It was a day to remember, as most days with Jesus were. It was one of those times when they got into the boat to go across to the other side. It was a particular day – on that day. It was a particular time – when evening came. It was a moment to get away from everything else. They took Jesus because they all wanted some peace, and they took him just as he was. There was no planning, no preparation, no packing – just into the boat and off.
That way they must have escaped a lot of folk, but they weren’t on their own, as other boats were with him. There was no complete escape, such was the impact that Jesus was making. There are clearly a lot less people around now, and they are in accompanying boats, but Jesus and the disciples are not on their own. It is interesting to reflect on who was able to come and who was not. Was it a question of wealth – or of who you knew. It certainly had something to do with having a boat or, at least, managing to gain access to one.
But it may well have turned out that all the participants in this little flotilla wished they had stayed at home – because the next thing is that a storm blew up. Storms were not uncommon on the lake and you would imagine that the fishermen amongst them would be used to that. However, this seems to have been a big storm. We are told of a great gale. Even the experienced fishermen were scared. Indeed, the only person who seems untouched by the storm is Jesus. He was asleep. It is good to be calm in the storm!
However, the disciples woke Jesus up. Whether they needed every pair of hands to bail out the boat, whether they he should not drown without waking up, or whether they thought he could “do” something is not really clear. But they felt that they needed to call on him – as we might feel we need to call on God. When they did, Jesus certainly did something. He calmed the storm. From a great gale things changed to a dead calm. There are no half measures on Jesus’ part here. The storm is gone. In no time at all they experience opposite extremes of weather. Unsurprisingly they are filled with awe – as we should be: for this is our God.
It was January 1992. I was in a small boat in Panama, sailing from Bocas del Toro to San Cristobal in order to lead worship at San Cristobal Methodist Church. It was calm when we left, though the boatman clearly was not sure that it was going to stay that way. It didn’t. The storm blew up. The boat was quite literally tossed out of the water as it rode the huge waves. I don’t remember being scared. I certainly did wonder how long it would be before I came through the experience. But we did and sailing back, after the service, across a now calm sea was very different.
Putting those two things together, I can imagine myself on the fringe of the disciples, getting into the boat with Jesus and Peter and Andrew, and the rest of them. We were all tired. It had been a long day. We just wanted to get away from the crowds, and the rest of us left the boat to Peter, Andrew, James and John. It was a bit annoying that there were a few other boats following us, but at least there was a momentary respite, and we were getting away from most of the crowd.
It was good to go off with Jesus. Would he have something special to say to us? We needed to wait and see, but it felt exciting. That was at the beginning of the trip. We did not expect a storm, certainly not one like the one in which we found ourselves. The excitement was quickly replaced by fear. Were we going to survive? It seemed unlikely.
Then I noticed that Jesus was asleep. How could he sleep through this? Why wasn’t he doing his bit? We were scared. Of course, he was tired – but so was everybody. Somebody woke Jesus up. But, instead of joining in the bailing out operation, he told the storm to stop, to be still. It seems ridiculous. It did at the time, and it still does – but it worked. The storm ceased – no wind, no waves. Amazement – awe – wonder.
I guess the other boats had wished they had never set sail with us, but then were more than glad to have done so. They would not have missed this for anything. Of course, we all now had to row to get to the other side, but that is better than risking your life in a storm.
We were all asking the same question: who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?