You Will Get Wet
God, do you not care that we are drowning?
Several boats hoisted their anchors from the shoreline of Galilee and set sail for the region of the Gerasenes at dusk. Situated in a basin surrounded by mountains, the Sea of Galilee was notorious for its violent storms. Cool air from the Mediterranean drew down from the narrow passes and clashed with the hot, humid air lying over the lake. In Mark’s account of Jesus stilling a storm (4:35-41), we read that “a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped.”
At the height of the storm, at the point where the very lives of his disciples were threatened, where was Jesus? Rather than being up on deck and in full control of the situation, where did they find him? “He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion” (Mk 4:38a). Can you picture that? His disciples couldn’t believe their eyes! Imagine the Creator-Lord of the universe, the one who held all things together by the power of his word, was caught taking a nap! The nerve of Jesus! He was sound asleep while his friends were drenched and distraught. Their boat was nearly swamped (NIV), it was already filling up (NASB), it was almost full of water (WBTC). By all means, before it’s too late, and in case Jesus didn’t notice, wake him up! So in the midst of the pounding waves and howling winds the disciples cried out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mk 4:38b)
Hoisting up our own anchor in the early nineties, with the wind at our backs and the sunshine warm upon our faces, my wife and I set sail across the Sea of Seminary. Our expectations for the voyage ran high. We believed that our vessel of faith was seaworthy. One could not imagine a more ideal situation. We were basking in the presence and promises of God. We were seeking first His kingdom and righteousness with the understanding that all the other provisions at sea will be given to us as well. Karen Carpenter sang it best, “... not a cloud in the sky, got the sun in my eyes and I won’t be surprised if it’s a dream.” It would be smooth sailing from then on ... or so we thought. For when the wind began to howl and the waves began to billow, we were rudely awakened by a nautical nightmare.
The great windstorm that we faced during that period was unrelenting. It threatened to sweep our entire world into a bottomless sea and the ‘Captain of our soul’ was fast asleep! It felt like we were just a wave away from the shipwreck of our faith. Billows of bills swamped our boat. Our finances were on the verge of tanking. And we were straining at the oars in our relationship. Is trusting Jesus a cruel joke? Does evil triumph in the end? Can we make any more sense of this spiritual voyage? God, do you not care that we are drowning?
It is at this point, when the water is rapidly rising to our knees, that we begin to question our view of God. God is always present with us—we know that theologically—yet the reality of the moment rules that He is far and away. Haven’t there been times in your life, like the disciples, wherein you find yourself caught up in the mercy of a great windstorm? Economic tsunamis! Massive layoffs! Government bailouts! As you are tossed and turned about by the turbulent sea, you desperately look for stability in a lifesaver. Is there some word of assurance, some form of deliverance, and some demonstration of God’s divine presence? Is the Almighty Coastguard ever coming to our rescue? Yet it seems as though life, at best, is emptied of any encouraging epiphany.
In the meantime, you do everything you can to save your ship. You take down the sails, steer into the direction of the waves, and bail out as much water as possible. Yet in all this, as Dietrich Bonhoeffer once said, “the God who is with us is the God who forsakes us.” From a distance, He remains hidden and we feel forsaken—we are left to our own devices, soaking wet and panic-stricken. Orphaned in the midst of an angry ocean. Do we paddle our own canoes, as it were, or abandon ship?
I am reminded of an afternoon spent at Knott’s Berry Farm. My family gathered enough courage to ride “The Bigfoot Rapids.” Walking toward the entrance, we caught glimpses of what one may expect from this ride. The bright yellow aquatic raft took on the shape of an oversized, inflated inner tube. As this free-floating vessel surged over the rapids, it literally played the game of ‘Russian Roulette’ between the riders. The unexpected would happen. The river would spin the raft uncontrollably through all the rushing dips and dives. In this wild and woolly water ride, nobody really knew whose turn it was to get wet. The riders were at the river’s mercy.
The line moved slowly as we inched our way toward the loading dock. And every step of the way, we would take notice of these signs posted all over the place. The warning was spelled out in big bold letters:
“YOU WILL GET WET. YOU MAY EVEN GET DRENCHED.”
We have the assurance of God’s promise in Isaiah 43:1-2. “Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name, you are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they shall not overwhelm you; when you walk through fire you shall not be burned, and the flame shall not consume you.”
In our spiritual pilgrimage, we haven’t got a prayer’s chance on earth to avoid braving life’s raging rivers but rest assured, we are not alone. As His disciples, we ought to take comfort in the knowledge that Jesus remains “just as he was” (Mk 4:36) in our boats. He told His disciples in the past as He tells us today, “Let us go across to the other side” (Mk 5:35). Jesus is together with us in our voyage through the sunshine and storms of our Christian lives. Therefore, we will not be swept over. We will get wet, we may even get drenched, but we will not drown.
Copyright 2009, Gicky Soriano. All rights reserved.
Lane's work on the Gospel of Mark is a contribution to The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Prepared by some of the world's leading scholars, the series provides an exposition of the New Testament books that is thorough and fully abreast of modern scholarship yet faithful to the Scriptures as the infallible Word of God.