Usually, I don’t start to write one of these blogs until I’m pretty sure how to end it. This post is different. So far. I’m going to ask for help.
I do know where I’m starting. I began to wonder about the story of Jesus and the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee. Jesus goes to sleep and a storm breaks out that nearly swamps the boat. We have two accounts of this episode.
Mark 4: 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?”
Luke 8: 22. One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out.
23. As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.
24. The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm.
25. “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.
How should the disciples have acted in that storm? How should I act in a storm to avoid being rebuked by Jesus? I‘ve been trying out different scenarios in my mind.
A few years ago a popular meme was the abbreviation WWJD? What Jesus was doing in this case was taking a nap. He was tired. I don’t think it’s helpful to complain about him sleeping on the job. He woke up when the disciples woke him and saved the day all right. Should the disciples have let Jesus sleep? He was tired. It was reasonable for him to grab the chance for a catnap out on the water away from the demands of the crowds.
Should the disciples have done what Jesus was doing? Was his example the right one to follow then? My wife, Melanie, likes to point out that Jesus had said they were going to the other side of the lake and, by God, that’s where they were going! What could there be to worry about? Should they all have just gone to sleep once they pushed off from shore?
I think about how that might have turned out. The boat finally bumps up on shore somewhere. They all stretch and wake up and look around.
“Thanks for letting me get some rest, boys,” Jesus says. “Where are we?”
No one knows. They were sleeping and left the boat to drift wherever the storm winds took them. I don’t think this improves things much over the original story. Instead of WWJD perhaps the acronym should be WDJTMTD — “What did Jesus tell me to do?” Jesus assigns jobs that differ from servant to servant, even at the same moment. He clearly expected these experienced fishermen-sailors to do the job of handling the boat while he slept.
Joining him in a nap is not the answer.
So, they all stay awake and do their job, hanging on for dear life when the storm comes up, but letting Jesus sleep. After all, he’s tired. And, somehow, they make it to the other side of the lake.
Jesus stretches and wakes up. “Thanks for letting me get some rest, boys,” Jesus says. “How was the trip?”
“A little rough,” they say, all of them looking like Jonah after the fish spit him up on the beach. “We weren’t sure we were going to make it. But Melanie thought for sure we were going to where you intended, and we knew you were tired, so we let you sleep.”
I can imagine Jesus staring at them. Maybe he is even without words at the moment. But I still don’t think this is an improvement on the original. It’s true, the Three Hebrew Children stayed calm while facing the fiery furnace.
Daniel 3:17. “If we are thrown into the blazing furnace, the God we serve is able to save us from it, and he will rescue us from your hand, O king.
18. But even if he does not, we want you to know, O king, that we will not serve your gods or worship the image of gold you have set up.”
But should the disciples have left Jesus to sleep just to avoid a scolding? Were they not justified to be afraid of the storm? Was the solution for them to do all they could, all they already knew to do, and take care of the problem by themselves without bothering Jesus? It seems clear this storm, this problem, was one that was exceeding their ability to deal with it. Their fears of drowning were justified. So what should they have done?
One friend I talked with said, “They should have prayed.” But in terms of the story we have, this would mean waking Jesus up and talking to him and that’s what got them the rebuke.
Maybe the problem lies with what they said when they woke him up. Suppose they said, “Lord, we know you are tired, but we’re in a situation where we need every available hand to help. We’ve gotten through storms like this before. We’ve got a routine prepared. Here’s what we need you to do….”
That might work. But who’s in charge in that scenario? The disciples, or Jesus? That is to say, God? I might try to argue, “Of course it’s really God Who is in charge! He’s the One Who taught us how to handle emergencies like this the last time…!”
But the thing about emergencies is one is hardly ever exactly like another. Do I really think last year’s successful battle plan will perfectly defeat this year’s enemies? Waking Jesus up so I can be in charge and tell him what to do does not seem like the answer. If I am going to wake him up, it ought to be because I need help, I need him to do what I cannot do alone. That means putting him in charge.
It is worth remembering how Blessed Mother Mary handled the problem at the wedding at Cana. She saw the problem. She recruited servants to help. And she put Jesus in charge. She didn’t try to second guess a solution for him.
John 2:5 His mother said to the servants, “Do whatever he tells you.”
Jesus never sought any credit or attention that day, but he solved the problem once he was put in charge.
Just as he solved the problem for the disciples once they woke him and put him in charge. So why did he rebuke them?? And how can I avoid a similar rebuke when I have an emergency and need his help?
Mark and Luke have slightly differing details of the moment. Mark has the more confrontive, accusative question from the disciples. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” In other words, “You’re not acting like we want God to act. We know how we think God should act. It would be in a way that makes sense to us and pleases us, giving us what we want right now! And you are failing to measure up! Either that or you don’t really care about us. Maybe you can’t really save us or help us. It sure doesn’t look like you can.”
I can see how an attitude like that, a heart full of acrimony and impatience, would earn a rebuke from Jesus. One would be justified and well earned. Note to self: at the next emergency, refrain from accusing God of not caring. Because, where else am I going to find help?
Luke reports a different appeal from the disciples. “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” This is more than an expression of fear, although it is that. The disciples are making a flat declaration of fact. It is a conclusion they have drawn from knowing how other sailors died in similar storms. This is the same situation, so they expect the same results.
But it is not the same situation for them. They have Jesus in their boat. That will make a difference for them. It is a difference they should have included in their calculations from the start. His question, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” comes because they have failed to remember he is there and that makes a difference.
Note to self: it doesn’t matter how anything looks as long as Jesus is in the boat with me.
If I can remember that, I should be able to avoid any rebukes by Jesus. Heck, I might even get a “Well done.” At least, that’s what I’m thinking is how to avoid the disciples’ mistake.
But what do you think?