“Why Are You So Afraid?”
Who here has been on an airplane? Do you remember the first time you flew? How did you feel? Maybe a little excited? Maybe a little bit nervous (you know, just a little)? It can be a little nerve-racking for sure. You are, after all, flying. You are hurtling through the air at thousands of feet above the ground in a little metal tube. So it’s ok to be a little nervous. You do get used to it though. Ask anyone who has flown regularly, it’s not so bad over time.
I still remember the fourth time I was on an airplane. It was in my final year of university in the fall of 1997 and I was invited to Ottawa for a job fair by a very large company. In fact, so were about 1000 other students. Over the weekend we were interviewed be numerous groups, and if we were lucky, we got a job offer on the spot.
I was one of the lucky ones. I had exactly what I had hoped for offered to me on Sunday morning. Man was I excited! I got to visit some friends and relax before my flight back to Halifax. It was a great day. It was also my girlfriends birthday, and I had already began the plans for how I was going to propose to her when I saw her later in the week. I had the world in the palm of my hand!
When I got to the airport for my flight home, the weather had picked up a bit. My friends and I who had gone didn’t care that our flight was slightly delayed, we all had new jobs!
When we finally got on the plane, the captain warned us it might be a bit of a bumpy ride, the wind had picked up quite strongly.
As we took off, literally just seconds after we left the runway, a gust of wind shook and tossed the plane sharply to the left. How dinner stayed down is beyond me! My buddy, who was next to me, looked at me, and without words we knew what each other were thinking… “It’s been nice knowin’ ya!”
For the next few minutes, it was a hair-raising ride. They don’t build rides like that in amusement parks. It felt like an eternity, but it was probably something like 20 minutes. Once we got through the front that was passing through, it was smooth sailing, er… flying.
I remember looking around the cabin and seeing some people look completely relaxed. And I thought to myself, are these people crazy? Don’t they know we’re going to die!! These of course were the people in the suits, those who travel all the time. They trusted the pilots and their ability to fly in this weather. Who knows, maybe they have seen worse? I hope I never see worse.
This is the story I think about when I read the story of Jesus and the disciples on the stormy sea. Of course Jesus traveled with fishermen, and they knew this body of water well. If anyone knew how to sail through the storm, it would be them.
But they can’t. They’re scared that this is it! Their lives are over, no one can do a thing about it. So they turn to Jesus, asleep in the back of the boat, and they grab him and shout, “WE’RE GONNA DIE!!”
Jesus wakes up, rubs the sleep out of his eyes, maybe looks around at the disciples and the terror on their faces, then he sits up and calls out, “BE QUIET!”
And silence falls over the sea.
The wind stops. The water becomes like glass.
The disciples, who were just moments ago afraid of dying at sea, now look at one another, and we’re told they are now filled with even greater fear.
The problem is solved, they are safe in the boat, and they are filled with greater fear? What is up with that?
These men have just witnessed one of the worst storms on the sea they have ever encountered. The power of nature is very real to them. No doubt, over the years they have been warned over and over again about the dangers of working on the water. We too know full well the power of the earth in this part of the world. We know the dangers of working in mines, just as we also know the dangers of working at sea. We’ve heard the stories over and over again. They are part of who we are, how we were brought up, how we live.
So imagine if everything we believed about the power of the earth was completely turned over and upside down just when we thought we were at its mercy? Imagine if we felt our lives were about to end as we have always been told is might end, and someone stands up and says, “STOP!” And just like that it’s over.
Just like that someone has shown us that he has power over the most terrifying thing we can imagine. Someone has the power over life and death. How would you feel?
And what about what Jesus had to say after he calmed the storm? “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
It seems like a bit of a silly question really. “Why are you so afraid?” Well, wasn’t it obvious? They were afraid because they were about to die. They were scared of dying. Can you blame them?
Over the last few weeks we’ve been looking at miracle stories in the Bible and how the stories often hold a deeper meaning than what we might initially see at first glance.
Today, I believe the key in these verses from Mark is what Jesus says to the disciples. It’s not just he calms the storm with a few words, it’s the interaction with his friends that matters.
“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
Such straightforward questions from the Son of God.
Jesus is asking them why they feel the need to be afraid. Jesus sees their fear as an indication that they do not have faith. Faith, it seems, is the key to calming their fear.
If they have faith in knowing they are following the Son of God, who is leading and teaching them, then they should not be afraid for a few reasons. First, it’s not time for Jesus to die yet. Sure it’s a bad storm, but Jesus still has work to do. It’s not his time.
Also, if they believe that he is the Son of God, then there still is nothing to worry about, even if the storm does take their lives. If they believe in Jesus the Christ then there is something even greater waiting for them should they perish on the stormy sea. This being eternal life with the Father and the Son.
Before they set out in the boat, Jesus had just been teaching parables about the kingdom of heaven. Teaching about the goodness of God in the sharing of His Word.
If the disciples had listened and learned, then there would be nothing to fear about death. Jesus was with them; not only in the boat, but for all eternity.
The storms of life can be mighty hard to navigate. There may be times when we just want to throw in the towel and give up. There may also be times when we’re nearly frightened to death as to what life may have in store for us next. But Jesus is teaching we need not be afraid. He is with us in the storms.
When we open up our lives to Jesus Christ, we don’t need to be afraid any more. He will care for us. Jesus will be with us in those tough times and only he can calm our fears.
And should our day come, when all else fails and our lives are finished, Jesus will still be with us. Jesus still calms the storms, because we will be with him in the eternal presence of God, our Father, joining with them in the heavenly kingdom prepared for those who believe in Him.
The invitation is to follow him, the one who gives life, both here on earth and forevermore, Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour.
Why are you so afraid?
There’s nothing to fear, God is with us when we follow Christ. It just takes a little faith to believe and by doing so you can go a long way.