I’ve lately been reading stories of the Saviour and boats. Not separately: together. I’ve previously written about Jesus walking on water, toward the storm-tossed fishing boat that held terrified friends. This story is instead an account of the Saviour, who travelled with his followers in a small boat.
A storm gathers and soon the passengers begin to be afraid. The words of the hymn Master the Tempest is Raging paint a picture for us:
Master, the tempest is raging!
The billows are tossing high!
The sky o’ershadowed with blackness.
No shelter or help is nigh.
Every time I think of sea-torn storms I think of a terrifying trailer I once saw for a movie, A Perfect Storm. A ship appears as a small dot, in the throes of a magnificent wave that looks as though it could swallow the Shard building a few times over. I didn’t watch the actual movie because that image alone is too terrifying.
The disciples, in the midst of this terror, look for their Lord who was “in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow.” (Mark 4:38) The hymn continues,
Carest thou not that we perish?
How canst thou lie asleep
When each moment so madly is threat’ning
A grave in the angry deep?
I love the second verse which likens the scripture to us today,
Master, with anguish of spirit
I bow in my grief today.
The depths of my sad heart are troubled.
Oh, waken and save, I pray!
Torrents of sin and of anguish
Sweep o’er my sinking soul,
And I perish! I perish! dear Master.
Oh, hasten and take control!
Like the concerned disciples who struggled in dread to keep their boat from sinking, often we find ourselves dropping to our knees in panic, terrified of falling harder and deeper than ever before. We may be tempted to lift our eyes to the skies and ask, “Carest thou not that we perish?!”
The Saviour does not often rebuke, but I imagine this question might exasperate Him at times. He responds, “Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?” I imagine Him to kindly remind us, “Whom say ye that I am?” Who is He, really? The Saviour of the world, come to redeem and to save, to love and to lift. Performer of miracles, He’s raised the dead, fed thousands, healed thousands and proven to be the firstborn of Deity. And He’s here in this boat! Could He really allow it to sink?
I thought of the covenant we make at baptism: we promise to take upon us the name of Christ, to represent Him, to strive to be like Him; to always remember Him that His spirit may be with us. When we make this covenant, I like to believe that He effectively steps aboard our boat. He resides with us, in our presence. He lets us steer, take the lead. But he’s there in our boat! Could He let us sink? Could He let storms prevail against us? Or, what miracles could this boat endure?
The winds and the waves shall obey thy will:
Peace, be still.
Whether the wrath of the storm-tossed sea
Or demons or men or whatever it be,
No waters can swallow the ship where lies
The Master of ocean and earth and skies.
They all shall sweetly obey thy will:
Peace, be still; peace, be still.