He was tired. It had been a long day with the crowds, teaching them truths about Kingdom life. If you've ever taught from sunup to sundown, you know how exhausting it can be. The crowd was so large, he even had to get in a boat so he could get some distance from the crowd and be seen and heard.
As the sun faded behind the hills, he told his friends, "Let's cross the lake." They were in an open boat, about 25 feet long with a simple mast and sail. They pushed off from shore and few other boats followed, and the crowd began to make their way home.
With the crowd behind him, he said to the men in the boat, "Mind if I lie down? I'm pretty tired." Someone found a cushion, moldy and damp, for him to lay his head on. When you're exhausted, you're not picky about your pillow.
The stars began to disappear behind clouds, and a dark night was swallowed by shadows on the water. The experienced fishermen on the boat -Peter, Andrew, James and John - knew the first hints of a storm.
They had ridden out many storms on this lake, and like most men were confident in their knowledge. They grinned at each other and hollered good-natured insults at the non-sailors, like Matthew: "Hey, tax boy! Better hold onto your stomach!" From the back of the boat, there was the steady, breathing rhythm of sound sleep.
The wind started to build, and the waves began to whitecap with luminous foam. Hard drops of rain began to sting their skin. You would expect a sleeping man to wake up, but the man in the back of the boat slept on.
There comes a point when experience and knowledge run out. The waves grew higher, the wind stopped blowing and started howling, and the rain began to mix with hail. Water was starting to wash over the low gunwale. Peter and John stopped exchanging wise-guy grins and began to look at each other anxiously. The boat was not being pushed by the wind; it was being tossed by the waves and slammed by the fierce air. It seemed like the atmosphere was attacking the boat and the others on the lake.
How weary must you be to sleep through a storm? How frightened do you have to be to admit you don't know what to do? It dawned on them that they needed to wake him and let him know they were all about die - and him too. How could a man sleep with death approaching?
"Rabbi," they said, "Don't you even care that we are dying?" Translation: "How can you sleep at a time like this? We're all about to die!"
It was funny when they thought back about it later. His eyes scrunched up like eyes do when they are woken too early. His shoulder muscles tightened and then relaxed. Finally, his eyes opened with no trace of anxiety or panic. He was the same Rabbi they had seen awaken so many calm mornings on land.
He looked at their panic-stricken faces, and he smiled. They were like children who think the world is ending because there is no peanut butter in the house. Lifting his head from the pillow, with just a trace of "being-woke-too-early" in his voice, he turned away from his followers to speak to the storm.
"Peace! Be still!" It was a tone of voice they recognized. He was not speaking a suggestion to the storm but giving a command. His voice held the same authority he used to drive out demons and heal the sick. It was the voice that had echoes of calling stars into being and commanding plants to spring up out of the ground. When he spoke like this, things happened.
This time, something stopped happening. As the words rolled off his lips, the wind stopped. The waves did not die down, they disappeared. In a second, a blink of an eye, the "we're going to die" storm changed to complete peace.
He looked at them with a puzzled expression, "Why were you so worked up? Are you still missing faith?"
They looked at each other, jaws dropped. It was Peter who spoke first (always): "Who is this guy? He's not just a healer, not just a teacher. Creation obeys him. Creation only obeys the creator. So, this means Whoa!"
Whatever storm you are facing, Jesus is not anxious about it. His peace is greater than any wind that blows. His grace is stronger than your fear. His love can heal the bruises of the hail and the sting of the rain. Call out to him. Tell him you need him. Let him calm the storm raging in you.
Clay Smith is the lead pastor of Alice Drive Baptist Church in Sumter.
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