Hebrews 11:1-2,8-19; Luke 1:69-75; Mark 4:35-41
The icon captures the climactic moment in the gospel story: Jesus calms the storm, and the disciples are amazed: ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?’
But before the awe comes terror. Jesus is asleep in the stern, as the wind tosses the boat around on the rising waves. Many times during the last several months, this particular story from Mark’s gospel has come to mind. I have felt like the disciples, in a boat at the mercy of the storm. And I have pleaded with the master also: ‘Teacher, do you not care if we perish?’
Jesus asks whether they have no faith. The evidence, actually, is that they do. They’re the boatsmen. If getting safely through the storm required skill, there would have been no reason to wake Jesus. What did they expect him to do? How could he possibly help? Perhaps they did not have much faith, since they seem surprised to find that he was, in fact, able to calm the storm.
But a little faith is all it takes. (See also yesterday’s gospel: Mark 4:26-34.) The letter to the Hebrews shifts in chapter 11 from the great high priest to the faithful men and women of the Old Testament: ‘Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. For by it the men of old received divine approval’ (11.1-2). Among those so credited is Sarah, who ‘received power to conceive, even when she was past the age, since she considered him faithful who had promised’ (v. 11). As I read that bit of Genesis, though, Sarah’s faith is less obvious: she laughed.
The disciples in Mark’s gospel are notorious for not getting the point. That seems to be the way, though, and God doesn’t seem to mind terribly. Sarah laughs, but conceives anyway; Jesus scolds the disciples for having ‘no faith’, but calms the storm, and not long after, sends them out two by two, giving them authority over the unclean spirits.
Maybe, just maybe, there’s hope for me, after all.