Daily Devotion for Friday 2nd February 2024

Friday, 2 February 2024
 
St Mark 4: 35 – 41

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.  He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’

Reflection

Jesus speaks; wind and waves obey him. “Who is this?” ask his companions in fearful wonder; whilst the inference that eludes them seems clear to us. Surely such authority over the elements can belong only to God.

But there’s another question perhaps demanding to be asked: “Who can sleep through a storm at sea?”

Well of course, Jesus can – as he does, right here in this passage. Though the boat’s in peril, he dozes on… until he’s shaken awake by his incredulous disciples. And the reason for his apparent nonchalance: there’s no need for fear, when there’s faith.

Elsewhere in the Bible, though, there’s one other person who’s described as managing to snooze through a squall: Jonah, the reluctant prophet, as he attempts to flee God’s commission. Amid the great tempest, Jonah “had gone down into the hold of the ship and had lain down, and was fast asleep” (Jonah 1:5) until he’s woken by the ship’s desperate crew. 

For Jonah, too, a way is found to bring stillness to the storm – but it’s altogether costlier for him…

Two sleepers at sea: one on the run from God’s will, the other supremely attuned to God’s will. Two storms: one which can only be stilled by submission, the other which itself submits.

It’s a parallel which I find intriguing – perhaps precisely because it’s not neatly tied up for us. The differences between Jonah and Jesus seem to outweigh the similarities. And yet…

After a fishy detour, Jonah would eventually fulfil his duty to bring God’s word to a Gentile city; whilst as we’ll see tomorrow, Jesus will step out of the boat in Gentile territory to work a wonder there.

As for us meanwhile: do we feel so confident in our faith that we can rest easy in life’s storms, or is our instinct to cocoon ourselves in denial? And if others should have to rouse us, what will they see in our response?

Prayer

Out of my distress I have called to God,
who has answered me;
from the heart of the depths I have cried,
and you heard my voice!
Therefore, faithful God,
make known again the sign of Jonah:
in Christ Jesus, crucified, risen and ascended,
let every storm be stilled.
Deliverance belongs to the Sovereign God!

(based on Jonah 2:1, 9b; Matthew 12:39; Mark 4:39)

Today’s writer

The Rev’d Dominic Grant, Minister, Barnet URC and St Andrew’s Chesterfield Road URC

Copyright

New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicized Edition, copyright © 1989, 1995 National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.

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