Don’t Be Panicky

Brueghel, Pieter I - Christ in the Storm on the Sea of Galilee - 1596

 “And they went and woke him, saying, ‘Master, Master, we are perishing!’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and the raging waves, and they ceased, and there was a calm.”- Luke 8:24.

They felt that if that boat went down, everything He stood for was going to fail. They had heard Him preach for nearly three years now. They had heard Him teach. They had been with Him. They had seen the glory of the Kingdom of God as He interpreted it. They had seen the breadth and beauty and beneficence of the ideal. They saw the glory of the thing towards which He was moving. They felt that all that was imperilled. Don’t You care that we are perishing; and that if we perish in this boat, the Kingdom of God is going to fail. That was the trouble of the disciples. Master, how can You sleep here? The boat is going down, and what about those parables concerning the coming Kingdom? There are many Christians today who seem to think the boat is going down! I am tired of the wailing of some of my friends who take that view. The boat cannot go down. Jesus is on board…Read the story again, and look at the world today, tempest-tossed and in the storm, and it does look now and then as though the enterprise of God is in danger. Christ seems to be asleep. Well, don’t wake Him. Don’t be panicky. Don’t imagine that God wants your hands or mine to keep the ark safe, or the boat up. He does not. Hear again the lines: ‘No waters can swallow the ship, where lies the Master of ocean, and earth, and skies.‘”- G. Campbell Morgan, The Gospel According to Luke, 112.

I really do love G. Campbell Morgan. Some of my most treasured books are four gospel commentaries by this man. They are dusty, they are out-of-print, and their paper jackets are disintegrating, and yet within their pages, Morgan’s words are so “matter of fact” and simple, beautiful. Here we get a familiar passage. There is an epic storm. The disciples are freaked out. Jesus is asleep. The disciples are panicked because they fear death. They fear the end of all they have worked for, all that has been done. They fear the end of Jesus. But they also fear the end of themselves. They fear. The simple truth is this, though, if the Maker of the Seas is in the boat, do they really believe the seas can overcome them? If the One who is Master of All Creation resides with them, do they really need to fear creation? Do they really need to fear at all? It is interesting; Jesus does not deny the storm. He doesn’t say to them, “Oh you little babies! It was only a trivial storm!” He doesn’t rebuke them in this way, but he does rebuke them for the littleness of their faith. It is as if he says so them, “Do you really believe i’m going to let you drown?” So what for us?

We live in storms. Our culture is a storm, the world is a storm. At times, the church can be a storm. The successive moments in our day are packed with little tempests, and we feel, very often, like we are in a tiny boat being tossed here and there. These are moments that we tend to fear. When we are overcome by the death of a loved one. When we lose a job. When bombs go off and war rips through our world. When our sins seem too hard to manage. When we are uncertain. We fear. And we get panicky, don’t we? The strong gales are real, and the ocean storms are brutal and terrifying. Jesus doesn’t deny them. He knows them. He knows their force and brutality. But he does whisper to us in the midst of them, “Do you really believe i’m going to let you drown? I’m here with you.” So we must pause today. What are we believing? Are we panicky? Are we fretting? Do we believe Jesus will let us drown? It does look like the world is out of control. My life oftentimes feels out of control. But the Lord of All Things is in control. And for those who call upon Him, for those in the boat of His church, He is with them in the midst of it all, gently but steadily affirming certain victory and coming morning.

Whether the wrath of the storm tossed sea,
Or demons, or men, or whatever it be,
No water can swallow the ship where lies,
The Master of ocean and earth and skies;

Master, the terror is over, The elements sweetly rest;
Earth’s sun in the calm lake is mirrored, And Heaven’s with my breast.
Linger, O blessed Redeemer, Leave me alone no more;
And with joy I shall make the blest harbor, And rest on the blissful shore.

– from Master, the Tempest is Raging, Mary Baker.

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