Phil Cox

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Drowning, Part 1

15th February 2014

Mark 4v35-41
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, donít you care if we drown?" He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

We're familiar with this story but, as I read it again recently, I was stuck by the disciples' question. They asked Jesus, "Teacher, donít you care if we drown?" This seems more like an accusation than a question. We find it easy to criticise that prayer. After all, we're not in the boat.

We'd say, quite correctly, that it's absurd to suggest that the Prince of Peace, the Saviour of the world, doesn't care. Of course He cares! He cared so much that He came down from heaven to live amongst us. He cared so much that He sacrificed Himself on the cross to pay for our sins. But I think most of us have prayed something very similar to that prayer, at some time. And those of us who haven't prayed it yet probably will pray it at some time. Sometimes the waves just seem too high, the wind seems too strong, our lives seem too fragile.

Matthew's account (Matthew 8v23-27) says that the squall was a furious storm that started without warning. And our lives can experience sudden storms that seem to change everything, and challenge everything. And we, who think we know and trust our Lord Jesus Christ, suddenly cry out, "Teacher, donít you care if we drown?"

At such times, we feel like God is sleeping - as Jesus was literally asleep in the boat. We all know - theoretically - that God never sleeps, and is never too busy to help us. But we feel like He is. And we wonder why, if God is so powerful and loving, would He let the storm come upon us in the first place.

Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. We may not understand why Jesus allows a storm and then quietens it, but surely He always has a reason. St Augustine asked rhetorically, "If God's reasons are inscrutable, does that mean they are unjust?" No it doesn't. And it doesn't mean they're unloving or unwise.

Jesus asked them, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?". The answer, for the disciples and for us, is because we see the storm more clearly than we see God's love and power. At least occasionally and momentarily, we all know that experience. We forget most of our theology, and most of our experience of trusting God, and all the times He's helped us in the past, and we accuse Him of not caring.

God never promises us that there won't be any storms; He promises that He will preserve us through the storm. Which is easy to know, when there isn't a storm.

And, afterwards, perhaps one disciple turned to another and said, "I knew Jesus would look after us". And maybe his friend replied, "You didn't seem to know that when the boat was being tossed on the sea and you accused Jesus of not caring if you drowned". But later - in the next chapter of Mark - another scary thing happened. The disciples remembered what Jesus had done, and what He'd said, and managed to trust God even when a powerful demoniac ran to meet them.

Can we believe that every trial is sent by God to strengthen our faith? Even the trials we fail teach us and change us, and help us to trust God in the future.

Do you feel like you're drowning? Are your family problems, persecution, ill health, financial worries, or anything else getting you so frightened that you feel like crying our to God, ""Teacher, donít you care if we drown?". You're not the first. You're in very good company. You're learning an important lesson and you're being prepared for God's service in the future.

At least the disciples cried out to Jesus, looking for Him to help them, rather than trying to save themselves. And Jesus simply spoke, with the authority of God, to the wind and the waves. And they died down, and the sea was calm again. Jesus saved them from drowning. And the experience prepared them for the next challenge.