“Wake Him Up” Monday Meditation. 6/1/20 Alan Neale.
Trinity Church, Newport, RI
Mark4: 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. 37 A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. 38 But 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?” 39 He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
This story from Mark reminds me of the story in Mark 2. In that chapter Jesus seems to heal the paralyzed man only after, as it were, second thoughts provoked by the religious leaders. Here in Mark 4 Jesus brings rescue but only after they had vigorously woken him from a very deep sleep. Both stories constantly provoke me to wonder… if the religious leaders had not murmured, would the paralytic remained sin-forgiven but unable to walk? And if the disciples had not woken Jesus would they all have drowned? If there is opportunity to ask questions these would be just a couple of mine.
Over the years I have come to a tentative answer that I offer you now. Whether or not the Pharisees had mumbled and groaned, whether or not the disciples had frantically awoken Jesus… the man would still have been healed, the disciples and Jesus would still have been saved from drowning. Maybe the point is that often, because of cares and concerns, we precipitate the hand of God to work… we often have faith that He/She could, we just lack the faith that He/She will…?
The call to wait with patience (e.g. Psalm 37:7) is always a challenge for us – waiting is task enough but waiting with patience is the result of time spent with the Lord and with the Lord’s people having our minds and hearts strengthened.
But to the story proper…
Here serene tranquility (Jesus) is contrasted with frenetic anxiety (the disciples).
Jesus is calm and serene in the face of crowds; the common people distinguished from rulers and leaders, the common people hungry for food and hungry for attention and this makes them seem at times frighteningly demanding.
Jesus is calm and serene in the face of sudden squalls, violent winds and the near submerging of the boat. He decides he needs to rest!
When you and I are frantic, anxious (not too rare in these days as the pandemic irresolutely marches on, as we see tragic examples of racial injustice and oppression and as violence breaks out in our cities), when you and I are frantic we do well to follow the example of the disciples. They turn their attention away from their dire situation to the Lord, they leave their elements of control (the sails, the oars) to approach Jesus almost nestled in the stern of the book, they gather round Him and call upon Him. It mattered not to Jesus that the title with which they addressed him seem out-of-place… they faced reality, surrendered control, figuratively ran to Jesus and asked (probably an understatement) for him to take charge and bring calm.
With two words, just two words, Jesus both brings calm to the seas and silence to the storm; I think it is no coincidence that Jesus causes not only the threat to stop but the ongoing reminder of danger (the noise)… that stops too. Often in pastoral ministry I have talked and prayed with those whose physical suffering has stopped but the noise of the memory is often deafening. Though it was over a year ago, I still often suffer frissons of fearful wonder as I recall the events of April 5 2019 when I suffered seven cardiac arrests. How much more therapeutic healing for those who suffer the outrages of war, the hurts of abuse, the unexpected attack. What beautiful words for such, for all, for us to hear: “Peace! Stop!” And then Mark tells us: “There was a great calm”. There is many a heart and mind that longs and aches for that experience of, exposure to “a great calm”.
The disciples stand before us as a motley crew of Christian believers and Jesus followers; in one moment the heavens are opened and their faith is vital and manifold and in another moment (like today) they are fearful and lack understanding. Jesus does not rebuke and I see much hope in the word “still” – “do you still have no faith”. I see there hope for me and, if you choose, hope for you too!