35When evening had come, [Jesus said to the disciples,] “Let us go across to the other side.” 36And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
In late August of 2005, Hurricane Katrina was a large Category 5 hurricane – a very large and powerful hurricane that caused enormous destruction and significant loss of life. Katrina is one of the five deadliest hurricanes to hit the United States.
It was responsible for over 1800 deaths and about 161 billion dollars in damage. The damage and loss of life inflicted by this massive hurricane in Louisiana and Mississippi was staggering with significant effect extending into Alabama and the western Florida panhandle.
This was a storm that captivated the public and media with most coverage occurring in the New Orleans area. Considering the scope of its impacts, Katrina was one of the devastating natural disaster in the United States history.
Part of its devastation comes from the already strained levee system that continued to give way to the flooding waters. The remaining residents of New Orleans were faced with a city, that by August 30thwas 80 percent underwater. With no relief in sight and in the absence of any organized effort to restore order, some neighborhoods experienced substantial amounts of looting, and helicopters were used to rescue many people from rooftops.
By September 1st, an estimated of 55,000 people were seeking shelter. Shortages of food and portable water quickly became an issue, and daily temperatures reached 90 degrees. An absence of basic sanitation combined with the omnipresent bacteria-rich floodwaters created a public health emergency.
Pictures, videos, and images demonstrate the devastation.
I can only imagine the fear of those who were in that storm and unable to evacuate – those who had lost their home, their loved ones, and everything they owned.
Imagine then being on a small fishing boat when suddenly a storm begins, the wind blowing and rocking the boat, and the waves so large they begin to file the boat…
This was the case in our story today.
But before the disciples get on the boat to travel to the other side, Jesus had chosen these twelve men – his twelve disciples, in which four of them were professional fishermen.
Immediately after Jesus chooses his disciples, they began a preaching tour in Galilee and Jesus was healing many who came to him.
This was freaking some people out, especially those who were already threatened by his authority.
It wasn’t too long before he was being accused of being possessed by Beelzebul – demons – and saying that he was crazy and that he really had lost his sanity.
I’ve even have wondered about this myself – that if I saw a man in the streets supposedly healing folks – would I be really sure what to think…
But Jesus confronts them and gives them a warning…He warns them that to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit was a sin that would not be forgiven. That in itself might would scare me enough to listen to what he had to say.
And, with all of this is going on… who shows up but his mom, brothers and sisters who come to try and rescue Jesus from the accusations that were being made against him and take him home.
But Jesus refuses to go home with them and explains that those who were sitting around him – those who believe in Him,…those who want to hear the Word of God…they were the ones that were his family.
Jesus leaves and begins to go teach and preach by the lake and he uses the boat as his pulpit so all can see him and hear him. Jesus talks to the people in parables.
One parable was about sowing seeds – The farmer sows the Word of God and people are like the seeds. Some hear the Word but Satan comes along and snatches it away; others are like seeds on rocky ground – when they hear the Word of God, they immediately receive it with joy. But they have no root and when trouble comes, they fall away from God. Their faith is not strong enough to trust in God to get them through the chaos in their lives.
Some seeds are sown among the thorns. They hear the word, but the things of this life choke the Word and make it unfruitful.
However, if the seed is sown on good soil, they will hear the Word, accept it, and produce a crop.
Jesus told other parables about sowing seeds and the Mustard Seed. Jesus explains that we cannot know how the seed grows, only God knows…Jesus wants the disciples to think about and understand these parables and so He explains everything to them in private.
These disciples have been given inside information! They are told, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God!”
It is the same day…And, now evening has come – and Jesus told the disciples, “Let’s get in the boat and head to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Most of the crowds were left behind, but those who had boats, went along with them.
But, it is important to know that when Jesus told them, “Let’s go to the other side,” it is like Jesus is really saying, “We are going to the other side of the railroad tracks.”
The “other side” of the Sea of Galilee is not a place where Jews would want to go. The other side of the Sea of Galilee is Gentile territory – the place of the Geresenes. It was considered a dangerous and inappropriate destination for the Jews.
