Monday, April 29, 2013

When Jesus calms a storm he scares the stuffing out of his disciples.

Look at that title again.  In Luke 8:22-25 Jesus performs a miracle.  He tells a storm to stop.  His disciples are all scared out of their minds because they think they are about to die.  This must have been a pretty good storm.  Keep in mind they are not in the middle of the Bering Sea during crab season.  They are on a lake.
This story starts out innocently enough.  Jesus says, “Hey guys.  Let us go across to the other side of the lake.”  I added the “Hey guys” part because that just seems to make this flow a little better.  I picture the disciples looking at each other and going, “OK.  Sounds good.”  So they set out.

Well as they sailed Jesus fell asleep.  I imagine he fell asleep because he was tired.  That is why I fall asleep.  I also imagine he was tired from having to carry that group of knuckleheads across the desert all the time.  He had to answer a lot of questions and it has to be tiring answering questions all the time.  And it is especially tiring when your MO is answering questions with other questions.  So he was tired and he fell asleep. 

So Jesus is asleep and a windstorm suddenly assails this little boat that was supposedly only going out on a three hour tour.  A three hour tour.  The boat started filling with water.  I imagine the zealots and the tax collectors are really starting to lose their minds.  I imagine them looking to Peter and his brother (because they were fishermen and boats were their life once upon a time) for comfort and assurance.  Peter and his brother start freaking out like the Steward of Gondor when he looked down and saw all of Sauron’s army amassed on the Fields of Pelinor.  “ABANDON YOUR POSTS!  WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!”  When Peter and his brother lost it then the rest really lost their freaking minds. 

Somebody decided they ought to wake the boss up since they were all going to die.  Who was this brave soul who woke Jesus up?  Waking Jesus up seemed like the right thing to do.  Now I want to ask a question.  What motivated them to wake Jesus?  Did they think it was common courtesy to wake up their rabbi before they all died?  Or did they wake him up because they thought he could do something about it?  I am inclined to think they woke Jesus up for reason number one.  Common courtesy.  Let me explain.

We see at the conclusion of this little tale their reaction to Jesus and what he did.  I think they were surprised that Jesus could do this.  They just didn’t think that Jesus had that particular skill in his wheelhouse. 

So they wake the boss up before he drowns.  Because God knows it is better to drown wide awake than drown in your sleep.  The ESV goes like this: Master, Master, we are perishing.  The JKV goes like this: MASTER!!!  MASTER!!!! WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE.  This I can relate to.  I have been in a van in Michigan and again in a van in Webbers Falls, OK when I tire has blown out or just decided it no longer wanted to be joined with the rest of the vehicle.  Both of these happened while a good friend of mine was driving and both time my first thought was, “We are going to die.”  No ALL CAPS to show my dismay and terror, just the cold certainty that my time on this mortal coil was fast coming to an end. 

They wake Jesus up with the assurance they are going to die.  Jesus wakes up to the sound of the wind and rain and his disciples losing it.  Here is where it gets kind of funny for me.  Jesus wakes up and rebukes the wind and the waves and they stopped cold.  No more wind.  No more waves.  Just like that.  Then he turns and asks them where their faith is.  See this with me.

Jesus wakes up.  Maybe he wakes up and for a second he doesn’t know where he is.  He was fully human.  You’ve awakened and wondered where you are before.  This is a perfectly natural thing that happens to sober people all the time.  It is not just a phenomenon of the catastrophically drunk.  He wakes up and it is pandalerium on the boat.  The disciples are coming apart.  Maybe Jesus is just a tad grumpy about not being able to get a little rest.  If you don’t think Jesus is capable of grumpy I ask you to revisit the whole clearing out the temple story.  So roll with me here.  He’s grumpy.  His disciples are scared out of their minds.  Jesus goes up to the other side of the boat and looks at the wind and the waves and takes out his frustration on the weather.  He rebuked the wind and the waves.  This was not a gentle little request.  “Hey wind.  Hey waves.  Stop acting up.  Thanks.”  I hear it this way. “FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THAT’S HOLY WOULD YOU STOP!!  RIGHT!!!  NOW!!!” 

