On many levels, the winds and waves certainly seem to be surging around us these days. Two weeks into 2021 we have already continued to experience historic upheavals, some on the national scene and some literally from the roots of towering trees in our backyards. From the looks of things, the next wave approaches and will break soon upon our bow, and we begin to wonder how long we can last. And so it goes. The three synoptic Gospels record a similar moment in the ministry of Jesus:
“Now when they had left the multitude, they [the disciples] took Him [Jesus] along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, ‘Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?’ Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’ And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, ‘Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (Mark 4:36-41)
This magnificent episode has captured the imaginations of God’s people since eyewitnesses first shared the story. Volumes could be (and have been) written on these six power-packed verses. We might first wonder how Jesus could sleep through such a storm, wrestling with the appearance that He didn’t care about the evident danger his disciples felt for their lives. Like them, we sure would like some answers in such moments. Yet Jesus chooses not to answer their question directly or defend Himself. He could have argued, “Of course I care!” or “You’ll be fine!” Instead, before turning two questions of His own upon the disciples, He commands the wind and waves themselves with a rebuke that turns the tempest into a tranquil calm. Were they afraid of a little wind and a few waves, or even a mighty wind and many huge waves, afraid their bodies might not make it safely to shore? Well, that’s nothing compared to the One they were with. Jesus connects misplaced fear with misplaced faith, asking, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And what is the response? Having watched a display of power much greater than the wind and waves, they “feared exceedingly.” Jesus knew how to get their attention, and it wasn’t through the wind and the waves but through His authority over them. Riding in the boat with the Creator of the skies and seas, the disciples of Jesus had far less to fear from outside the boat than from Him Who was inside with them. And yet, as if that were a small thing in itself, while the wind and waves could not have cared less about the lives of these frail men, no one could have cared for them more than Jesus did. We can be sure, even with waves already filling the boat, that not a single drop of water nor gust of wind could overreach or threaten the authority of our Lord Jesus. For putting His people in danger, the wind deserves a rebuke by God. For putting our fear in the storm around us, we deserve the same rebuke. Riding the storm with Jesus guarantees we’ll make it to the opposite shore (if not in this life, then in the next), and we can be confident that keeping our eyes on Him rather than the waves will always bless us more by far.
Water, wind, and waves play prominent roles in the Bible and the story of God’s training and rescue of His people. Walking on dry land across the Red Sea must have been as terrifying as it was wonderful–truly awesome in the old sense of the word. If you’ve been to the ocean, you know its size and power. Imagine seeing it as a wall on either side of you, defying the laws of nature and physics, ready to crash down except by God’s hand and command. Or recall the story of Peter walking to Jesus on the water: “But when he saw that the wind was boisterous, he was afraid; and beginning to sink he cried out, saying, ‘Lord, save me!’ And immediately Jesus stretched out His hand and caught him and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’ And when they got into the boat, the wind ceased” (Matt. 4:30-32).
These stories remind us of several things. First, God’s ability to work wonders of power and might far exceeds our ability even to imagine, let alone perform such feats. Second, these displays of power and positions of danger never happen around us without a purpose, and God reigns as King in those purposes. Third, faith and fear are always linked. Putting fear in our circumstances steals our faith in God, but putting our fear in our God steels and strengthens our faith in Him further. Fourth, these are the very moments to cry out to God for help. Jesus answers, and Jesus saves, and Jesus always rules above the waves.
What does all this have to do with education? Well, like many things in life, there’s no perfect time to teach or learn at school. That being the case, any and every time will do. A Classical Christian Academy education aims to train students in the habit of keeping their eyes on Jesus, learning to recognize Him in the calm and in the storm, in the delightful work of literature and the difficult work of division problems. As our nation comes to grips with its long rebellion against the authority of God’s word, and as we see God working in a multitude of ways through these events of our days, we can be confident that God always has a reason for asking His people to get into the boat and ride through the storm with Him in perfect control, even when he seems to be sleeping. In all this, we get to learn and teach history, pointing backward to God’s faithfulness while living at peace in the present, looking forward in the hope of His promises. Thanks be to God.
May the Lord, who is our Great Shepherd, lead you beside the still waters this weekend and beyond.