Why are you so frightened? What little faith you have!
A storm rocks the boat where Jesus is sleeping. The disciples wake Jesus up because they fear for their lives. After saying these words, he calms the storm and everyone is amazed at this miracle.
I can really relate to this one. I’m right there with those disciples waking Jesus up so he will rescue me. I can just see Jesus saying these words to me. Why are you so frightened of this storm? What little faith you have!
For much of my life I was terrified of storms. When I was 5 years old a small tornado hit in the middle of the night and did some damage to our house and property. I slept right through it, which freaked me out. While you peacefully sleep your whole house could be blown away along with your entire family! A couple of years later one of my little girlfriends insisted on staying on the bus and coming to my house rather than getting off at her own house. When we arrived at my house there was a tree lying on our roof. Needless to say my mom was not happy to have to deal with a wayward child as well as one of her beloved trees in my sister’s bedroom. From that time on I was afraid of storms and every time the sky clouded up I was very fearful.
So I finally found a good use for my Dad’s nuclear fallout shelter – I would go down there and hide out with the dog whenever a bad storm hit. As a college student I had another bad experience with what I think was a downburst. I was all alone when all of the windows blew out of my house and all I could do was dive for the closet because there wasn’t a basement.
My fear of storms lingered into adulthood. Here’s a picture of one that really freaked me out when we were vacationing in Michigan. This giant rolling cloud was positively evil-looking, and the storm that followed was serious. And again there was no basement to retreat to. In my opinion, when you see a giant steam-roller cloud coming at you full of lightning and thunder and strange colors, you will be afraid. It is normal to be afraid of something like that. The issue in this scripture is how you respond to your fear.
I wish someone would have told me about Psalm 107. When Jesus calms the storm in this scripture he is simply demonstrating Psalm 107: 26-30.
The ships were lifted high in the air
and plunged down into the depths.
In such danger the sailors lost their courage;
they stumbled and staggered like drunks—
all their skill was useless.
Then in their trouble they called to the Lord,
and he saved them from their distress.
He calmed the raging storm,
and the waves became quiet.
They were glad because of the calm,
and he brought them safe to the port they wanted.
I used to think that Jesus rebuked the disciples because of their fear; that if they had more faith they would have been more courageous, more macho. Now I read it differently. I don’t think Jesus reprimanded the disciples for being afraid of the storm; I think he scolded them for being afraid of God. I think the issue is that while the disciples have faith that Jesus can calm the storm, they don’t have faith that they are empowered to do the same thing. They are afraid to call out to God themselves like the sailors in Psalm 107. They don’t believe that God hears their cries. They want Jesus to do it for them; it’s like they have faith in Jesus but not in God himself, the source of Jesus’ power. What is Jesus’ response? Affirmation because they believe in him and humbly acknowledge their own inferiority? No – Jesus reacts with……irritation!!!
The disciples are his students. Jesus wants them to stop treating him like a priest (a mediator with God). Or a savior. Or a god. Jesus wants them to start following him and stop worshiping him. He wants them to go directly to God, not him. He wants to show them how to use the power that has been given to each of them by God. I think that’s why he’s irritated. They don’t want to have a personal relationship with God. Jesus doesn’t want them to be powerless slaves, held hostage by the priests and prophets and intermediaries who take advantage of them. He wants them to grow up and accept their God-given role as world changers.
This problem goes way back. In Exodus God told the Hebrews that he wanted all of them to serve him as priests, communicating with him directly (Exodus 19:6). God instructed them to purify themselves so that they would be ready to meet with him at the top of Mt. Sinai. They did everything they were instructed to do, but when God gave the signal to come up the mountain they were afraid, so they sent Moses up alone to be their mediator (Exodus 20:18-20). They were afraid that God would kill them. Sadly they missed the opportunity to meet with God face to face like Moses did. It doesn’t say it in the Bible, but I’m sure Moses was thinking the same thing that Jesus said in this scripture – “Why are you so frightened? What little faith you have!”
So mankind has a long history of fearing God and wanting someone else (a priest or prophet) to talk to God for them instead of knowing him personally – either because they are too frightened or too lazy. All relationships take time, effort and courage. Throughout most of history Christianity has encouraged people to passively rely on priests and pastors or other “special” people to deliver God’s word instead of communicating with God directly. And Christians have enjoyed being passive participants, depending on others to talk to God for them. Jesus would not approve. Jesus says that God wants us to know him personally (See Day 62).
Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount to “ask-seek-knock;” he says that you can ask Father God for anything without fear of punishment (Days 57-58). Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Ask God to calm the storm. He will keep you safe. Have faith. Don’t depend on Jesus. He’ll just get irritated with you. He can get pretty grumpy, especially when he hasn’t had enough sleep.
What does this scripture say to you?