At the end of a long day of teaching the crowds from the shore, Jesus confronts the disciples with a plan:
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” – Mark 4:35
It is Jesus’ idea to get in the boat before dark and head away from the crowds and toward gentile territory on the other side of the Sea of Galilee. So, the disciples of Jesus hopped in the boat and they left right then.
As we read through this passage, Jesus is going to perform a miracle over nature. But, there is more meaning to this story than just the face value. Throughout his gospel, Mark presents events as well as words as parabolic. Jesus is teaching his disciples (and us) in parables of words and deeds.
This story starts with Jesus saying “follow me” and disciples complying, despite not knowing what was to be ahead.
Being a disciple means getting in the boat with Jesus.
Because they were heading to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, the disciples were leaving both the crowds and heading toward the gentiles. Both of these realities forced these followers of Jesus to confront their own preconceptions of the Messiah. Leaving the crowds meant leaving power and adulation. Heading to the unclean gentiles confronted the idea that this was Israel’s Messiah. They were heading away from their vision of the Messiah.
Being a disciple means letting go of your expectations of the journey.
The way of Jesus is one of surrender and obedience. It is also one of discomfort as we release the things we cling to in order to define our sense of self. Seeing Jesus more fully demands this response.
Leaving our reliance of other things is where we really struggle with our own discipleship.
We follow Jesus with one foot in and one foot out of the boat. We’d like enough Jesus to make us prosperous and secure, but not enough to be taken where we don’t want to go.
We like the crowd. We like power. We like affirmation. We like comfort. So we get drawn back into the way of humanity. Doing things that the systems of the world tell us is right. It is unstable to ride in the boat with one foot in and one out.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. – Mark 4:37
A storm moves in fast. Bringing with it rough seas. And this generates a considerable amount of fear and anxiety in the disciples.
Here is Jesus using parabolic imagery in this event. Turbulent water (or even the sea) represents chaos, rebellion and opposition against God, and the unknown. (See Psalm 93 or Isaiah 57:20 for a couple instances.)
This presents a very real picture of being a follower of Jesus in a world that is in rebellion. Everything outside is designed to churn up fear and anxiety in us. Systems of power, relationships, circumstances, media, crowds that become mobs and everywhere we look with eyes that seek security and peace apart from the Creator.
The waves crashing against the boat are the chaos crashing against our faith.
Security is not the absence of trouble or rejection; it is found in the presence and proximity of Jesus.
Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” – Mark 4:38
Jesus was in the boat with them.
He was experiencing rest. The rest of the Father. The rest of one who knows that his purpose and destiny was in the hand of the One whose image he bore.
It is here that we see the core of the parable for the disciples.
They turn their fear on Jesus. “Don’t you care?”
Inherent in this statement is the idea of – “You got us into this! This was your idea! I was expecting smooth sailing and prosperity. Don’t you see the waves? Everything is against us.”
This is their unbelief. They took more notice of the waves than the sleeping Messiah. They were still hung up on their false sense of expectations.
As you follow Jesus, how would you complete this sentence: “Jesus, don’t you care if __________________?”
However you would fill in the blank shows where your focus is; what you are looking to for wholeness. And when you are focused there for your identity, you are not seeing Jesus clearly.
Jesus is in the boat with you.
After their accusation, Jesus speaks and the wind and waves obey. He has power over nature and is proving his authority.
But, the waves calming also is reminder that he has authority over the chaos and rebellion and your life. He allows the rebellion so that He can be seen. So that more people would be attracted to his rest.
The storm provided a mirror for the disciples to see their faith.
What does your response to the turmoil of living and unmet expectations tell you about your belief and identity?
My new book Essential Questions: Learning to Follow Jesus by Examining What He Asked is due out in October 2019.
I am an author, discipleship coach, and speaker who helps followers of Jesus gain perspective on their identities so they can experience transformation in their decisions, behaviors and relationships and live in freedom. My book Tree of Lies: Transforming Decisions, Behaviors, and Relationships By Gaining Perspective On Your Identity in Christ available on Amazon (http://amzn.to/2bjMRyx) or Barnes and Noble (http://bit.ly/2c0q62I). Visit TreeofLies.com for free resources.
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