“Master, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Jesus had asked the disciples to take him across on a boat to the other side of the lake. When we think of lakes in Britain, we may imagine some of our local stretches of water which are only a few metres long and wide. I do not know if any of you have spent a holiday on or near the Norfolk broads. I know that when the winds start to rise, the water often becomes quite choppy.
The passage directs us to the Lake of Tiberius, which is about 22 miles long and has a maximum width of 8 miles. It is also referred to as the lake of Gennesaret or Sea of Galilee. This is a little larger than Loch Lomond in Scotland but smaller than the freshwater lake of Loch Neigh in Northern Ireland. Tiberius has the lowest altitude for a lake, other than the Dead Sea, being over 200m below sea level. To the East are hills notably the South East an elevation which looks quite mountainous from the lake.
On a typically warm day, the sun bears down on this low level lake, the warm air rises and cooler air from the hills can rush in suddenly causing an almighty storm on this lake. To be in the position of the disciples, some of whom were hardened fishermen, all of this typically came about with minimal warning.
I remember vividly in 2004 when a small church group booked to go to Caldey Island to visit the monks. We did not go on the 1.5 mile crossing on the intended day because the ferry was cancelled due to the choppy sea. On the second day, still no ferry! It was suggested that we might risk going across on the mail boat, which rarely gets cancelled.
Super! So we set off. We had only left the shore by about 500m when we started to feel the effects of the wind and the waves. Some of our group lay on the floor of the boat holding on to the beams. I had to hold the bench on which I sat, otherwise I could have been thrown overboard. Every few second we hit another wave and got a splashing. Some of our group were properly scared. I was on the verge of this myself only that I could see the captain driving the vessel. He looked happy and this was of immense comfort to me.
The Captain of the disciples was asleep at the stern or back of the boat. Was he aware, did he not care? They woke him, as it would seem the storm didn't. Jesus rebuked the storm saying 'Peace, be still' and immediately it stilled. The disciples were silenced with awe, asking in their hearts, 'What manner of man is this that even the winds and the waves obey him?'
How many times have you heard people complain “I only want a peaceful life?” We enjoy prolonged moments, when our needs are met, day after day. All seems calm. Suddenly, shocked and horrified we call out, 'I did not see that one coming!' We all know things happen and we suddenly find ourselves in a storm. How very much more we appreciate the peace afterwards.
I know that God is there with me, I know that he is the master of the whole universe and he only needs to say the word and it shall be done. Jesus said before he ascended, “You will do the same things I have done and greater. You only need faith the size of a mustard seed and you can say to that mountain, move and be placed into the sea.” But when the storm arrives, how many times do I need to be reassured, over and over again that God can do anything?
We may not doubt God, but rather like the disciples doubt ourselves. Can God really love me enough to care if I should perish? This reasoning may be built on knowing how God sees our human nature and that I cannot be good enough for God to love.
The bible tells us just about the very opposite. God knows everything and it is by His Grace that we are saved, even though the storm is brewing. It is by grace, not of ourselves, not of our works, lest anyone may think they have reason to boast. What we can boast of here is of God's goodness, His unending faithfulness. His love!
As the world becomes increasingly more difficult, the time may come when we may hold up an arm and order, on His behalf, 'Peace, be still,' knowing that we are His precious children. He naturally cares for us and will carry us through.