Chapter and Verse: Mark 4:35-41
David Grosch-Miller examines the tension between anxiety and trust
… They woke him up and said to him: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea: “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them: “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Why are you afraid?” asked Jesus of terrified disciples. They struggled to find an answer. The small group was on its way to “the other side”. They had left behind the comparative safety and comfort of the familiar and headed towards a culture and a faith system in which they were the outsiders. The “other side” was the place of the Gentiles, one to be avoided by those who wanted a pure and exclusive expression of faith. It was at the insistence of Jesus that the boat left the crowd and made its way across the open water. Midway between safety and expected danger, anxiety took hold of the followers of Jesus and they panicked. Like many since, they wondered whether the God who had called them to risk did not care for their safety. When they woke Jesus from sleep, they were not comforted, but reprimanded. Jesus offered no assurance that the danger was gone, and instead demonstrated that he could be trusted to lead them through whatever threat awaited them. Many translations speak of the awe that the disciples felt, but that does not convey the sense of fear that the text intends. The storm abates but the real danger still waits. You cannot walk among those that a lifetime has told you are your enemies and not be afraid.
The writers of the Gospels patched together this and other remembered stories in the life of Jesus to equip disciples of another generation to face the challenges of faith. To those who heard the stories for the first time, the connection would be clear. The challenge to them was how to integrate Gentile and Jew in one community and it was risky. There are all kinds of storms that break out when you take different understandings of firmly held beliefs and try and mould them into one community. We hear the call to set out from a settled place but become hesitant when anxiety rises within us halfway towards the destination…
David Grosch-Miller is moderator of the United Reformed Church General Assembly from 2014 to 2016
This is an extract from the September 2014 edition of Reform.