February 1, 2020 (Saturday) - Why Are You Afraid? - A Reflection on Mark 4:35-41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

The question that Jesus asks the apostles in today’s story is a question he asks all of us who are worried, or anxious, or fearful. “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” The key word is STILL. Have you STILL no faith? We are all, admittedly, people of very little faith to begin with, and when faith is minimal, it is understandable that we will be fearful. But when faith increases, fear has to decrease. And faith has to increase, no? So, how do we make it increase?

I discovered an easy way a few years ago and I’d like to share it with you. But let me first tell you a story. I might take an extra paragraph today, but I promise you it is worth it. You probably know that the Israelites were under bondage to Pharaoh, the leader of the Egyptians, for years. And for years they cried out to God for deliverance, until one day God decided to answer their prayers. He sent Moses to Pharaoh with the message to let the Israelites go.

Pharaoh wasn't impressed and sent Moses packing. Forced to play hardball, God unleashed a string of plagues on the Egyptians, until finally he gave the Israelites their freedom. But no sooner were they gone, Pharaoh had a change of heart and amassing his troops chased after the Israelites. They caught up with them at the Red Sea, leaving the Israelites sandwiched between a sea on one side and Pharaoh’s army on the other. Psalm 106 gives a condensed version of what followed:

“He rebuked the Red Sea, and it became dry; he led them through the deep as through a desert. So he saved them from the hand of the foe, and delivered them from the hand of the enemy. The waters covered their adversaries; not one of them was left. Then they believed his words; they sang his praise.” (Psalm 106: 9-12). What an amazing miracle! God parted the waters and led the Israelites through dry land. Then, to ensure that the Egyptians never troubled them again, he destroyed them all.

The overjoyed Israelites sang his praises at the top of their voices. And rightly so. However, there is one little thing wrong with this picture. Do you know what it is? They sang his praises on the wrong side of the river! It is easy to praise God when victory has been won! Why didn’t they sing his praises BEFORE they crossed over? Because they didn’t believe that God would save them. Now, do you know what the very next line in Psalm 106 says? “But they soon forgot what he had done” (v13).

Can you imagine? God has just worked one of the greatest miracles in the sight of man. And they forgot. Despite the fact he was still working miracles in their lives. When they were hungry he sent manna down from heaven. When they were thirsty he had water pour out from a rock. He appeared as a pillar of cloud during the day and a pillar of fire at night to guide them through the desert. But they forgot! And in this lies the key to growing in faith. Simply REMEMBER!

That’s all the apostles had to do. He had taken them through one storm; why wouldn’t he take them through another? That’s all we need to do. He has done great things for us in the past. Why shouldn’t he do them in the future? So, remember ...