Sometimes the gospel stories are so familiar I have to really pay attention not to miss little words that add some new thought to the meaning. For instance, this morning in Mark’s account of the storm at sea (MK 4:35-41), at the beginning of the narrative where Jesus says he wants to cross to the other side, it says that he got in the boat “just as he was.” It sounds to me that he was living out of his advice when he sent the Twelve out in ministry saying to them, “Take nothing for the journey.” That’s pretty risky especially if you don’t bring a lunch or have a reservation at a decent hotel. It also speaks to the necessity of readiness in all circumstances for the disciples to do what Jesus asks – in this case getting in a boat as evening is coming on, crossing the Sea of Galilee for a purpose they obviously know nothing about, when they probably thought they were finished working for the day. Those thoughts are not new to me.
This morning, however, there were two other little phrases that got me thinking in somewhat new ways. When the disciples thought they were going to die and woke Jesus up, they didn’t just say – as we sometimes hear, “Save us for we are perishing!” They asked him, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” That’s a whole different situation that points up the reason for the response of Jesus whose questions to them (after he deals with the wind) are: “Why are you terrified? Do you not yet have faith?” To be fair to the disciples we might argue that this is rather early in Mark’s account so we don’t know how long the disciples have been following Jesus; this exchange might have been the end of the “honeymoon phase” of their relationship.
These little phrases made me think about how I respond to traumatic moments either in my life or in the world. It’s easy to believe when one isn’t challenged by adversity, but, at the most terrifying moments, do I ever think that God doesn’t care about what’s happening? or worse, about me? My answer to that is usually a quick, definitive: “Of course I believe God cares!” It behooves me, however, to look deeply at how glib my answer is – out of habit – going to the root of my distress to be certain that my faith is as strong as I think it is. May we all be blessed today with a new certainty and a willingness to persevere in faith no matter what the outer circumstances of life and living.