1 John 4:15-21, Luke 8:22-25
What are you afraid of? What calms you?
If there’s one place in my life where I can consistently look back and recognize the impact of God on me and on others, it’s in the moment where calm was needed.
If there is one place I can look back and say, OMG, God was there, it’s when God brought calm.
And calm can be needed at a moment’s notice. The disciples discovered this in the Gospel. Luke 8 begins like this:
“Soon afterwards [Jesus] went on through cities and villages, proclaiming and bringing the good news of the kingdom of God. The twelve were with him, as well as some women who had been cured of evil spirits and infirmities: Mary, called Magdalene, from whom seven demons had gone out, and Joanna, the wife of Herod’s steward Chuza, and Susanna, and many others, who provided for them out of their resources.” (Luke 8.1–3 NRSV)
- 12 disciples have gotten on board
- many others now following…the movement is growing…Luke makes sure to point out the women
- people that Jesus has healed, but not just along for the ride, they are bankrolling! Sugar mommas!
So there is excitement. And then Jesus has a big crowd in front of him and teaches them using a parable. Jesus does this a lot, but this particular time, the disciples ask him what the parable actually means — and Jesus explains it line by line, and says to them:
““To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of God…” (Luke 8.10 NRSV)
They are on the inside!
And then, Jesus is confronted by his biological family. We don’t know exactly why, but it may be that they were asking Jesus to ‘tone it down.’ To come home. To be ‘normal.’ Or maybe they wanted a special favor from him now that he was famous. Or maybe they just missed him. Either way, Jesus says,
““My mother and my brothers are those who hear the word of God and do it.”” (Luke 8.21 NRSV)
This would have been bitter news for his family, yes, but for those following him…for those in the movement — maybe some who didn’t have family, didn’t have brothers, or mothers, or sons — they just heard that Jesus was not just their leader, but their family.
I have to think — especially for the 12 closest disciples at this point — that they must have felt energized. Maybe on top of the world. How exciting to be a part of a movement that was growing. That was changing lives. That had new visitors sitting in the pews every Sunday. They must have had that glorious feeling when you realize that you’ve hitched your wagon to the next big thing. Jesus was gonna take them places…
And then they get into a boat with Jesus.
Jesus says, ‘hey guys, let’s go over to the other side,’ and then promptly falls asleep. And without warning there is a storm.
Not just a normal storm, but a terrible storm that terrifies even the experienced fishermen among the disciples. They actually thought they weren’t going to make it. They wake Jesus up in a panic saying, ‘We’re dying! We’re dying!’
What a shock to go from being on the inside track as followers of Jesus and at the birth of a movement that was saving lives to being on the brink of demise.
To go from having everything figured out to the possibility of losing it all.
Isn’t that what we fear, too?
I do. I fear that phone call out of the blue that will bring terrible news. I am anxious when the doctor is examining one of my kids and says, ‘hm.’ I dread having to plan that next funeral.
Life can change so quickly when the things we hold on to fall apart. And all the success that we’ve had, and all the support we’ve been offered, and even the promises of God can be forgotten when fear takes over in our minds.
Although fear effects our minds in much the same way, it comes from very different places — and not equally.
- Gulf Coast Flooding
In our area, there are different and unequal fears:
- parents who are 1 or 2 paychecks from not being able to feed children
- people who, because of the color of their skin, are fearful of any interaction with a person in authority
- neighbors who have been told their entire lives that they aren’t good enough…that they are bad…from their family, from their friends, from their church
We do not all have the same fears, but we may share some:
- that our children will suffer
- that our parents won’t be able to help us someday
- that we will be failures
And like the disciples discovered, there will be times when we fear for our lives.
When the disciples woke Jesus in a panic, saying ‘we’re dying!’, Jesus didn’t seem to share their anxiety. He rebuked the wind and the raging waves; they ceased, and there was a calm. Just as quickly as the disciples encountered the storm, it was gone. After it all, Jesus simply asked, “Where is your faith?”
For as much as the disciples must have felt they were already participating in something incredible in the ministry of Jesus, they weren’t done being formed as disciples yet. Neither are we.
1 John has something to teach us about fear and faith.
There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love. We love because he first loved us. (1 John 4:18-19 NRSV)
Love is God’s answer to fear.
The unfathomable love that God has for us which is deeper than the strongest wave and can calm the most violent storm.
What the disciples may not yet have known in the boat, is that the perfect love of Jesus for them — for you and me — would carry him into even deeper water, would carry him to the cross, would carry him into the worst storms of our own lives to join us, to show us love even there…at our worst…at our bleakest moments…in our biggest failures…and to show us love there … casting out fear … and bringing calm.
When you experience storms in your life, when you experience moments of fear — whether they come on suddenly or grow over time … you are not a bad person … you are not a failure … you are a disciple. Jesus is in the storm with you. God’s love is with you.
So here’s how you’ll know when you are participating in God’s love — when you are growing just as the disciples did:
You’ll be casting out fear. You’ll be spreading God’s calm to the people and situations in your life. One storm at a time, you’ll be sharing the calm that only comes from knowing that God never leaves or forsakes us. That because of love, God abides in us.