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  • Writer's pictureJeremy Dunn

Taking On Water

Mark 4:37 says, "And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling." The disciples were sent out to the other side of the Sea of Galilee while Jesus remained on the mountain to pray. As they were out in the middle of the sea a storm arose. Mark's gospel includes an important detail; "the boat was already filling."

I was not made for the water. I was made for dry land. I am far more comfortable on stable ground. I do not have "sea legs." When my wife and I married (ten years, this July), we planned to go on a cruise to the Bahamas (apparently that was the thing to do). It really wasn't my cup of tea. I had spent time in the water. I lived in Florida during my years in college and spent a good bit of time out on the lakes in Central Florida and the beach. I've been in a fishing boat out on a lake or a river, but in all of those cases I was very much "in control" and within sight of the shoreline. The cruise was rather overwhelming. It was the first time I had been out in the "deep waters," where there was nothing but water. It was an odd feeling to look out at the waves which proved we were in motion, but it certainly didn't feel like we were making any progress.

The journey back to the states was far less peaceful. There was a storm on the coastline of Florida. We couldn't see it. The clouds were still clear and the sun still shone where we were. The evidence was in the water. This massive cruise ship, was getting hit and rocked by some rather sizable waves. Fortunately, there was no concern over the ship capsizing, but the turbulence still had its impact. My wife and I sat down to eat dinner, but it did not last long. We were like bobbers in the water and the more we tried to focus on each other the worse we felt. I finally had to lay down. As we are walking back to our room, stumbling side to side through the hallway, we passed one of the restaurant staff delivering food to a room and she's walking normally at a quick pace (smugly, I assumed), seemingly unhindered by what's going on outside the ship. There was a simply reason for her stoic demeanor; she was used to it. She was experienced. She had her "sea legs." For her, a little turbulence was nothing. She was familiar with it, so she was comfortable with it.

It's why I find the disciples fear so interesting in this moment. Most of the disciples on the boats were seasoned fisherman. They were familiar with the Sea of Galilee, which had a reputation for its storms. This is not unfamiliar territory for them. But maybe, just maybe, this storm was particularly hostile. I imagine that for the waves to simply be frustrated, for them to crash against the boat, for the winds to blow, and the thunder to crack, they might have been fine. If it were a "normal" storm they might have been able to handle it it. They could have handled the exterior circumstance. But according to Mark, what was happening outside the ship suddenly thrusted itself inside the ship; "And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling." There are two things worth noting: 1) "the waves were breaking into the boat." It's a natural thing for waves to break, but these were large enough to break into the boat; 2) "the boat was already filling." Not only were these disciples threatened by the waves over head, there is also the rising threats of the waters below.

This storm is now personal! The waves have "broke in" and the waters are rising. I think that detail is important. As an example, we may be alarmed by a thief in our neighborhood; we may even take steps to secure our homes; we may show compassion to the family that was robbed. It becomes more personal when it's our home. It becomes more real. This storm has broken into their "home." The storm now has their full attention. I imagine they are scrounging for every shovel or bucket they can find. Despite their best efforts, their boat is just filling up far faster than they can empty it. Desperate, despondent, out of time and out of energy, their hearts have to be collapsing within them. But, they remember that Jesus is also in the boat. They do the right thing and they run to find Him. And they find Jesus in a peculiar place: Mark 4:38; "But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion." Some of them just had to have been screaming within themselves, "how can you be asleep right now?!"

But that's not the question they asked, was it? No. It wasn't a question of whether or not Jesus knew what was going on. They weren't curious as to how Jesus was able to sleep. They weren't concerned about what Jesus was doing, but questioning what Jesus was not doing. They asked the same question we ask in our own desperation: (v. 38) "do you not care that we are perishing?" "God, do you not care what I am going through?" Or perhaps we simply wonder if God just has fallen asleep in the stern. I've always believed that the reason Jesus was able to find rest during that storm was because He was settled and convinced of who He was and in His mission. Because of that He could rest knowing that, "my time has not yet come." I also believe that had the disciples themselves truly understood Jesus, that He was the Messiah, that He was God incarnate, and understood His mission, they would have been resting alongside Him. There would not have been panic. There would have been peace. What they didn't know and could not see, we know and see clearly. Scripture so greatly testifies to this truth:

God is far more in control that we think.

"And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” That last sentence is difficult to read sometimes. I can understand their "weak" faith because God was still working through Jesus to reveal Himself to man. I think we can give the disciples some grace in their fear. You and I are more informed than these disciples so when I read those words, in light of the complete record of God's revelation, I can't help but hear in my heart, "Why are you so afraid? Have you forgotten who I am?" Truthfully, at times I think I do. I, like many others, often view the problem more prevalently. I often scramble to find the bucket and shovel to dig myself out. I exhaust myself only to discover I have merely made matters worse. But the glaring issue often for us is the same as it was for the disciples; it was not that they viewed this storm as too big, but that they viewed Jesus as too small.

This moment is recorded for you so that in our own "storms" we can remember, first, that Jesus was in the boat. He was with them. He was going through it, too. Jesus is not impersonal or uninvolved but is a "very present help in times of trouble" (Ps. 46; Mark 6 adds another dimension to the care of Jesus). Just as the disciples did, we can run to Him boldly for mercy that we need (Heb. 4:16) and find peace for there is peace in Him (John 16:33). We remember that God is far more in control that we think (Mark 4:41), even when we do not see Him working. And we can remember that in His time, the storm will be calmed with just a word from His mouth (Mark 4:39). Friend, understand that the storm may still rage. Personally, I believe God is far more interested in calming His people within the storm than He is calming the storm. There's a greater chance for a "contrast." Light will always shine brightest in darkness. The winds may still be blowing. The rain may continue to fall. The waves may frequently break in.

I'm not out of the storm. You are not out of the storm. But rest assured, soon the clouds will break and the "Son" will shine. And though my boat may take on water, I am assured that it will not sink.

"The soul of a man is like a ship

That sails on the sea of time

Storms may come and winds may blow

And rock this ship of mine

But the reason my ship has never sank

And today it’s still afloat

My compass is His precious Word

And Jesus pilots my boat."

Booth Brothers

"He Pilots My Ship"

"When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you."

Isaiah 43:2

Just hang on.

The storm will break.

There will be calm.

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