In the Gospel of Mark, we experience an often cited narrative in which Jesus, along with his disciples, cross a lake in a small boat. A very common, very normal, and very routine course of events. Picture this… it was a normal, rather calm day for Jesus and his disciples. On a standard commute across the lake (i.e. the sea of Galilee), the disciples were shooting the breeze, Jesus asleep on a cushion in the stern, when suddenly… “a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” Peace turns to chaos, calm turns to anxiety, and certainty turns to uncertainty. Panic sets in and the disciples begun to flurry about the deck of the boat in fear, panic, and utter chaos. Responding out of fear, they abruptly awaken Jesus and say to him “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
What happens next is quite normal for Jesus, but quite extra-normal for the disciples. Without hesitation, without batting an eye “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”
What is intriguing about this particular text and what I feel is an often overlooked point it contains is the who and what of Jesus’ command. Certainly his first response is a command to the wind and the waves to halt, quiet, and bring stillness to his immediate environment. “Quiet! Be still!” he commands with authority and power. Jesus was fulfilling a prophesy once foretold in Psalm 89:9 which reads “You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” He is also demonstrating his authority and omnipresent power over nature itself. But let us think for a minute... and let us challenge the text a little.
Who was Jesus really rebuking? The wind and waves, or his disciples?
As soon as peace was removed from their immediate surroundings, the disciples responded accordingly. Chaos begot chaos. As soon as peace was restored, the disciples responded accordingly. Peace begot peace. Just look how quick;y we are to respond to our environment? How capricious are our emotions and reactions?
When we live day to day, walking through the motions, routine to routine, we often forget what chaos and uncertainty is like. What seemed like a routine commute across the lake, something the disciples had likely done hundreds if not thousands of times, turned into an unexpected situation of chaos.
What does your normal routine look like? What have you become familiar with in your day to day schedule? What do you think about during your commute to work, school, or to church?
What I believe this text is telling us is to always be prepared and ready for chaos, even when we least expect it. Our routines often desensitize us to the jagged, uncontrollable, and uncertain events of life in a fallen world. When we are prepared for the uncertainties of this world how might we respond to them? Will we respond like the disciples in fear, anxiety, and loss of control? Or will we respond like Jesus, rebuking, commanding, and having authority over the situation. When Jesus says ““Quiet! Be still!” he is not merely speaking to nature but he is speaking to his panicked disciples. He is speaking to you and me.
How we respond to situations, good or bad, is directed correlated to our identity and knowledge of Christ. Mull over this for a while… after this whole situation unfolded the disciples said “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” They may have been with Jesus, but they did not know Jesus or have a confident understanding of his magnificent authority. Once we know Jesus and understand our identity in him, we can soon focus on our routines with Christ-like security, always being on guard (1 Corn. 16:13), and prepared for the uncertain nature of a fallen world.
When you are confident in your identity with Christ, responding to chaos becomes a normal and expected part of your routine. The storm did not take Jesus by surprise, and it should not take you by surprise neither.
How do you typically respond to the chaos that comes into your life unexpectedly?
Are you prepared for the uncertain events in your life? If not, what are some practical steps you can take to prepare for these chaotic times?
Think about Jesus’ command “Quiet! Be still!” What does that mean to you?