There’s an old joke – “what do you call someone who speaks two languages: Bilingual. What do you call someone who speaks three languages: Tri-lingual. What do you call someone who speaks one language: American”
But I would tend to differ. Most of us Americans also speak a second language known as sarcasm. Sarcasm can certainly be used to sinful ends, in a verbal cut-down of someone when kindness would be better. But the Lord himself seems to employ a sarcastic line of rhetorical questions as he answers Job’s complaints.
Who is this that darkens counsel with words but not understanding? Job, you don’t know what you’re even talking about.
Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Uh, nowhere. Your oldest ancestor wasn’t even formed from the dust yet.
Who made the earth and the sea and the stars? Me, not you. Who knows how it happened? Me, not you. Who set the limits on even the seas, shut it in its doors, and told it how far it can come and no farther? Me, not you, nor anyone else.
Or in other words, “Who do you think you are? And did you forget who I am?”
Like Job, we forget ourselves, and we forget just who we are dealing with when it comes to the Lord. The disciples were the same. And we see it in the Gospel reading, as Jesus calms the storm.
It all started out peaceful and calm enough, just another day at the office you might say. Jesus was preaching and then they got in the boat to go back to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. There’s no conversation or fanfare. Jesus says, “let’s go” and so they do. Mark even says they took him in the boat, “just as he was”. There was no indication anything strange was about to happen. In fact it was so normal and relaxed, that Jesus himself found time for a nap, on a cushion, in the stern of the boat. The calm before the storm, we might say.
But suddenly the wind and waves kicked up with a sudden storm. It must have been a doozie.
When I was in Israel in 2007, we took the tourist boat ride on the sea of Galilee. It was rather pleasant. In fact it even started to rain. But the light sprinkling we got was nothing like that day Mark writes about. He says a “furious squall” or a “great windstorm” came up, and the boat was already filling with water. These seasoned fishermen must not have seen too many storms like this. It quickly threatened to sink their boat and drown them all in short order. They were afraid.
But Jesus slept. With all of the commotion, wind, wave, and surely shouting disciples, Jesus slept. He appeared not to notice, not to care, while the storm raged about them.
And while this is a true story, it serves a such an apt picture of the troubles in our lives. We can relate to those disciples, who feared in the face of the storm. Though, it's not mostly weather that makes us quake and tremble, but it's the “storms of life”. The troubles and conflicts, the worries and woes that we face on life's sea.
Some of these we bring upon ourselves, by our own sin. Some are brought on by others, members of the sinful world around us. Some may even come from the Devil and his forces. These spiritual enemies are constantly trying to sink our boat of faith.
Sometimes the storm happens, and it's just a storm. A freak of the broken nature we live in. A disease, an accident, a job loss – the unpleasant things that happen to you for seemingly no reason whatsoever. These too are a result of sin, and living in this fallen world we are sure to see our share of them.
And it's not just individuals that face the storms. Sometimes a congregation charts a course through rough waters. Sin's effects are sometimes pervasive – affecting the body as well as individual members. We may struggle with conflict and disagreement, confusion and worry.
The disciples, in their fearful panic at the storm – asked a question. And we might give them mixed marks for their question.
On the one hand, we can say, with Jesus, that they should have had more faith. If they truly knew and believed in Jesus, they would not have worried, even in the face of the storm. Even with the prospect that the boat would take on water and sink to the depths. Even if they all should drown, Jesus was the Christ, the Son of God. He came to save them, and he would. He cared for them – deeper than they could ever know. “Don't you care?” they asked him. Of course he cared, and of course he still does.
Do you forget who you are dealing with here? This is Jesus, the Son of God. This is Jesus, who casts out demons by a word. This is Jesus, who feeds large crowds with a few fish and loaves. This is Jesus, who heals every disease, and forgives every sin. This is Jesus, who as the living Word of God – the one by whom all things were made - laid the very foundations of the earth, set boundaries for the sea, stretched out the heavens and even set the stars in place.
When we see the storm coming, we are just as quick to forget. When we see the wind and wave around us, we struggle with faith the same. Do we trust Jesus to be the Christ? Do we trust him to save us? That in the end it all works out to his glory? That in all things he works for the good of those who love him? Could Jesus ask us all, “have you still no faith?”
On the other hand, the disciples were right in this: They knew where to go for help. They knew that Jesus could do something. Even if they didn't quite believe that he would. They called on him, (could we say, they prayed to him?) and asked his help. And he delivered.
So too is it good for us to call on Christ in every trouble. So often we think we can solve our own troubles, or we despair when we think we can't. But we forget that Christ is right here with us. And if it seems he slumbers, perhaps he's waiting for us to finally turn to him. To repent of our own way and rely on him and his way.
And notice how he does it. He doesn't wave a magic wand. He doesn't bail out the water with his own bucket. He simply speaks. It's the word. That's where he shows his power, even today.
The same Christ, Son of God whose word holds the power to hush the furious storm is the same Christ whose word holds the power today.
The Word that rebukes wind and wave, is a word of rebuke for us. It is the same word that condemns and terrifies us for our sins, commands and corrects us to do better. The same word that calls us to repentance, and by which we call each other to turn from sin and receive that other word – the Gospel.
The Word that bids the storm to cease is the same word of quiet and peace for us. That all who bring our sins to Jesus find a calm in the storms of life – be they storms of our own making or not. In all of it he says, “Be still. Be still and know that I am God.”
Some may have thought Jesus was too passive in submitting to death, even death on a cross. Some may have thought God had abandoned him (and in a way he did). Some may have seen Good Friday unfold and said, “Jesus, don’t you care! We are perishing! YOU are perishing! Do something!” And what he does, is die. He takes his rest, this time, not in the bow of a bot, but in a borrowed tomb. All as the disciples freaked out, scattered, and wailed in grief and fear. Jesus calmly did what needed to be done. And then when the time was right he showed his mighty power – even over death. Why would you doubt him? Why are you so afraid?
If he has the power to calm the storm, if he has power to overcome even death, he certainly has the power to calm my troubled heart, my conflicted home, my distressed congregation. To forgive sins and rescue from death and hell. We have only to turn to him, and hear his word. Don’t forget who you’re dealing with here, or rather who’s dealing with and caring for you. This is Jesus. He’s got this.