Several years ago there was a celebrity psychic by the name of Jonathon Edward who claimed he could make contact with deceased relatives with messages for their loved ones. He coined the phrase that these deceased relatives had “crossed over” to the other side giving name to his TV Show “Crossing Over”. He believed, as did his followers, that life was a journey to the other side of life and that he had access to communicate with them.
Mark, too, in our Gospel reading today has Jesus on a journey “to the other side”. Mark doesn’t say where they were or to where they were going – he just says to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” And in this passage Mark describes several interesting analogies of our own personal journeys to “the other side” as we journey through life on our way to Heaven. Let’s see if we can analyse it:
Leaving the crowd behind, they took Jesus along just as he was in the boat.
The first thing to understand is that biblical scholars often consider that references to boats in the gospels are an image of the church. As Christians we journey with Jesus in his church where we are called to leave the world behind. To understand this we need to understand the Greek origins of the word “church” which is “ecclesia”. We get words like Ecclesiastical meaning of the church. It is made up of two Greek words – Ek and Kaleo. Ek means out of – Kaleo means called. As the church we are called out of the world in the sense of what we heard St Paul say last week – if anyone is in Christ they are a new creation. We are called to leave our worldly thinking behind – our sinful way of life – and to pick up our cross and follow Jesus. Again, as Paul said, from now on we regard no one from a human point of view. No, we see everything through the lens of Jesus Christ our Lord. So, we are on a journey, with Christ, not the world. It’s like when Jesus called his first disciples – Peter and his brother Andrew – James and his brother John – all fisherman who immediately dropped their nets and followed Jesus.
Sometimes, as Christians, Jesus calls us to drop our ways of life and follow him on a new journey. Sometimes we remain in our current positions but with a new outlook on life as new creations. And we are not alone in our journey. In Jesus’ boat there were the 12 disciples and notice that Mark points out for no specific reason other than to show we are together in that there were other boats with him – the one Holy Christian and Apostolic Church.
A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. Here Mark points out that the journey is not an easy journey. Our life journey is confronted with storms and waves that beat against us to the point we feel that we’re not going to make it. And it’s during those times when we can feel so isolated to the point that we feel our friends, family and even the church have deserted us because they don’t understand what we’re going through..
But remember what we have just seen. We are “in the boat” with others – we are “in the boat” surrounded by extended support in the “other boats”. But what’s even worse is that at times we feel that even God has left us to battle the storm alone. Just look at the next point of Mark’s: Jesus was in the stern asleep. Jesus knows full well the pain of abandonment when he cried out from the cross – My God, My God, why have you forsaken me? Likewise the disciples cry out: They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Because that is what it felt like.
It felt like Jesus didn’t care that they were being attacked by the wind and the waves. Maybe it feels like you’ve been deserted by Jesus when you’re going through difficult times.
But note 2 things from this situation. Firstly, Jesus was there with them. He was in the boat, not on the shore waiting for them to arrive. Likewise, Jesus is with us in all of our battles. He promised that – I am with you always. He was asleep but this was not an indication of him not caring. No – if he didn’t care then he would have bailed out of the boat. If they drown then so does he. He doesn’t escape just because he was asleep. It’s just that Jesus knows that the wind and the waves can only do so much. They cannot stop his church from arriving at the other side. So he gets up and he rebukes the wind and the waves. Peace – be still.
It will be the same words he will speak to them after his resurrection to calm their fears when they are locked away in a room fearing for their lives. Peace be with you. Peace – be still and know that I am God – is what he is saying.
And that’s what they recognise.
Here’s the 2nd point: That Jesus, even asleep, is the one to whom all must submit – in heaven and on earth and under the earth. He is the one whom the wind and the waves and all must obey. As Christians who have been called out from the world we are called to put our complete faith and trust in Jesus Christ as our Saviour – even when it looks like our entire life is under attack. All must submit to Jesus but it doesn’t mean we won’t be confronted by storms in life. But those storms must submit to Jesus.
Our Old Testament reading speaks about one of the greatest stories of human suffering in Job. But God said to Satan that even at the height of his suffering that he cannot take his life because God is the master of all life. We don’t always understand our suffering but we are asked to keep trusting God as Job was when God replied to him: Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Who determined its measurements? Who stretched the line upon it?
On what were its bases sunk, or who laid its cornerstone when the morning stars sang together and all the heavenly beings shouted for joy? Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb?— when I made the clouds its garment, and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stopped’?”
Job and his friends were trying to analyse his suffering and explain why Job was suffering so greatly rather than trusting in God.
St Paul experienced the same challenges in his own suffering but he knew that with God being with him that it would not prevent him from reaching his ultimate goal – eternal life in heaven. So, through great endurance, in afflictions, hardships, calamities, beatings, imprisonments, riots, labors, sleepless nights, hunger; treated as impostors, and yet are true; as unknown, and yet are well known; as dying, and see– we are alive; as punished, and yet not killed; as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing; as poor, yet making many rich; as having nothing, and yet possessing everything. Paul knew that his salvation was assured and could not be taken away from him. And so too for you – the world can only do so much in the way of suffering but it cannot disqualify you from eternal life in heaven. And that is grounds for rejoicing even in the midst of our storms because now is the day of salvation and there is nothing that can remove that from you –
Neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither our fears for today nor our worries about tomorrow—not even the powers of hell can separate us from God’s love. No power in the sky above or in the earth below—indeed, nothing in all creation will ever be able to separate us from the love of God that is revealed in Christ Jesus our Lord who is with us always to bring us safely to the other side.