What I’m Thinking: Learning Faith

Jesus wanted to know why his disciples didn’t have faith in him when he stilled the wind and the waves – but they hadn’t had an opportunity to learn that about him before.

Here’s a transcript:

I’m thinking about the last story in chapter four of Mark’s Gospel (Mark 4:35-41). Jesus has spent the rest of the chapter teaching. He has been sitting in a boat at the edge of the Sea of Galilee while the crowd stood along the shore in a marvelous natural amphitheater.

With the teaching done, Jesus asked his disciples to take him to the other side of the lake. It’s clear that what Jesus wanted was a break: some time to rest and recover before it was time to start working, teaching, and healing once again. Jesus, in fact, was so tired that he promptly fell asleep in the stern of the boat.

Jesus’ hopes for a break were probably about to be dashed because other boats were following them, but Mark describes a great storm rising on the sea with waves coming in over the side of the boat and threatening it with swamping. The other boats apparently were scattered by the wind. The disciples, some of whom were Galilean fishermen, were rightly frightened. Storms on the Sea of Galilee can easily overwhelm a small boat. Jesus – and, you know, this is the kind of friend that one’s never certain whether one envies them or is deeply resentful of them – Jesus was sleeping through it all.

Finally they woke him up, demanding to know if he cared that they were perishing. Jesus, in that famous moment, said, “Peace! Be still!” And the waves flattened. The wind calmed. And peace settled.

He turned to his disciples and asked why they feared? Had they no faith?

The disciples asked who is this that the winds and the waves hear his voice and obey?

The question of who is Jesus is, of course, the central question of the Gospel of Mark. Mark, by the way, answers the question in the very first sentence: this is Jesus Christ the Son of God. Mark did not believe in leaving us in suspense.

But for those that Jesus encountered during his Galilean ministry, including his closest friends, the question of who he was was one that was answered gradually over the course of time. They knew he was a healer; they knew he was a compelling speaker; they knew he was a teacher. They didn’t know that he could command the winds and the waves.

So Jesus’ challenging question about faith is in one sense fair but in another sense distinctly unfair. They had not seen this side of him before.

I think for us that same experience – or at least a similar experience – is ours. We do not come to faith, by and large, in some sort of blinding flash of inspiration. People do, but even for those who have that experience there is further experience, further growth, further knowledge, further inspiration; perhaps in smaller increments, perhaps growing in a gradual and nearly imperceptible manner – but for nobody does it happen all at once. The great prophets of Israel had their struggles with their faith. Take a look at their books. Their interactions with God are filled with questions, with complaints, with seeking for assurance. And thus it was for the disciples.

I do want to point out one thing: that even before they really knew that Jesus could help in this situation, they did know enough, they believed enough, to wake him up. Oh, yes: “Don’t you care if we’re perishing?” Well, that’s not exactly a faithful way to ask for help. But they knew enough to decide that when all else seemed lost there was one more person to whom they could go, a person who just might make the difference.

Jesus made the difference for them. Jesus makes the difference for us.

That’s what I’m thinking. I’m curious to hear what you’re thinking. Leave me your thoughts in the comment section below; I’d love to hear from you.

Categories What I'm Thinking | Tags: | Posted on June 14, 2021

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