One of my favorite NT passages is in Luke chapter 8. Jesus is with his disciples and decides to go to ”the other side” of the Sea of Galilee. They get into a boat and off they sail. Jesus falls asleep in the boat on the way across, leaving the navigation in the hands of accomplished fishermen, many of whom have grown up around this lake and made their livelihoods from it.
But, a storm of high wind comes down on the lake, sunken as it is in the topography of the region, and the boat begins to fill with water, threatening to swamp the boat miles from shore.
These seasoned fishermen, who have undoubtedly been in boats during storms on this body of water before, decide that now is a good time to wake up the carpenter from his nap to tell him, Master, we perish.. And the carpenter from Nazareth rebuked the wind and the waves so that the lake became calm again. Then, in my favorite part of the story, he turns to the disciples and says, ”Where is your faith…”?
Luke’s narrative says, ”then they were afraid…”.
Then…they were afraid?
They must have been at least troubled, if not outright terrified, to have awakened Jesus to tell him the boat was filling with water and they were going to drown. And now that the wind and water are calm again these seasoned fishermen are afraid?
You’d think that the act of waking him up would have shown their faith. It seems that Jesus would have had no need to ask where their faith was. They called on him, after all. But apparently, they had done so just so he wouldn’t sleep through the tragedy. Clearly, they were astonished by what he had done to save them. They sure hadn’t expected this. Now they are more afraid of the solution than they had been of the problem.
I try to see my place in this story. This small vessel is so tossed by wind-whipped waves out on the open lake that it is taking in water, yet Jesus is asleep? That would have been one heckuva rolling, bucking little boat, but he was undisturbed. Would that have inspired me…or angered me? Would I have remembered that at the start of the journey he had said, ”Let us go to the other side” and since we weren’t yet at the other side the journey wasn’t over? Would I have thought he didn’t care? (In another gospel, they did think that). When he finally does wake up to calm the situation just by speaking, would that have changed my life forever? Would I have finally realized who this person is, and in light of that, how foolish my fear is?
Like all of us, these men had placed their faith somewhere. Maybe in themselves and their seamanship. Maybe in their ability to predict the weather. Maybe in general circumstances. Maybe they knew they were good swimmers. I can’t know. I’m sure Jesus’ question was rhetorical. He knew that all of us put faith in something, but in a pinch, it may not be the right thing.
I suspect that Jesus knew these men were rugged, working class, tough, and pretty fearless. I suspect he knew they were self-reliant, independent, and resilient. They would have needed a pretty close brush with mortality, even though this was likely a very familiar occurrence to many of these men. But not at this magnitude. Not with wind at this ferocity.
Jesus knows how to bring each of us to zero. He knows how to bring you to the end of yourself. He knows that as long as you’re trusting in you, you cannot be simultaneously trusting in Him.
Not far from where this little boat eventually made safe landfall, Jesus said, Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs in the Kingdom of God. Only those who recognize their bankrupt spiritual state are fit for the Kingdom. He has a way of breaking all of us who say we want to follow Him. Even if it means we’re in the storm of our lives, and it looks like He’s sleeping through it and completely oblivious.