"Get in the Boat"
A sermon preached by Erin Dunigan
Princeton Theological Seminary
One day he got into a boat with his disciples, and he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” So they put out, and while they were sailing he fell asleep. A windstorm swept down on the lake, and the boat was filling with water, and they were in danger. They went to him and woke him up, shouting, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And he woke up and rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were afraid and amazed, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”
Why are you here? Not in life, but here at Princeton Theological Seminary…, why are you here? Around this place talk of a sense of "call" is so prevalent that it becomes something we joke about, but isn't that why we are here? Jesus has said to us, "get into the boat, let's go to the other side of the lake, and we have followed him--we have stepped into the boat. But I wonder, do we really know who this is that we have followed, that we are following? And what do we think we are getting ourselves into, by following? Where do we think our journey “across the lake” will lead us? And who will we be, when we get there, having taken this journey?
One day Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side of the lake."
At this point in the story the disciples were most likely riding high--they were in the "in crowd" and if there had been any question of that before, they had just experienced two confirming encounters, prior to getting into the boat. Earlier in chapter 8 Jesus had explained a parable to them and in its explanation said "To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God; but to others I speak in parables." To them had been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God! To us has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God!
Shortly after, Jesus' mother and brothers came seeking him. When he was told, “Your mother and your brothers are looking for you” Jesus responded saying, “my mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it." Wait, the disciples must have said to themselves, that is what WE are doing! We are tighter with Jesus than even his own family!
Of course, when Jesus asked them to go to the other side of the lake, they would go with him! Why wouldn't they? They were “in” with Jesus.
So, the disciples set out with Jesus on the journey which he had called them to. And so we have set out on the journey to which Jesus has called us. They left all that was comfortable—mother, father, …sunny Southern California…, and set out to follow Jesus because they had heard his call. Jesus had said to them, let's leave this place, I will go with you, you are going with me—come with me to another place, to a strange land—I am calling you out to a journey.
And so, the disciples, filled with excitement, set out on the journey to which Jesus has called them, has invited them. And in the midst of that journey, Jesus fell silent.
Imagine, for a minute, that you were one of the disciples.
Don't you think you would have been excited to get some "quality" time with Jesus? Away from the crowds, away from that which would distract you, away from that which would keep you from Jesus? Don't you think they expected this to be a time to get even "tighter" with Jesus?
And yet, not long after their journey had begun their expectations were disappointed. They were with Jesus, they were on the journey with him, they had followed him into the boat and listened when he asked them to go with him…and Jesus fell asleep!
I don’t know about you, but I don’t talk much when I am asleep.
So much for this great time to hang out with Jesus—Jesus wasn’t saying anything to them! They had left the area where they were familiar, they had set out on a journey to an unknown place—all they knew was that they were going to the other side of the lake, and Jesus had, in a sense “abandoned” them. Church History midterms were upon them, the excitement of being in a new place had started to wear off, family and friends were far away…and Jesus wasn’t saying anything. They were on their own, or so it seemed. Jesus hadn’t moved, Jesus hadn’t left them, Jesus hadn’t changed his mind about the journey—they were still headed to the other side of the lake—that was still the plan. Their goal had not changed; their journey had not been cancelled. Jesus’ silence did not indicate him removing his presence or changing his mind about their journey.
And it just so happened that while they were in the midst of that silence, that time of not hearing from Jesus, a storm hit. Some among the disciples were fishermen. As such, they were likely aware that storms can sweep down upon the Sea of Galilee unannounced and unexpectedly. Odds are, they would not have set out across the lake had they known that a storm was going to hit. But who cares about storms? Jesus had asked them to go across the lake—we will be fine, we have Jesus with us! Sure, a storm may come up, but we have Jesus with us.
Did they consider the possibility of a storm?
Did they think they were immune to a storm?
Did they think that somehow it would not affect them?
It is hard to know what the disciples were thinking, but what about us? When we set out on the journey with Jesus, don’t we expect, somehow, that Jesus will keep the storms from hitting us?
But Jesus, we came here to follow you…how could you allow…?
Jesus, I left everything familiar, gave up other options, moved to New Jersey…I left that to get into the boat with you—how could you…?
Don’t we assume that if Jesus asks us to go across the lake, we will be safe? Maybe not consciously, but somewhere in our minds don’t we assume that going on a journey with Jesus will be safe? That we will be taken care of? That we will not be in danger?
But here the disciples were, right where Jesus had asked them to be, and they were in great danger! They were far from safe! Their lives were at stake! And in the midst of the storm they rushed to Jesus—“Master, Master, we are perishing!” Isn’t that the appropriate response?? Isn’t that what they should have done? In the midst of their terror they turned to Jesus, in the midst of their fear they turned back to Jesus and woke him up.
I wonder what questions the storm brought to their minds?
Did Jesus call us out here to die??
Did he unknowingly lead us into danger?
Does he know what he is doing?
Does he care that we are perishing?
How could he, if he is asleep?
And in the midst of those questions they cried out to him—“Master, Master, we are perishing!” And when they cried to him, Jesus woke up, calmed the wind and the waves, and turned to them and asked them, “Where is your faith?”
What do you think Jesus might have been thinking at this point? I have called you to come on a journey with me, I have called you into the boat, I have asked you to go with me. That is not in vain! I have not abandoned you, I am right here with you!
And those same disciples, the ones in the “in crowd,” the ones who thought they knew what Jesus was about and the ones who had so easily followed him into the boat, when all seemed safe and they thought it was a call to be in the “in crowd,” to be tight with Jesus, …they were left amazed and afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this that he commands even the winds and the water and they obey him?”
In the midst of their relief at being saved from the storm a new level of fear and amazement swept over them—“who is this, that I have gotten into the boat and set out on the journey with him?” The Jesus that they got into the boat with was a very different Jesus than they find themselves with on the other side.
And they were afraid and amazed and said to one another, “Who then is this that he commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him?”
And we are afraid and amazed, and say to one another, “Who then, is this one, this Jesus, who has called us?”