The story of Jesus calming the stormy sea is a favorite children’s Bible lesson and one I have taught on numerous occasions, as testified by the rippled and bubbly page in my Bible – the effects of so many water droplets sprayed over it throughout the years. Whenever my hands encounter this bumpy surface among the otherwise smooth pages, I’m transported to memories of a roomful of excited children squeezed into a large cardboard boat. Oh, the joys of Vacation Bible School!
Although this account in Mark 4:36-41 is one with which I am very familiar, I have somehow managed to give little thought to a very short statement contained within these verses: Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was… (v. 36, emphasis mine)
The disciples took Jesus just as He was, only to find that “as He was” was not necessarily as they had hoped He would be. When the winds began to howl, gathering the waves of the sea and crashing them against the rapidly-filling boat, these seasoned fisherman found themselves terrified in the face of a storm.
But He (Jesus) was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’
Contrary to the disciples’ assumptions, Jesus was not unaware of the storm; He was just more fully aware of God’s power over it. While His physical body may have required sleep, His spirit was still attuned to God, and by all appearances, completely at rest in Him, too. Not so with the disciples.
How easily I can relate. When all I see and hear and feel are the effects of the storm, it’s hard to take Jesus as He is.
It’s hard to come to terms with a Savior who sleeps during tempests. It’s hard not to question the depths of His care for me when He appears so unconcerned. “For crying out loud, I am perishing here, Lord! Don’t You care? How is it that You remain so oblivious to my crisis?”
Funny how we so readily take Jesus just as He is — until the boat begins to rock. Until our circumstances take an abrupt turn for the worse. Then suddenly we find ourselves fearful. Suddenly we find we are no longer able to stand by and trust the way Jesus is responding or seemingly not responding to our needs.
The disciples were content to take Jesus sleeping peacefully in the stern of the boat — until their own capabilities proved incapable of handling the situation. Isn’t it amazing how we can move to the point where we believe we are the ones keeping our own boats afloat? During the calms, we become self-reliant, content to let Jesus sleep while we turn our backs toward Him and handle life on our own. Until our boats begin to rock precariously. Until the floods of life start dumping upon us, threatening to destroy all we hold dear.
Then we join our voices with that of the disciples in crying out, “Lord, do You not care?”
Do You “not care”?
The absolute absurdity of that statement encompasses just how completely the disciples had been overpowered by their fears. Why not scream, “Lord, save us!”, “Help!”, “Stop this storm!”, etc.?
But instead, they awoke Him with a question. And not just any question, but an accusatory one: Teacher, do You not care…?
And that is the crux of our struggle. It’s not so much our lack in believing God is capable of calming the storm. It’s the question of whether or not He truly cares for us.
Think of all the disciples had experienced with Jesus — He had cast out demons, astonished scribes and pharisees with His authority to teach God’s Word, healed multitudes of people, stretched out His hands to touch unclean lepers, raised a paralytic to his feet, dined with tax collectors and sinners, fulfilled the laws of God with love, and shared the Kingdom of heaven as He moved with compassion among the people… Yet they still asked, Do You not care…?
All too often, we find ourselves in the same boat with the disciples. No longer willing to take Jesus as He is, we call into question all we have known and experienced of Him in the past. Capitulated to our fears, we threaten to release the truth in the face of our present circumstances when we would do well to simply climb into the stern with our Savior and lay our head against His breast.
If you are facing a present storm, I encourage you to remember the One who is in the stern of your boat. More importantly, remember that You have given Him entrance into your life just as He is. So instead of panicking at the sign of your rapidly-filling boat, grab a pillow and head to the back where Jesus is calmly in control. Then lay your head to rest against the One whose very word controls the heartbeat of the universe as you snuggle into His presence until this disaster has passed.
Fear not, dear one. He cares for you.