This story about Jesus is so well-known that we risk missing its message. We can easily jump to the message of “Do not fear” without taking seriously the gravity of the situation the disciples found themselves in. Jesus and the disciples were in a massive storm, a storm that could kill. In Scripture, and in ancient literature in general, seas and storms were powerful symbols that represented chaos, unpredictability and disorder, the kind that can destroy us. It is a metaphor for the human situation. Scripture teaches that though the world is good and glorious, and still bears the shining imprints of its loving Creator, at the same time the world is shattered by evil and is a very dangerous place for humans to live.
This is important to acknowledge because the typical way for humans to console each other in the face of fear is to downplay the potential threat. We convince each other that something will probably never happen, there is such a small chance of a disaster occurring, etc. Certainly that is true in some cases. But the typical way for the Bible to approach our fear is not by downplaying the threat, but by acknowledging the reality of the danger and yet turning our eyes to God who is bigger than the threat. In other words, Scripture does not command us not to fear because our fears are unfounded, but because we have Someone in the boat who is bigger than the fear.
This Sunday we’ll dive into this powerful story to see how Mark identifies Jesus as that Someone who is bigger than our fears. We’ll look at practical ways we can manage our fears in everyday life, learning to exercise our faith muscles to see what our fear often blinds us from seeing. And we’ll imagine what we could do together if we were a community that was free of our fears.
In preparation for worship, read Psalm 46 meditatively and consider how the Psalmist exhorted his readers to deal with their fears.
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35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”