Daily Devotions: Master of the Wind and the Waves

From Arms Open Wide by Sherri Gragg

Master of the Wind and the Waves

The crowds were relentless. An endless sea of suffering humanity was tossed wave after wave upon the shore of Peter’s doorstep—the feverish, the blind, the lame, the deaf, and, as evening drew near, the hordes of demon possessed. Jesus worked nonstop—touching them, speaking to them, freeing them, healing them.

And still they came, filling the courtyard and surrounding the house. No time to rest, no time to eat until, at last, the God-Man could go no farther.

He held up a weary hand and motioned to His disciples to stem the flow of humanity through the door. He rose slowly, painfully, from the stool where He had been perched for hours and walked into the courtyard to survey the crowd. He would have to begin again tomorrow.

armsJesus glanced back at Peter’s home where He was staying and at the crowd that had no intention of leaving as long as He was present. He turned to His disciples and nodded toward the harbor.

“Let us go over to the other side.” (Mark 4:35)

The men looked at each other warily. “The other side”? Was the situation that desperate?

The other side was local jargon for the opposite shore of the Sea of Galilee, the region of the Decapolis, where observant Judaism had been washed away by the tide of Hellenism. Amphitheaters and gymnasiums rose majestically next to the temples of Greek and Roman gods. It was a land where herds of pigs were raised—a job the Jews considered abhorrent and unclean.

But Jesus began walking toward Capernaum’s promenade and the pier where the disciples’ boat was moored, so all that was left for them to do was follow. All along the way, the crowd pressed around Him, peppering Him with questions, begging for healing, and promising their allegiance.

Jesus and His disciples were leaving without even taking time to gather anything for dinner. It was going to be a long night.

The men began to prepare to launch the boat as Jesus settled down on the floor of the vessel near the stern. James pulled a heavy length of rope loose from the pier and began to roll it around his hand as he gazed out at the horizon where the sun was just beginning to set. He frowned and nudged John who turned to look in the same direction.

“Not one streak of red,” James said.

“No,” John said, frowning as he watched the sun sink below the horizon in a clear, pale blue sky. “We need to get moving. Just in case.”

The other men glanced up at the sky and then at the peaceful Sea of Galilee, golden and silver in the waning light of the setting sun and the soft glory of the rising moon. A gentle breeze tugged at their robes as they shoved away from the pier. It was peaceful and beautiful, but they had been on the lake all their lives, and they knew just how quickly everything could change on a clear evening when the sky was gold instead of red.

Once in the open water, the disciples unfurled the sail. It flapped and then drew taut in the breeze. The men secured their oars and sat down to rest. Jesus sat with an elbow on the low wooden bench next to Him and gazed out at the peaceful lake. As the boat rocked gently back and forth, His eyes grew heavy, and, bit by bit, they began to close. He lay down onto the bench to rest His head on the cushion there. Soon He was asleep.

The other men slumped groggily against the sides of the boat, lulled by the steady breeze and the gentle rocking of the waves. Overhead, the moon rose high, turning the water silver with its light. One by one, stars began to pierce the night sky as warm air rose from the surface of the lake and began to collide with the cool air from the hills and plains that encircled its shores.

Suddenly, a fierce gust of wind rose from the east, caught the sail, and rocked the boat violently. The men shook themselves alert and scrambled for the oars as James and John began working to lower the sail and secure it to the mast. Another gust of wind ripped it from their hands. It began to flap wildly as they struggled to secure it again. Overhead, dark clouds began to roll and seethe, obscuring the moon and the stars. Jagged lightning ran along the undersides of the clouds, illuminating them from within. The lake, peaceful only moments before, answered the call of the gale. Their boat rose and fell as the water surged, molding into higher and higher waves and deep valleys. Soon the men were struggling against waves as high as six feet that tossed their vessel like a toy boat.

The men strained against the oars in an effort to keep the boat from capsizing. Peter was in the front nearest the stern, manning the steering oar. He pulled against his oar, willing it not to break as another wave slammed into the side of the boat and tossed a generous amount of water up over the side. He stared incredulously as white foam splashed onto the feet of Jesus, who somehow still managed to stay asleep!

The roar of the wind rose in its fury, as another wave, even larger than the last, crashed into the hull. This time, everyone received a lap full of water and several inches pooled in the bottom of the boat. A flash of lightning illuminated the churning sea as well as a fearsome landscape of gray mountains and dark valleys.

Peter’s heart pounded in his chest. He tore his eyes away from the scene to look down at the water, ever rising in the boat, and then at Jesus asleep on the floor.

We are going down!

Peter shoved his oar aside and lunged toward Jesus, grabbing His leg and shaking Him awake as he shouted above the din of the storm.

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38) Grim faced, Peter sat back down to begin wrestling with the steering oar once again.

Jesus sat up and rubbed His eyes with the back of His hand. He took a long look at the terrified faces in front of Him and then at the raging sky above. He placed one hand on the edge of the boat and then pushed Himself to a standing position. Then He raised both arms above His head, His hands toward the heavens, and shouted.

“Quiet! Be still!” (Mark 4:39)

Immediately the wind died down to a gentle breeze and the sea grew calm. The clouds, which had been rolling above them only moments before, retreated, and a blanket of stars and a pale moon took their place above the water. Jesus sat back down in the bottom of the boat and turned to face His disciples who were standing motionless but still gripping the oars. They stared at Him, pale with terror. “Why are you so afraid?” He asked. “Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

The men looked at the clear sky above them and then back at the water still pooled around their ankles. They gazed at the surface of the lake, smooth as glass and silvery beneath the glow of the moon, and then at their own hands still dripping with water.

Numbly, the disciples bent forward, grasped the oars, and pulled. As Peter tugged at the steering oar to point the ship toward shore, a shocked voice from somewhere in the back expressed the thoughts in every heart.

“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41)

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© 2014 by Sherri Gragg