And it stopped.  The wind quit being windy and the waves quit being wavy.  Just like that.  I can see the disciples sitting behind Jesus with their mouths open with this thought in their minds: Holy crap what just happened?  And amid that confusion he turned to them.  A moment before the wind and the waves stopped cold and now they had his undivided attention.  And what is the first emotion they felt.  Joy at being saved from a watery grave?  Relief?  Gratitude?  All of these are perfectly reasonable responses to what happened.  But they felt none of this at first.  They were afraid. 

It says they marveled and asked a very crucial question.  Who is this guy that he can command the winds and the waves and they obey him?  Jesus calms a storm and saves their lives and it scares them witless.

I believe they got a first glimpse at the God they were following that day.  This was more than a teacher laying out theoretical platitudes and homilies about how to live.  I think they came face to face for the first time with the fact that he was authority behind all he was teaching them. 

Throughout the Bible when people came face to face with God their first instinctive reaction was fear.  And they had cause to be afraid.  These disciples were no different.  I think they came away from that encounter with God with more than a little fear because what would it mean to follow him.  How were they going to have to change?  What was going to happen to their lives?  Not all of them made it to the finish line.  Judas could not handle the strain.  The path was too hard.  11 of the 12 went on to follow gloriously and laid the foundations for every Christian and every church. 

I have to ask myself what it means to follow this man who can command the winds and waves but doesn’t command me.  The wind and the waves had no choice.  I do.  And so do you.  There may come a time when the winds and the waves crash against the little boat I am on when all I thought I was signing up for was a simple three hour tour and I feel that Jesus is asleep at the wheel.  What do I do? 

I have to tell you this scares me more than a little.     

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Is There Enough Love?

"There is not enough love in this world."

I recently said this at work to a co-worker after he told me about a man he went to church with who died in a house fire.  He was in his 40's and left behind three small children.  Beautiful children.  the church is doing what it can.  Memorial funds have been set up for these children who had a father one minute and did not have a father the next. 

Two events have in my lifetime have caused me to yearn for the time when Jesus will return and fix what is desperately broken in this world. 

I was in college at the University of Montevallo when two crazy people leveled the Federal Courthouse in Oklahoma City.  There is a picture of a fireman carrying the lifeless body of a toddler out of the carnage.  This image is seared into my brain. 

I was in seminary at Beeson Divinity School when several crazy people flew planes into the World Trade Centers.  Again I wanted Jesus to come back right then.  I was glued to the TV for days.  The images of people jumping out of the windows to escape the flames haunt me still.

Today someone set bombs to explode at the finish line of the Boston Marathon.  As I write this the death toll is at 3 with more than 100 injured. 
Is there enough love to cover this?  I don't know.  But there is hope.
A video captured the first explosion.  You can see one of the runners go wobbly and fall down.  This man is 78 years old and was about to finish running a marathon.  That's 26 miles.  I get sweaty driving 26 miles.  This 78 year old man was about to finish when he was knocked down. 
There are two rays of hope in this picture.  As people are fleeing the explosion there are people running toward it.  And not just policemen and first responders.  There are ordinary people who went toward harm to help people. 
This 78 year old man got up and finished the race.  He was knocked down.  He got back up.  He finished the race. 
In Hebrews 12:1-2 Paul wrote about a scene prescient the picture above. 
Therefore, since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us also lay aside every weight, and sin which clings so closely, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God.
This man got up and finished the race.  At least that is the story today. 
There is hope in this story because people rushed into a situation not knowing if there were more explosions coming.  They rushed in to help the helpless.  This is the image of Christ who for the joy of saving me rushed headlong to the cross and all that went with it.  For me.  For you. 
There is hope in this story because a man got up and finished the race set before him.  The second before the bombs went off there were people at the finish line whose sole purpose was to cheer the people who were finishing the race.  The runners who were finishing were surrounded by people cheering them on to the finish.  The race had been decided 2 hours before.  The people crossing at this point were merely finishing what they had started. 
The people who were behind at this point did not get to finish the race but I have heard many have pledged they will finish. 
The Oklahoma City bombing and 9/11 caused me to call for Jesus to step down and call the race. 
Is there enough love?  Can that love cover what happened today and what is surely going to happen if Jesus tarries?  Probably not.  But I have hope because my eyes, however imperfectly they may focus, are fixed on Jesus.  He's crossed the finish line.  He waits there for me.  There is hope.  He has enough love for all of us.