Should they have known better?
In their concern for their friend, had they failed to survey the surrounding hills as they guided him towards one of their fishing boats anchored along the shore?
Jesus was exhausted. After a full, full, full day of caring for the sick, embracing the grief-stricken, seeing the forgotten, encouraging the desolate, strengthening the weak, uplifting the derelict, and tending to the maladies, wounds, and broken hearts of the crowd, Jesus needed rest.
Thus, … when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat….
New International Version, Mark 4: 35 – 36
Jesus leaned against the strong, steadying shoulders of his fishermen friends. With care, they guided him away from the pressing throng. As they lifted him into the stern of the Galilean fishing boat, the weary mind and body of Jesus collapsed readily into the floating haven of rest.
As the friends rowed their boat to sea, to reach the opposite shoreline nearly 13 miles away, did they sense the tropical heat dissipating? Was the warm air that pressed so heavily upon them at the shoreline earlier in the day, now being overcome by the cold air of the surrounding hills?
They knew that the Sea of Galilee lies low. It is nearly 600 feet below sea level. The fresh-water lake’s low-lying position in the Jordan Great Rift Valley often invites sudden, dramatic changes in the weather pattern. Quiet, serene sea waves transform into loud, tumultuous mountains of water in a matter of moments.
These fishermen knew these dangers of the Galilean Sea. They were aware of her ever-changing, unpredictable nature. They understood that any vessel – large or small – caught up in the sea’s unforgiving wind and merciless waves was doomed.
Yet, as they rowed further and further across the waters, their purpose was clear. Their friend needed sleep. He needed more time to recover his strength. He needed a place of refuge on the other side of the sea.
They rowed onward.
And then, a rush of cold air swept down from the hills of Lebanon.
A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
New International Version, Mark 4: 37
Experienced as they were, the fishermen pulled their oars inside the vessel. Attempting to row against the crashing waves would be futile. Unfurling the sail, the men hoped to garner the strength of the wind to their advantage. Yet, the flapping, uncontrollable sail, offered no assistance. One fisherman ordered the sail be pulled down and the oars be dropped back into the water. They needed to pull the oars and pull them hard to turn the helpless vessel before it tipped completely.
Rumbling, rocking, and rolling over one massive crest after another, the boat leaned one way and then another. Powerful streams of water poured inside the vessel as other waves crashed against its creaking sides. The boat whirled. The boat shook. The boat swayed. The boat joggled and jounced. The disciples released the oars, let go of the sail and bailed the flooding waters with their strong, but inadequate hands.
The fishermen became dizzy and disorientated and desperate.
As the waves grew, their terror escalated. Finally, the disciples of Jesus cried out to their slumbering friend, to Jesus who had slept through each cataclysmic, endangering wave:
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
New International Version, Mark 4: 38
Jesus stood up – probably a bit groggily – and assessed the situation.
Then, he responded to their despairing cry and to their fearful dread.
Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”
Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
New International Version, Mark 4: 39
And then Jesus asked them:
“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
New International Version, Mark 4: 40
Of course, there is natural apprehension in the face of danger. The Sea of Galilee was (and continues to be) a perilous body of water in a storm. There is no question of that. But, Jesus wasn’t confronting the dangerous sea, he was confronting the unbelief the disciples felt in the midst of the sea.
They had failed to remember that Jesus was in the boat with them.
Was he knocked sideways by the rolling and rollicking waves – in the boat?
Was he sinking – in the boat?
Was he overcome by the raging wind – in the boat?
He had been sleeping – soundly – in the boat.
When the disciples cried for his help, what did Jesus do?
In the boat.
In their boat.
This was the same boat that the disciples crouched and cowered in despair.
In their circumstance, they failed to realize that Jesus was there – in their boat – too.
The same power, the same protection, the same care, the same preservation, and the same love that they had observed Jesus display again and again and again and again for the crowds of people on the Galilean shore, was available to them in the boat on the perilous Galilean Sea.
But they hadn’t relied on or called upon their faith in Jesus for their dangerous situation. Instead, they called to Him because they were in need of relief – from their fears.
Friends, Jesus hadn’t sunk in the middle of the sea. The disciples hadn’t sunk either.
And neither shall we!!!!
We won’t be rowing a boat in the Sea of Galilee anytime soon, I imagine.
However, we are rowing and rowing and rowing in the sea of life.
But we are not alone, are we?
We are in the same boat with Jesus Christ!
Jesus promises us:
Remember, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
New International Version, Matthew 28:20
If we are rowing a boat and our long-time spouse/partner decides to jump ship, Jesus in in our boat.
If we are rowing a boat over the massive and scary crests and then down into the despairing troughs of cancer, Jesus in in our boat.
If we are rowing a boat and the flood of failure overwhelms us, Jesus is in our boat.
If we are rowing a boat and betrayal cracks its sides, Jesus is in our boat.
If we are rowing a boat and our strength wanes and we can’t row like we once did, Jesus is in our boat.
If we are rowing a boat and our friends paddle long and far away from us, Jesus is in our boat.
If we are rowing a boat and we have no clear direction, Jesus is in our boat.
If we are rowing a boat and our kids sail off in their own boats, Jesus is in our boat – and theirs!
If we are rowing a boat, and our loved one receives a super scary diagnosis, Jesus is in our boat.
If we are rowing a boat and we wonder why no one pays attention to us, Jesus is in our boat.
If we are rowing a boat and we are frustrated by where we are in the sea, Jesus is in our boat.
If we are rowing a boat and we are lost in grief and sorrow, Jesus is in our boat.
When we are rowing a boat in this sea of life – Jesus is in our boat.
And if we remember, like the disciples did, that Jesus is in our boat – then like them – He has the power to preserve, protect, and care for us – where we are in this sea of life.
My dear friends, remember this always: Jesus is in your boat. He will be with you always. He is available to you now.
Call out to Him and share your need.
He will stand for you.
He will. He will. He will.
This is my prayer for you:
Your son, Jesus, descended from heaven to meet us where we are on this earth. Sometimes we are being tossed, turned, and hurled upside-down and around on this sea we call life. We wonder where you are – but this incredible story reminds us that Jesus is near. Not only that, He is right smack dab in the circumstance we find ourselves – offering His love, His care, His grace, His protection, and His peace. May we call upon His Name, now, O Lord. We call upon the name of Jesus Christ, our Help, our Strength, and our Deliverer for this time in which we live. We need you Lord. Come, Lord Jesus, come. Stand for us. We are in the same boat.
Amen and Amen