The title of my sermon from March 15 was "When Jesus Takes You Into a Storm," and it was based on Mark 4:35-41. You can listen to that sermon here. This was the first Sunday we did not have corporate worship together, as we all started realizing we were moving into this COVID-19 storm. As we looked at this passage, we noticed that Jesus takes the disciples into the storm in order to strengthen their faith and their knowledge of Jesus.
The Dutch painter Rembrandt, who lived in the 17th century, has a famous painting depicting this event in the gospel of Mark. It is called, "The Storm on the Sea of Galilee," painted around 1633. I think this painting illustrates how we should approach not only this story in Mark, but any Biblical story. Below you will see the painting:
Notice that while some disciples are desperately trying to "man the ship," others are trying to wake Jesus up, asking him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing" (Mark 4:38). As you look closer, you will realize there are fourteen people in the painting. We count twelve disciples, Jesus, and then someone else.
In the middle of the boat there is a crew member looking out toward you with fear in his face, holding his hat near his forehead like this is going to be the end of him. Many art critics have suggested this is a self-portrait of Rembrandt, the artist, who drew himself into the painting, in the boat with Jesus.
I think this is an important way of understanding the Scriptures. This is not only a story about how the disciples felt, but this story is about all of us, how we feel going into a storm. We need to know that we are part of that story, we are in the boat, and we are asking Jesus, why are you asleep right now?
We should be honest when we feel like this. It is a normal emotional response to times of fear, times of crisis, times like we are living through right now. We are certainly afraid, but we have a choice with our fear. We can go from fear to anxiety, and very quickly from anxiety to a need to control things now because we feel as if we have lost control. If we go down that path, we will eventually explode in anger when we no longer have control.
The path of growth Jesus is holding out for the disciples, and for us, is the soul movement from the emotion of fear to the gift of faith and wisdom. So Jesus wakes up and says, “Peace! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Jesus turns to the disciples and says, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:41).
Now the disciples are filled with fear and awe, as they say to one another: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Jesus can calm the storm on the Sea of Galilee, and he can calm the storm of your heart. The fear you sense can be transformed into a faith that weathers any storm.