The man who shut down the storm

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When he saw a big crowd approaching, he figured he didn’t have enough steam left to do much for them that day, so he went and climbed into a boat for a few hours’ peace, only to find that the disciples were hot on his heels and wanted to go along too. So he took them. Then he lay down in the stern of the boat with a pillow under his head, Mark says (4:34), and went to sleep . . .

He didn’t doze off in the bow where the spray would get him and the whitecaps slapped harder. He climbed back into the stern instead. There was a pillow under his head. Maybe somebody put it there for him. Maybe they didn’t think to put it there till after he’d gone to sleep, and then somebody lifted his head a little off the hard deck and slipped it under.

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He must have gone out like a light because Mark says the storm didn’t wake him, not even when the waves got so high they started washing in over the sides. They let him sleep on until finally they were so scared they couldn’t stand it any longer and woke him up. They addressed him respectfully enough as Teacher, but what they said was reproachful, petulant almost. “Don’t you see that we’re all drowning?” (Mark 4:38).

It was the wind rather than the disciples that Jesus seems to have spoken to first, as soon as he’d gotten his eyes open. “He rebuked it,” Mark says (4:38). “Cut that out!” — you can almost picture him staring it down with the hair lashing his face as he holds on to the gunwales to keep from being blown overboard. He was gentler with the sea. “Take it easy,” he said. “Quiet down.” When it came the disciples’ turn, he said, “Why did you panic?” and then “What kind of faith do you call that?” but they were so impressed to find that the wind had stopped blowing and the sea had flattened out again that they didn’t get around to answering him (4:39-41).

–Frederick Buechner,
Beyond Words

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