Many hours before the storm, Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus steps in a boat to speak to the crowd gathered on the shore. The water is calm, Jesus has full command and the people listen attentively. After a full day of preaching, Jesus expresses a wish to ‘go across to the other side’ of the lake. Bone-tired, he quickly drops off to sleep, even as the storm begins to rage and swirl. The wind is now wild, the water not remotely calm, and the sleeping Jesus is seemingly no longer in command. One can imagine the scene: a flotilla of small wooden fishing boats being tossed about, at the mercy of the weather. Experienced fisherman struggling, becoming overwhelmed in the chaos. I can see myself on one of those boats, feeling as helpless and terrified as the rest of them while the water rises at my feet.
Jesus is rudely awoken by his panicked followers who decide he clearly doesn’t care about their imminent demise. Fear is a great accelerant of anger. On occasions when I’m blinded by stress and panic, I’ve lashed out childishly and hurtfully at people I love, finding it easy to blame them for my predicament and projecting onto them a complete lack of care. It’s usually only later that can I see the harm my behaviour causes, and recognise I need to find a different way.
On Jesus’ command, calm is restored. Violence resolves to peace, rage to stillness. And now, in the aftermath, Jesus asks the most challenging question: ‘Have you still no faith?’ We might wonder if the disciples’ fear and anger undermines their faith and trust, preventing them finding a way to peace. Faith is a work in progress, and like the disciples on the boats, we struggle. So often we truly seem to have none.
I reflect that God emerges most clearly in the gift of peace that calms my anger and reduces my tendency to blame others for what I cannot control. Like the disciples who were filled with awe at what they had seen Jesus do, I consider with a sense of wonder how our Creator God is mystery beyond the limits of my knowing, whose ways are both small enough to know our imperfect hearts and large enough to sooth the wildest wind.