God is God, and we are not God, and that’s good. We make terrible gods. Jesus is God in human flesh, and that’s the best of all. The Word became Flesh. The Son of God is also the Son of Man, and humanity never had it so good as when the Lord of creation became His foremost creature.
It was Jesus’ idea to go across the Sea of Galilee that evening. He knew the ways of the wind and the waves and the weather. He’s the Lord of creation, after all. Still He says, “Let’s go over to the other side.” He puts the disciples in a vulnerable position, a dangerous place where they would have to trust in Him. The disciple agree. They put Jesus atop a cushion in the back where He won’t get in the way of the fishermen, and set out across the sea.
The Sea of Galilee is tricky. Cool air from the Mediterranean whips through the mountains and mixes with the warm, humid air hanging over the lake. Storms can be sudden and swift. An evening squall breaks out. The wind whips and the waves break over the sides of the little boat. From the perspective of dry land, we might wonder what the big deal was. But this is a small boat on a big lake with a very big wind. Even the fishermen were anxious. They knew all about the sea; they’d had their share of near misses. Perhaps they had friends buried at the bottom of the sea.
It’s easy to trust Jesus when the water is calm, isn’t it? When all is right and well with your life. No winds, no waves, no water coming into your boat. Just a nice leisurely sail with Jesus. More of a cruise, actually. “Jesus, Savior pilot me,” means “Jesus, put wind in my sails so I can take in the scenery, do a little fishing. Jesus and me out on the water. What a great time that would be.
But here’s the deal. The wind the blowing, the waves are washing over the sides of the little boat, which is taking in water faster than the Titanic, and Jesus is sound asleep on the cushion in the back of the boat. The disciples wake Him up! All hands on deck. We’re going down if you don’t do something, Jesus. Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?
Don’t you care? Of course He cares. He came because we are perishing in our sin, drowning in our death, with a heavy millstone of the Law tied around our necks, pulling us into the deep. He cares all the way to the cross, where He slept in death, bearing our sins. Make no mistake about it, Jesus cares. Compared to His caring on the cross, a little old sinking boat is nothing. Child’s play for the Lord of creation. He can stop the storm with a one-word rebuke from His mouth. He’s the one who separated the waters above from the waters below, who ordered the sea and the dry land, who said to the waves, “This far and no further.” He could calm the storm in His sleep with one hand tied around His back, if He wills. Or not.
Don’t you care? It’s an indictment of motive. If Jesus cared, He do something. If Jesus cared He wouldn’t be asleep in a time of crisis. You’ve probably said, or thought, the same thing when life got a bit “overwhelming.” At least the disciples could see sleeping Jesus, and grab hold of Him to wake Him up. He isn’t quite so shakeable for us, is He?
Perhaps we’ve said it in our prayers or held it in our hearts. Why should He care for you, for me? Who are we? What does He owe us? We want Jesus to fix it, to make the bad, boogy men go away. Remember the boogy man when you were kids? We adults still have them, we just don’t call them that. Cancer, heart disease, death, the grave. Oh, the boogy men are as real as those waves washing over the boat. When the doctor says, “I’m sorry, there’s nothing more we can do,” then we’d like to give Jesus a shake on His throne in heaven. Lord, don’t you care that we perish?
He cares. He cares enough to lay down His life to save us. To die on a cross and rise from the dead. Think about it. You can afford to. You’re not in a sinking ship at the moment. If all Jesus had ever done was die on a cross and rise from the dead, that would have been enough to save those disciples on that little boat. Oh sure, the boat would have gone down, but Jesus would have gone down with them. And that makes all the difference in the world. When your boat goes down, He goes down with you.
It takes faith to say that, to trust that a sleeping Jesus can save you. He opens a sleepy eye and looks around at the wind, the waves, the water, the soggy, frightened disciples. And He says, “Shhhh. Be quiet,” the way you might speak to a barking dog. “Be still.” That’s all it takes. One little word, and the chaotic waters are calm, the storm is still. Mark says, “there was a great calm.” Peace. Silence.
Jesus looks His disciples in the eye. “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you trust me?” He’s asking us the same thing this morning. Why are you so afraid? Why do you live small and fearful lives? Why do you act as though a sleeping Jesus were a useless Jesus, or an invisible Jesus was an absent Jesus? If Jesus singlehandedly conquered sin, death, and the Law by dying on the cross, don’t you think He has everything else covered as well?
There was a remarkable sentence in this morning’s epistle reading. Ordinarily, in the Pentecost season, the epistle reading is running on its own. We’ve been marching through 2 Corinthians. Whether by design or accident or “holy luck, “ here it is: “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was in Christ reconciling the world (the cosmos) to Himself, not counting men’s sins against them.”
Reconciliation. Making peace. Stilling the storm. Calming the chaos. Setting things in order. That’s what God is doing through His Son. Making things new. A new creation. Creation began with chaotic waters, and here the Lord of creation in the flesh, Jesus, sets everything in order again. He reconciles wind and waves and water and boat and disciples and they are safe because they are with Jesus.
Jesus draws their fear to Himself. They once were afraid of the power of nature, of the sea and the storm. Now their fear is directed toward Him. “They feared a great fear,” Mark says, “and asked each other, ‘Who is this? Who is this that even the wind and sea obey Him?”
You know the answer. He is the Lord, the eternal Son of God, the Christ, the Messiah of Israel, the creative Word, the Savior of the cosmos. No one else can rebuke the storm. No one else can speak to wind and waves and have them obey. There’s only One like this, and He happens to be the One in whom you are baptized, in whom you believe.
He wants your fear. “We should fear, love, and trust in God above all things.” What causes your heart to race; what keeps you up at night. He wants that fear. Don’t fear the wind, the storm, the tumor, the bullet, the burst blood vessel, the grave. Don’t fear what can only destroy the body, but cannot harm the soul. Fear God. Fear the Son of God, for He will swallow up your fear. Who is greater than the Lord?
This miracle is an exceptional image, a piece of hard evidence, but it is not the rule. There are plenty of ships that go down into the deep. Some of them with Christians aboard. Airplanes fall from the sky. Tidal waves sweep across crowded beaches without warning. Hurricanes wipe out cities. Earthquakes turn solid rock to liquid. Wildfires roar through canyon communities. Bombs explode in crowded places. A chromosome has a tiny, devastating nick in it. A cell turns into a cancerous monster. Where is Jesus when all this happens? Is He asleep at the wheel? Does He care?
The answer is: He is there in the middle of all of it. Reconciling all things. Making all things new. Working salvation, making good. To see that and say that calls for repentance on our part, just as it called for repentance on the part of the disciples. A change of mind. A new way of looking at things. A turning from fear to faith. The same Word that stills the storm is the Word that forgives your sin and justifies you before God. You are safe, dear baptized believer. Safer than you could ever imagine. Safe in life and in death, when the winds and waves die down and when they don’t.
Imagine that you are out there on that stormy sea in the darkness. The wind howls, the waves wash over the side of the boat. You grab on to Jesus and say, “Lord, save us. We’re going to die.” But instead of rebuking the wind and waves, Jesus simply wraps those crucified and risen arms of His around you and says nothing more than this, “Don’t be afraid. It’s finished. You’re baptized into my death. You’re safe. Just trust me.”
That’s all you need to hear.
In the name of Jesus,