Scripture Mark 4: 36-41, Nigel Bunce
Calming the storm is a miraculous Gospel story. Our task, as 21st century Christians, is simultaneously to see its parable like qualities, and to enter into the magic of the story. Image: freeBibleimages
The context of hhe story
Jesus had been teaching a crowd by way of parables. I assume that afterwards, he needed to get away somewhere quiet. I recall that I used to teach one session of a compressed graduate course in toxicology. It was an all-day effort, from 9 to 4. Each time we gave the course, I felt pretty tired afterwards. So, I imagine that Jesus felt the same way, after a day of teaching the crowds parables
Luckily, I could go home and relax. Jesus apparently tried to do the same. He asked the disciples to row him across the Sea of Galilee, away form the crowds. He was sleeping in the boat when a storm blew up. But the disciples got very afraid. They woke him up. Apparently, Jesus had to be on duty 24/7.
What should we make of the miracle of calming the storm
The question bears on the whole matter of how to interpret the Gospels. There’s so much miraculous material. Virgin birth, healing miracles, the Transfiguration, and on and on. How does a 21st century minister with a science background deal with it all?
Thomas Jefferson decided to take the rational approach. He compiled a Gospel that combined stories from the four conventional Gospels, under the title The Life and Morals of Jesus of Nazareth. He eliminated all the miraculous material. It makes for pretty dry reading.
Bishop John Spong, a modern author, has written extensively on this problem. My sense is that Spong does an excellent job of “deconstructing” the Jesus story. However, this leaves a very thin gruel behind.
However, my own approach has been to recognize that 1st century authors saw the world very differently from ourselves. They lived in a world of wonder and miracles. Naturally, they wrote their accounts of Jesus’ life and death from that perspective.
Calming the storm: a parable for the storms of life, but also connection to the miraculous event
To try to address this problem, I offer the example of a typical Christmas Eve sermon. I try to focus on two things. First, to give a semi-rational explanation of the story. Luke wanted to tell us that heaven and earth came very close together on that holy night. But second, to enter into the wonderment of the story. To invite everyone to peek into the stable and see Mary and the infant Jesus asleep in the manger.
So, regarding this evening’s Scripture, calming the storm. I see it first, as a parable for the storms of life. We put our trust in Jesus (or God, or the Holy Spirit), when life buffets us about, and we feel afraid or uncertain.
Heaven knows, people are uncertain today. With rising prices, war in Europe, and climate concerns. However, Psalm 46 tells us that God can be refuge for us in times of trouble.
But, and this is the other part. We can imagine ourselves with the disciples in the boat. We wake Jesus up, and amazingly, the storm dies down. Amen.