In the traditional reckoning of Lent, Sundays are not counted as part of the forty days because each one is considered a sort of “mini-Easter” leading up to Easter itself on April 12. So instead of being Day 5 in Lent, this is the first of six Sunday “interludes.”It happens that I am writing this at a conference center north of Tampa, Florida. All day long we’ve been getting the tail end of the storms that swept across the South and now are marching up the East Coast. When I went for a walk this morning, the rain began falling so fast that I had to turn back.
That reminded me of our trip to the
Holy Land two years ago. During our boat ride on the Sea of Galilee, a
storm came up very quickly, as they often do in that part of the world.
The rain started hitting the boat, blown hard by the rising wind. As is
customary, the captain stopped the boat in the middle of the Sea of
Galilee so we could have a brief service. It seemed unlikely given the
bad weather. I told the folks that I had a one-point sermon based on
the story of Jesus calming the waves in Mark 4:35-41.
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"
As I read the text, an amazing thing happened that we all noticed. When I read “And a great windstorm arose,” the wind began to pick up and the waves rocked the boat. When I read, “And the wind ceased,” just like that, at that very moment, the wind died down, as if the Father in heaven said, “This is how it happened, just like that, just that quickly, two thousand years ago."
The key to understanding this story lies in one important question.
Whose idea was it to get in the boat in the first place?
Jesus told them to get into the boat, knowing that the storm was coming. He knew what was about to happen, he didn’t try to stop it, he got into the boat with them, he went to sleep, and at the right moment, he said, “Peace, be still!” and the winds died down and the storm disappeared.
Here is good news for today. The storms of life that buffet us do not happen by chance. Our Father sends them our way because he intends to teach us things we couldn’t learn any other way. When we read this story, we tend to focus on the miracle, but the real message comes in the last line. “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”
Take heart and do not despair. Christ is Lord over all the storms of life. He sends the storms and he rides the waves with you. The Master of the sea is by your side. When the time has come, he will say, “Peace, be still!” and the storm will run out of breath and the sea will become like glass. Eventually the day will break and the sun will shine again.
We thank you, Master of the Wind and Waves, that you
control the storms of life. Nothing can touch us without your
permission. Increase our faith so that we will trust you when the waves
threaten to overwhelm us. Amen.
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