When Fear Grips the Heart and Mind

When Fear Grips the Heart and Mind

Matthew 9:23-27

“’Why are you afraid, you men of little faith?’  Then He got up and rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm.”

 

            It had been a busy and exhausting day for Jesus and the disciples.   It was a day filled with ministering to the needs of people, and they needed rest.  To get away from the throngs of people, Jesus had his disciples get into the boat so they might cross the Sea of Galilee to a quiet and remote place where they could get emotionally, physically, and spiritually recharged. 

            For Peter, James, John, and Andrew, this was a task they could quickly achieve.  They grew up on these waters, spending their life fishing and making a living traversing across the lake.  They knew all the safe inlets and how to navigate the shifting winds that blew off the mountains.  They were fishermen by trade and unintimidated.  Perhaps some other disciples, who were not used to the water, were reluctant to get in rocking waves as the breezes started to blow.  But not for these seasoned fishermen.

            As they began to cross the lake, the winds became unusually strong.  This storm was not a typical, run-of-the-mill squall that often descended upon the lake.  Soon the waves became so great that the boat began to flounder, and even Peter and James became gripped with fear.  The word used for “storm” is unusual in that it is often translated as “earthquake.”  This storm was so great that it seemed like the whole earth was in turmoil.  The routine became terrifying as the waves washed over the boat's sides and began to sink.  What started as a causal boat ride turned into a life-threatening situation.  

            As the disciples quaked in fear at the splashing of the waves, Christ, exhausted from a hectic day, remained asleep despite the magnitude of the storm. Here we see the contrast.  The word sleep is often used in scripture to provide a picture of one free from concern.  While the disciples were gripped by fear, Christ was entirely at rest in the stern of the boat.  Finally, the disciples could no longer remain silent.  Drenched in water, with panic rising, they woke Jesus cried out in despair that they were sinking.

            In response, Jesus stood up and rebuked the waters, and it became perfectly calm.  The English misses the play on words between verse 24 and verse 26.  Verse 24 literally states “a mega-seismic,” and verse 26 reads “a mega-calm.”  The waters not only abated but became like a sea of glass. This play on words is significant for it points to the fact that Christ’s response was more than equal to the severity of the circumstances.

            In the daily events of life, circumstances can quickly turn from the mundane and routine to the uncontrolled and threatening.  It can turn from a typical day to a night of absolute terror when events and circumstances become overwhelming, fear grips our hearts, and terror overwhelms our thoughts.  In these situations, we can quickly lose sight of God.  We can become apprehensive.  However, we fail to remember that even as the circumstances and situations around us change, the God who controls the universe does not.  He remains in complete control and watches over us with his full attention.  What we deem to be a threat to our existence, he considers to be nothing at all.  In these times, the problem is not our perspective of the circumstances but our view of God.   It is easy to get focused on the adversity we face and lose sight of the God we worship.  When fear grips the heart and terror overwhelms the mind, we must remember that God’s power is always equal to the threat, no matter how great that threat may seem.

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