We’re all currently painfully aware of the nature of storms and their terrible impact on peoples’ lives. And our hearts go out to so many affected by the continuing harsh weather.
It caught my attention a few days ago to hear the Prime Minister describing scenes of the devastation as ‘Biblical’. A few days before in church we had looked at the account of Jesus calming the storm at sea and then healing a deranged guy in a graveyard. Though this reads like two stories it’s really a tale of two halves.
I’m told that storms can quickly brew up on the sea (or ‘lake’) of Galilee. They appear from nowhere and can be fierce creatures. In this case Jesus tells his friends to take a trip across the water and while they are doing that a violent storm blows up. Jesus’ friends are terrified and they wake him up with their yelling. (Jesus was actually taking a nap at the time.) The builder from Nazareth stands up and calms the storm, no doubt reminding his friends of their great hero Moses, who also controlled water in the way way back. I guess Jesus’ friends were as worried by this sudden display of power as they had been about the sudden force of the storm.
But they have little time to reflect because the boat lands on the other side and they are immediately accosted by a very disturbed man. And so the disciples find themselves hit by a second storm. This one caused by illness and emotional damage. The man is described as ‘possessed’. In one version of the story he self-harms, cutting himself with stones as he wanders among the dead. And once again we see Jesus take control of a storm. He cures the man and extracts the demons that are tormenting him. He casts them into a herd of pigs who immediately hurtle off a cliff. And then the guys get hit by a third storm.
The locals, who are non-Jews, do not want these strange foreigners around. No doubt the pig farmers were none too happy about their ex-pigs. They may well have feared that this miracle worker from Nazareth might start culling their other sources of food. But also they are freaked by this Jewish builder who can cure the local madman when they can’t. They’re not ready for this. So the locals gather round and plead with him to go. The former madman though is grateful, and recognises that Jesus is no ordinary man. (You can read all this in Mark 4 v 35 to Mark 5 v 20)
Whether or not we can relate to storms on Galilee or madmen in graveyards, we can relate to the storms of life. And that’s what we find here. The outer storms which hit us unexpectedly from all sides, and the inner, emotional storms which often debilitate us, confuse us and diminish our confidence and self-worth. We’re also well used to the storms that come from the pressure of others, others who perhaps don’t understand. One thing’s certain, being a Christian does not protect us from the storms, in fact it often leads us into more storms. We might wonder why Jesus doesn’t calm some of them, but then, we’re only told of Jesus calming a couple of storms in the Bible, and there must have been plenty more than that. And Jesus himself led his friends into many other very difficult storms as they travelled, and ultimately they entered a storm that scattered his friends and got Jesus killed. Jesus never shied away from those dark, dangerous and difficult times. He experienced all that life can throw at us. And it’s at times of great difficulty that we often turn to Jesus and cry for his help. The help of the one who has been there.