surprise. It was as if, in their walk with him along the familiar pathways of their world, he would, every now and then, and unexpectedly, nudge them off the track into the rough terrain of the unknown. In this respect Jesus would have been a most disconcerting companion to travel with. Just when everything is going so well he says: Let us cross over to the other side. Oh dear! What’s he up to now? Couldn’t he have waited till morning? Doesn’t he see there is a storm brewing?
Jesus’ whole aim was to show them who he was and that he had been sent to bring them to God. When he fed the five thousand with five loaves and two fish, when he walked on the water, when he healed the cripple with a word or the haemorrhaging woman simply by allowing her to touch him, he was showing himself to be the Lord, the one God, walking in their midst as a man.
If the Apostles were slow to catch on we should be grateful for the mirror they hold up to us. We cling to the material world whose comforting solidity directly under our feet seems far more real than the promises of the Spirit. What is the eternal measured against the here and now? What is faith in God compared to these gigantic waves breaking into the tiny boat? Are these waves the truth, or is it the sleeping Jesus in the stern?
So Jesus rebukes the waves and then he rebukes his anxious disciples. Quiet now! Be calm! The command could be equally applied to his companions in the boat but Jesus speaks it to the turbulent sea.
To his Apostles he asks a question which should resonate in each one of us present here today because it is actually addressed to each one of us: Why are you so frightened?
The Apostles might have answered, ‘Well, Lord, you saw the size of the waves and you saw the size of the boat and you know we were on the point of sinking.’ And Jesus might have said ‘Yes, I did. So why are you so frightened?’
When the promises of Jesus meet the concrete circumstances of the world we live in we all need to make this choice – where is our true safety? Where is our true life?
I spoke to a woman once who was about to have an abortion. She told me there was nothing wrong with the baby but she was afraid because the doctors had told her there was a serious risk she and the child might die if she proceeded. I could almost see the gigantic waves pounding her little boat. What would the Lord have said? Most certainly he would have asked: Why are you so frightened?
Jesus plainly said: For anyone who wants to save his life will lose it; but anyone who loses his life for my sake will find it (Mtt 6:25). This is not just a nice thing to say, it is the truth, the truth which we are all called to live.
The martyrs for the faith were warned not of the risks, but of what would most certainly happen; they would be shot, beheaded, hanged, crucified, eaten by animals, and so on. They joyfully made their choice and were not frightened by suffering or death. They put their trust in Jesus.
Jesus asks his student Apostles: How is it that you have no faith? He had nudged them off the path into new territory and had discovered their faith was not sufficient. This is a discovery we all make from time to time and we should not be ashamed if the experience leads to a deepening of trust.
They were filled with awe and said to one another, ‘Who can this be? Even the wind and the sea obey him.’ One thing is for sure, the Apostles, and hopefully we, have learned that where the Lord is, there is nothing to be afraid of.