“We are perishing” – a prayer of deliverance- Saturday, 3rd week in ordinary time – Mark 4:35-41
Jesus has just finished teaching a series of four parables on the kingdom of God. He did this in Capernaum (2:19b) to ‘very large crowd’(4:1). Now he decides to leave the crowds behind, desiring to go to the other side of the lake of Galilee (4:35).
What strikes us immediately is the odd hour that Jesus chooses to make this trip; it was already evening. Jesus gives no explanation for his desire to travel across the Sea of Galilee in the evening instead of waiting until morning, which would make for a safer voyage. What seems clear is that this trip, for some reason, was made in haste. No preparations were made for the trip for we are told that the disciples took him ‘as he was’. Yet even though they left in haste they were certainly not going to be left alone for we are told, ‘other boats were with him.’
What the disciples thought would be another ‘boat ride’ across the Sea of Galilee turned out to be a ‘titanic experience’. Out of nowhere a ‘great windstorm arose’. The translation of this word, great wind storm could best be described as a mega storm. Remember that Jesus was in the boat with fishermen who had traversed the Sea of Galilee regularly; this was a sea they were familiar with, waters that had not deterred them. Yet, they who were familiar with the sea were now terrified.
It is amazing how in moments of terror we can either forget every detail or let those details be embedded in our head. The Gospel writer, to whom this narrative was told, seems to have every detail in place; a windstorm arose, waves beat into the boat, the boat was being swamped and Jesus was asleep! What makes these memories so clear was where he was sleeping and how. He was in the stern with a cushion. The whole episode reminds us of Jonah asleep in a similar manner while the sailors battled the sea.
While the sea and storm were understandable, the actions of Jesus seemed to be bizarre. He has not only chosen a spot to sleep but has a cushion to rest his head; this when the rest were possibly going to lose more than just their head. This called for drastic action and the disciples who were quite besides themselves dropped their titles of reverence. No more Master, no more Messiah, they address him as teacher, rabbi.
“Do you not care?” How often have these words addressed to Jesus by the disciples, in their moment of anguish, has also been ours? After all these were also the words of Martha to Jesus when she found herself slaving in the kitchen while her sister Mary sat at the feet of the Lord, clinging on to every word that came from his lips.
Do you not care is not so much a question as it in meant to be an accusation. The disciples were perishing and here was Jesus taking a late evening snooze. HE was sleeping while THEY were battling with the wind. Their cry is the ultimate cry of fear, of doubt and abandonment, repeated often in the stories of God’s people. Where is God in the midst of my distress? Has God abandoned his people? If God is so great and powerful a creator, if God really cares about this world, then why do events in the world and in my life go so badly. The ready response: either God has no power, or God does not care for us or the creation.
I guess no one considered how tired the Lord must have been. He was at it, teaching the entire day besides having to deal with relatives who thought he was beside himself and the scribes who thought he was the resident evil. Yet he cared enough to not only wake up but do something about the situation.
The actions of Jesus in the storm are his actions in our life. They cried out “we are perishing” a cry and a prayer for deliverance and He woke up and brought peace; peace to a storm gone mad and peace to his disciples (and us) who had lost their faith. Jesus certainly felt the need of teaching his disciples a lesson but he did not do that with a stick, he did it with understanding and love. Jesus does not chastise or reason with their fears. He does not seek to correct their poor theology or remind them of the whole tradition of God’s deliverance and care for the people of Israel. We are told that he waited for the wind to cease and for a dead calm before he addressed the disciples. He addressed them as he does with us on two issues; “why are you afraid” and “have you still no faith?”
In these ‘two words’ we are called to see the gulf between two vastly different worlds that face those who are called to acknowledge the kingdom of God. One can continue to live in the world of fear and chaos, seeing oneself orphaned or alone without the power of God, living in a world controlled by the power of satan or the demonic. Or one can be open to hearing the message and promise of Jesus in whom we are told that the kingdom of God has come into our midst and now offers a whole new future for our world and for our lives.
The line between these two worlds is thin and risky. But in between them stands the gift and power of the good news of God’s Messiah, Jesus.