Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.Genesis 1:2
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 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?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”Mark 4:35-41
After a long day discussing the kingdom of Heaven, it was time for Jesus to take his students on a field trip. Some lessons have to be lived to be learned.
They boarded their boat on the west side of the lake, setting sail from the Jewish region of Galilee. “Let’s go to the other side,” Jesus said.
That’s how our English Bibles translate it anyway. Jesus’ actual words were a bit more foreboding. “Let’s go beyond.”
Beyond where any other rabbi would dare take a group of good Jewish boys. They lowered their oars into the water and aimed the bow toward the Decapolis, a Roman settlement on the eastern side of the lake inhabited mostly by pagans rumored to be descendants of the seven nations God drove out of the promised land in the days of Joshua.
The sun was going down now, the waters growing darker beneath them. Jesus fell asleep at the back of the boat as it glided over the lake.
The disciples had grown up hearing the story of God creating by taming and twisting the formless and void waters of chaos into something good. They’d heard the tale of God’s beautiful Eden ruined by a cunning serpent who slithered from the waters to hiss the first-ever lies to Adam and Eve.
The disciples, like generations of Jews before them, associated water with disorder and evil. The Philistines, Israel’s nemesis, were a water faring race whose soldiers, like the giant Goliath, clad themselves in scaly armor to resemble their sea-serpent god, Dagon.
Now, a loud and violent storm suddenly rose up against the disciples. These stories and more played in their minds as wind and rain and waves tossed and nearly sank their little boat.
They woke their rabbi, who was somehow sleeping through all this! Jesus stood and scolded the wind and commanded to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”
And the chaos listened. Like the snake ordered to crawl on his belly forever. Like the Red Sea commanded to make way for Israel. Like the Jordan piling up in a heap as God’s children entered the Promised Land. Like Dagon’s statue falling facedown before the Ark of the Covenant. Like his mighty warrior stilled by just one of David’s smooth stones.
“Who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
The kingdom of Heaven comes when people submit to God’s reign and desire to obey him. Back on land, Jesus had taught his disciples that the kingdom would spread like a weed. Now, on the lake, Jesus showed them the power of his kingdom to not only rule over humanity but to also overpower the unseen forces of disorder and evil.
And the field trip had only just begun.
• What chaos is causing me to fear?
Our Father, our seas are churning.
Fill our tiny boat with the peace of Christ. And deliver us from the evil in us and around us that rises up against us.
Silence and still, LORD.