Job 38:1-11; Mark 4:35-41
3rd Sunday after Trinity
St Barbara’s 20.06.2021
Rev Tulo Raistrick
From the earliest moments of a child’s life we take photographs to capture special moments. As they grow, we continue to take photographs as a record of how they change and develop. And throughout adult life, we will continue to take photos – we want to capture key moments, key memories.
At the time of Jesus, there was no photography to capture key moments. Instead, stories were told. Stories that captured the essence, a snapshot of a person’s life, that were then passed on from generation to generation. And in the gospels we get many such snapshots, stories that give us an insight into the life of Jesus, that reveal who he is. As each photograph in an album may stir memories long forgotten, so each story in the gospels may evoke in us reflection that helps us to discover more about Christ. And so it is with our gospel story today – Jesus calming the storm. The story gives us a wonderful glimpse into who Jesus is.
As I was reading this story again this week I was struck by a small phrase I had never really spotted before. “Leaving the crowd behind, the disciples took Jesus with them in the boat, just as he was.” When important people – kings, Roman senators, and the like – travelled from place to place, they tended to do so with a huge entourage in tow, their every need catered for by a large body of attendants and servants, to ensure they travelled in utmost comfort, and to ensure none was left in any doubt of how important they were.
Jesus got into the boat, just as he was. With just the clothes he was wearing. No provisions. No servants to attend to his needs. No fanfare. Simplicity and humility. This was not how power, importance and authority was demonstrated in the ancient world, nor perhaps in our world too. Jesus was showing a different way.
And a way of humanity too. Here is a Jesus, who once in the boat, falls sound asleep, perhaps so exhausted from the demands of the crowds over the previous days, that he is too tired to wake up even in the middle of a storm. Here is someone who gives himself fully to the compassionate caring and loving of others. What qualities – humility, compassion, love – to pray that Roberta will grow up living out in her life; what qualities to pray may define us too.
This story snapshot reveals more about who Jesus is too. When the disciples, in their desperation, wake Jesus, he, with one simple command, stills a storm so violent it had experienced fishermen fearing for their lives. Its an insight into Jesus’ extraordinary authority. There are teachers who can walk into a rowdy classroom and with just one word, the class will come to order. Or a speaker at a conference who only needs to stand at the podium and the hubbub of conversation will immediately hush. People who inspire respect, people who have a natural authority. Mark opens a window for us with this story: even nature recognises the authority of Jesus.
As we heard in that remarkable passage from the book of Job, only God has the power to control the elements, no-one else can cause storms to cease, no one else can pause the mighty crashing of the waves. Here is Jesus, humble, compassionate, and God, lord over all creation. No wonder that Matthew, Mark and Luke all include this story in their gospels. Here is the one who brought the world into being, the one who is Lord over heaven and earth, the one who has control over nature itself, in our midst.
The story also helps each of us reflect on how we respond to such an extraordinary truth, by sharing with us how the disciples respond.
The response of the disciples to the storm is initially to trust in their own abilities. After all, some of them were professional fishermen, used to the squalls and storms of Lake Galilee, and Jesus? – he was just a religious teacher and a carpenter – how could he be of help? They hadn’t grasped who it was who was in the boat with them. They only turn to him when death seems certain and they have nowhere else to turn.
Three years ago some of you may remember I shared with you about how one of my children had given themselves a bad head wound and was bleeding profusely. I could have raced upstairs to get some bandages, done a poor attempt at a dressing; when that failed to stem the flow, I could have called round to the neighbours and asked for them to come and help, maybe applying cold compresses and the like; and failing that, I could have called out an ambulance, by which stage things would not have been looking good. Or, as in fact I did do, I could call out from the living room to the kitchen, where Sarah, my wife, GP and trained surgeon, could come and sort things out with calm assurance and authority.
In the storm the disciples were facing, in the storms we face in our lives, Jesus is not even as far away as the next room. He is in the boat with us. He wants us to wake him, to ask for his help. Do we live knowing that Jesus is with us in the boat? Do we live knowing that he has the compassion and authority to act in our lives?
When the disciples saw Jesus’ authority, they were terrified: “Who is this?” they ask themselves. It is the question that Mark leaves us with at the end of this story. Who do we think Jesus is? And how do we respond to this person of humility, compassion and awesome authority? For each one of us, today is a day once more to place ourselves into his loving care, to recognise who is in the boat with us and to seek his help.