Fear and faith. Both color our journey in this life.
Down toward the end of Mark 6 comes one of the most famous stories from the life of Christ.
The disciples of Jesus have gotten into a boat to go ahead of the Lord to the village of Bethsaida. Jesus himself has stayed behind to dismiss the crowd of 5,000—a bunch of folks he’d just fed—and to go up on the mountainside to pray. Out on the lake, in the middle of the night, a storm has come up, and the disciples are straining at the oars because “the wind was against them.”
You know the feeling, don’t you? You recognize the boat, don’t you? It’s a vessel you’ve been in yourself, I’ll wager.
Often in our own journeys, the wind seems to be against us. It blows in the form of trials that threaten to swamp us, weaknesses in ourselves or others that cause us pain, bad decisions complete with unpleasant consequences, awful diagnoses, sudden tragedy. Serious tests of faith, all of these things.
Sometimes we’ve steered the wrong course and are in treacherous waters. We should have been wiser sailors. We should have consulted the Captain of our souls, checked his compass, looked at his chart. But now we’re seriously off course and about to flounder in heavy weather.
Sometimes the storm is simply upon us and the most experienced sailor in the world could not have seen it coming. But come it did.
Several of the disciples on the Sea of Galilee that night were experienced sailors who knew its every league, every fathom, every eddy. From the sea they had made their living, but suddenly they were faced with the prospect of dying there.
At around 3:00 in the middle of that dark night, Jesus goes “where no man has gone before” (at least, not without a boat), walking on the water. He hears their cry for help, and he will still the storm. But first, he just gets into the boat.
That’s the Incarnation, folks. That’s the Lord of all seas and the universe itself saying, “Don’t be afraid; I’m with you on the journey.”
On the sea that night, the disciples had lots of fear and precious little faith. Just enough to let their Lord get into the boat. On that day when “a little” was all the faith they had, Christ’s gift to them was that it was all the faith he required. Maybe that’s his gift to us, too.
As we’re tempted to be paralyzed by fear in the face of all that has happened and all that might happen on the journey, the Captain of our souls comes to you and to me and says, “I’ll never ask you to take a journey that I won’t take right by your side. Just let me into your boat.”
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Copyright 2013 by Curtis K. Shelburne. Permission to copy without altering text or for monetary gain is hereby granted subject to inclusion of this copyright notice.