Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 22; 148, Genesis 43:1-15, 1 Corinthians 7:1-9, Mark 4:35-41
What words describe your feelings about Jesus? Awe? Love? Gratitude? Comfort? How about… fear? The Bible uses the phrase “fear of God” or “fear of the Lord” to describe the proper reverence we owe God, but Jesus is generally portrayed as more immediate, more understanding, more human. His disciples found him sufficiently charismatic to leave behind jobs, homes, and families and follow him far and wide. He persuaded people through love, not fear. But is there a fearful side to Jesus?
One day Jesus and the disciples were on a boat after a long day of preaching to large crowds when a storm rose. Jesus might have slept right through it, but the disciples were afraid and woke him. He “rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still! ‘ Then the wind died down, and it was completely calm.” Afterward the terrified disciples asked each other who this person was, that he commanded nature herself. We might assume such a display would be inspiring, but when someone you think you know turns out to be entirely more powerful than you can understand, it is unsettling. Jesus changed from magnetic preacher to unknown quantity in a heartbeat.
Some disciples must have doubted the safety of continuing to follow this powerful figure. When we study Jesus, do we settle for “Jesus 101” – the introductory course with a benign, almost chummy Jesus? Or do we go for the advanced study: a Jesus who can be intimidating and demanding, but who offers a much richer life? Maybe we can synthesize the two: a Jesus who upends our expectations and draw us into new – sometimes frightening – lives, but loves and supports us through the demands of the new life he offers. When the Jesus who calmed the storm washed his disciples’ feet at the Last Supper, he taught us true power bends itself toward service. How can we not be humbled? Remembering Jesus is more than a companion who walks and talks with us “in the garden” helps us realize the deep reality of who Christ is – and who we can become in him.
Comfort: Jesus is with us to ride out life’s storms.
Challenge: When we are in trouble and it seems Jesus may be “in the stern, asleep on the cushion,” do we trust he is still faithful to us?
Prayer: God of power and majesty, I am your humble servant. Give me the courage to serve as Jesus served. Amen.