For the Love of God, Volume 2/November 24
From Gospel Translations
1 Chronicles 19—20; 1 Peter 1; Jonah 3; Luke 8
THE CALMING OF THE STORM (Luke 8:22-25) as reported in Luke’s gospel carries special weight:
(1) The substance of the account is straightforward, though almost obliquely it sheds light on the sheer exhaustion Jesus sometimes experienced in the course of his extensive ministry “from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God” (8:1). Not only could he fall asleep in the boat, he could remain asleep even when the boat tossed and corkscrewed in a storm serious enough to frighten fishermen.
(2) The closing lines of this paragraph draw attention to its chief focus: who Jesus is. “Who is this?” the disciples ask. “He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him” (8:25). Indeed, the paragraph kicks off a series of miracles. In the following verses Jesus heals a demon-possessed man (8:26-39), raises a dead girl and heals a sick woman (8:40-56), provides the Twelve with similar authority (9:1-9), and then feeds the five thousand (9:10-17)—which is then an entirely appropriate place to pause and reflect again on who Jesus is (9:18ff.). The one who controls the natural elements and the powers of the spirit-world and who can even overturn death itself is not only the promised “Christ of God” (9:20) but is transfigured before three apostles (9:28-36), who see something of the glory that his incarnate form normally shielded.
(3) But one must also ponder the strange question Jesus asks: “Where is your faith?” (8:25). This must not be misunderstood. Jesus is not berating his followers for some ostensible failure to see the goodness of the world or the inevitability of a happy ending. Storms do kill people; cancer can take out a fifteen-year-old; accidents happen; good people die. To think otherwise is to display not faith but Pollyannish optimism. The faith the disciples should have had is faith in Jesus— not simply faith that he could or would help them out, but rich faith in him precisely because if he is the promised Messiah sent by Almighty God, it is ridiculous to think that an “accidental” storm could kill him and those with him. Their fears betray less than a firm, faithful grasp of who Jesus is. (On this point see also vol. 1, meditation for February 3.)
(4) Now the contribution of 8:22-25 to the larger context is clearer: The parable of the sower looks for hearers of the word who persevere and produce a crop (8:10-11, 15). The next lines tell the reader, “Therefore consider carefully how you listen” (8:18, italics added). Jesus’ real mother and brothers “are those who hear God’s word and put it into practice” (8:21, italics added). So now our text: genuine disciples display their faith when they so broadly recognize who Jesus is that they trust him in all circumstances.