Lately, I can’t stop thinking about Jesus asleep in the boat. The storm is surging; the vessel is filling with water; the disciples are scurrying.
This is a historic scene, not some vivid illustration, but let’s pause for a moment to acknowledge its fittingness as a metaphor for our cultural moment. Though not facing brutal persecution, our North American churches are increasingly embattled and enduring opposition both from within and from without. The storm is raging, one might say, the boat filling with water.
Before drawing some modest conclusions, I’d like to offer up three questions for meditation. My hope is that we do turn these over in our hearts and minds for the next little while, especially as we look at the news or navigate the latest tensions and battles in our local congregations: “Is Jesus worried about the state of our world?” “Is he surprised?” “Are those of us who recognize our Great Shepherd in any real danger?”
If Christ is who he says he is, the answer to each of these questions is no. To be sure, this isn’t a recipe for complacency or quietism, nor is it a form of mystical denial. It is instead an invitation to basic Christian faith. When the disciples rouse their teacher from his slumber and plead with him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?,” his response is stark: “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” Tellingly, these words arrive after he has calmed the storm. The implication is clear: The disciple’s fear of the raging storm is misplaced.
The passage doesn’t close in the absence of fear, though: “And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” May I humbly suggest to you that what is needed today is not a greater fear of the manifold challenges facing us—eroding social fabric, rising crime and violence, aggressive sexual ideology, division in our churches, wars and rumors of wars—but instead the fear of the Lord. After all, he’s the one in charge–not us.