So, I’m wondering if the disciples were already nervous about traveling to the “other side.”
However, we know that Jesus isn’t nervous at all. He goes to the back of the boat and finds a cushion to lay on and falls asleep.
I mean, after all…he’s in good hands. There are four professional fishermen on the boat. They know what they are doing!
And, then a storm appears out of nowhere.
I’ve experienced this before myself. We used to live on the Currituck Sound near the outer banks in North Carolina. We had a canoe and sometimes the kids and I would go out on the water. It would be a beautiful calm day, when suddenly the clouds would get dark, and the wind would pick up and start blowing hard – the waves would swelter and begin to hit the side of the boat and we would get scared. It would often that it would be difficult to get back to shore because the wind and the waves would be fighting against us.
So, I imagine it to be like that for that evening…and especially for them – they didn’t have weather people to tell them the forecast.
We know the storm becomes severe because the waves are hitting the side of the boat and begins to fill up with water. Not even the four experienced disciples seem to know what to do.
And yet, still Jesus is still sleeping…
And the disciples go to wake him up. When Jesus finally wakes up, they say to him, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
Do you not care, Jesus – that we about to die in this storm?
Jesus then rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace, Be still.”
And there was a dead calm.
Imagine Jesus’ frustration with the disciples…It was that same day that Jesus had taken his disciples in private and explained everything to them about the parables –
You hear the Word of God, but your faith is like a seed planted on rocky soil – When trouble arrives, you fall away – Where is your faith? Why are you afraid?
This event becomes a moment of clarity despite the chaos of the storm –
clarity as to Jesus’ true identity and power –
Clarity as to the desperate need of the disciples – and us – for the calming healing power that only Jesus can provide.
Isn’t it true that the chaos – the storms – the troubles in our lives can leave us wondering whether God is with us or not?
Here we are in our own country, in the midst of experiencing the deep racial divisions, political volatility, economic insecurity, food insufficiency, homelessness, domestic violence, and addictions.
In fact, I talk to people every day whose lives are complete chaos – I witness and experience not only the chaos and brokenness in my own life, but also those who are suffering and have experienced the world through the lens of war and hate.
I have seen how trauma in people’s lives leaves them so broken that they can hardly function in the world. And in many cases, they resort to drugs and alcohol to help them forget – to help them wash away the horrific memories of the storms in which they have found themselves.
Jesus, do you not care that we are perishing?
Because we are afraid. The pain is real. The suffering is unbearable. And, our country is in a place that we would have never imagined.
Jesus, do you not care…?
There is a photograph taken shortly after Hurricane Katrina that struck New Orleans in the fall of 2005. The picture shows the devastation of a cemetery in the historic district of the city – trees are toppled over, debris covering the ground, and many burial vaults had come loose and were broken and even smashed.
But in the middle of the devastation, and completely untouched by the storm, stands a statue of the Risen Christ.
His arms are extended wide, offering a benediction of calm amid the storm.
Jesus, do you not care that we are perishing?
I wonder that when we are troubled, when we find ourselves in pain, when we witness the suffering of our loved ones, when it feels so overwhelming, we don’t know what to do anymore…
I wonder if we were to just look up – that we too will see Jesus Christ with His arms extended wide – over the storms in our lives, – that we will hear Jesus saying to us, Peace – be still.
My peace I give to you.
And there will be a “Dead Calm” in our hearts and minds.
If only we could trust and have enough faith in the midst of our storms – that God does and will give us a peace that passes all of our understanding –
Is it then possible that we just as we cannot fathom and understand how that mustard seed grows – we cannot fathom and understand the peace that God gives to us amid the storms in our lives.
Jesus, do you not care that we are perishing?
Jesus comes…and the Holy Spirit is upon us.
Jesus cares so much about us perishing that instead He journeys to Jerusalem with his twelve disciples – willing to die – willing to be flogged – willing to be accused – and willing to be crucified. Jesus loves us and cares about us so much that He doesn’t even hesitate to climb up on a cross – for you and for me – so that we will never die but will have eternal life –
Do not be afraid.