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Emmanuel Church, Plymouth
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Tony's Reflection 50
Where were you when the 1986 hurricanes struck Plymouth?
I was working in an old, granite church building just off Union Street. We had heavy wooden church doors to keep us safe and solid wooden shutters over all the windows. We normally used them to protect us from vandals, but on that day, they were bringing us security of a very different kind.
We were so safe and sound in there, I could hear the wind picking up, but made nothing of it. Until I had a phone call from Jean. Our garage doors had blown away, she didn’t know what to do and please could I come home quickly?
I will never forget the drive home. It was absolutely terrifying. It felt like my little Ford Fiesta would be lifted off the road at any moment. Pedestrians were struggling to stay upright. Tree branches and roof slates were flying everywhere.
I suddenly felt very small and helpless in the face of the overwhelming force of the hurricane.
Do you know what it is to feel so little and vulnerable, before the forces of nature? That’s an experience Jesus’ immediate inner circle had, in our next episode in Mark’s biography (
). By the time the episode finishes, though, they are even more terrified of Jesus than the frenzied powers of nature. How come? Let’s take a closer look…
Jesus has just had a hard day, teaching a huge crowd of people. He has poured all his energy, heart and soul, into making his stories so riveting that everyone has been totally captivated. Now all he needs is to find some peace and rest away from the spotlight.
He had been teaching from a boat, so what could be easier than just putting out further into the lake and watching the crowd disappear from sight?
His friends have lapped up his teaching. They are so grateful that Jesus has allowed them to get close to him. They are not part of the crowd he is leaving behind. They have been engrossed in everything he said. Their minds are absolutely full. They are full of excitement and can’t wait to quiz him, to unlock more secret treasure from his stories.
Jesus, though, is absolutely exhausted. He collapses in a tired heap in the stern of the boat and, as the sun sets, is asleep in a moment. Lessons over? Not exactly. Even though Jesus is dead to the world, he is still about to teach his friends a lesson they will never forget.
What’s about to happen is utterly mind blowing. Jesus has already done some pretty amazing things, but after this, his friends will never look at him in the same way again. If you take this episode seriously, neither will you. As you read, enter into the experience that would become theirs.
The Lake of Galilee, you see, is a dangerous and treacherous place, even for experienced sailors. It is notorious for severe storms, which blow in all of a sudden, out of nowhere, especially at the end of the day.
From a blissful sail off into the sunset, all is transformed in a moment as the most ferocious winds crash in across the lake.
Jesus is in safe hands, though. He has chosen his disciples well. Three of them are fishermen. They have been working on this lake ever since they were old enough to cast a net. They are just the men he would have wanted to have with him, as the weather turns seriously rough.
Except it didn’t work out like that.
Even these experienced sailors, couldn’t keep the boat safe in this storm. The winds are so high, that the boat is being tossed around like a tiny piece of jetsam. Up it flies then down it crashes. Those in the boat can barely stay on their feet. As the boat goes down again they look up at the wall of water towering over them. It then collapses right inside the boat. They are about to be overwhelmed. No one knows what to do, any more. Panic sets in.
All hands to the deck. Everyone grabs whatever he can, as they frantically try to shovel the water out of the boat. It is a losing battle. For every gallon of water they chuck overboard, ten more come crashing in. All on board are desperately fighting for their lives. Jesus sleeps on.
They run to the stern of the boat. Someone wakes Jesus up. Doesn’t he care? How could he sleep at a time like this? Why doesn’t he wake up and join in the despairing, panicking fight for life? Even if he is “only” a carpenter, not a sailor, we need all the help we can get right now.
They will never forget what happened next. Jesus doesn’t join in the panic. He doesn’t grab a bucket and start bailing. He stands up where he is and looks at the waves about to crash into the boat. Somehow he manages to catch enough breath to shout into the wind, “Calm down! That’s enough!”
They see that giant wave above them, his friends brace for another dowsing, they tense once more and… nothing.
As suddenly as it came, the storm had stopped. Storms on the lake did that, but never in response to someone shouting at them.
They look at Jesus absolutely terrified. How did he do that? In the very moment they ask themselves that question, they realise how he did it doesn’t matter. Who is it, who shouts at the wind and the waves … and they do what he says?
“What were you so worried for?” says Jesus. “I’m here.”
No one breathes a word. All they can do is stare…