- - Sunday, April 5, 2020

“Then he got into the boat and [they] followed him. Suddenly a furious storm came up … [and the disciples shouted] Lord save us! He asked them, why are you afraid? He then rebuked the wind and the waves … And they marveled, saying, ‘What sort of man is this!’” — St. Matthew 

Why is this story included in Matthew’s gospel?  

Frankly, the answer is pretty simple. He wanted us to learn something. 

And what would that lesson be? 

Here it is: Jesus is not caught off guard. The surging seas of crisis don’t intimidate or scare him. He is in charge.  

The point of this story is that Christ is Lord — Lord over, and of, everything.  

Whether it be a tsunami of nature or the waves of sickness and disease, whether it be the winds of Wall Street or the pandemic pettiness of social media and pandering politicians, the “tempests” of life do not catch Jesus unprepared or unawares. 

He is Lord over all of it.  

Christ is Lord over the hopes and dreams of Palm Sunday. He is Lord over the desperation and despair of Good Friday. He is Lord over the redemption and awe of Easter. 

Jesus, the creator of the universe, the sovereign One who existed before anything else existed, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Lion of Judah, the lamb of God, the Word made flesh and dwelling among us — is not surprised.  

He is not shaken. He is not alarmed. The crisis does not catch him off guard. He is not confused or even concerned. He is greater than the suddenness, the size, or the severity of the storm. He saw it coming. He is not overwhelmed. He does not beg for mercy. He is mercy. He is God. 

This Palm Sunday, remember the words of St. Paul. “Be steadfast and immovable!” Remember the charge of Joshua. “Be strong and courageous.” Remember the words of Jesus himself. “It is I. Don’t be afraid!”  

Today, remember the simple lesson of the storm: The God of all eternity stands in the boat with you, and when he chooses (usually at the very moment of your repentance), he can and will calm the “wind and the waves.”

This sermon by Dietrich Bonhoeffer, delivered over 80 years ago, as he watched a “pandemic” called the Third Reich, marching across Europe, says it best.  

“God stands above all the overcoming of fear … Learn to recognize this sign in your own life. Learn to recognize and understand the hour of the storm. [Learn that] when you [think you are] perishing, this is the time when God is incredibly close to you, not far away. 

“When everything else that keeps us safe is breaking and falling down [and] when all the things our lives depend on are being taken away, [we must learn]! All this is happening because God is coming near to us [and] because God wants to be our only support and certainty. 

“God lets our lives be broken and fail … and through this failure, God brings us back; we are thrown back upon God alone.

“God wants to show us that … when you lose all your own security … that is when you are totally free to receive God and be kept totally safe in [Him].

“[M]ay we understand rightly the hours of affliction and temptation, the hours in our lives when we are on the high seas! God is close to us then, not far away. Our God is on the cross. 

“When the disciples were climbing aboard the boat, they seemed quite confident … They looked at the lovely calm sea and saw no reason to worry. But as the wind and waves increased in force … fear grew … and gain[ed] the upper hand. 

“The story says that Jesus was asleep. Only faith can sleep without a care … [F]aith finds its safety in God alone. 

“The disciples couldn’t sleep; their security was gone; their confidence had been misplaced … It was a false sense of security …

“Only the faith that leaves behind all false confidence, letting it fall and break down, can overcome fear.

“This is faith: It does not rely on favorable seas, [or] favorable conditions. It does not rely on [our] strength or on other people’s … [This faith] believes only and alone in God, whether or not there is a storm … Lord, make this faith strong in us who have little faith!”  

The moral of the story? Have faith. Take a nap. It will be OK. You’re not God but the one in the boat with you is.  

• Everett Piper, former president of Oklahoma Wesleyan University, is a columnist for The Washington Times and author of “Not A Day Care: The Devastating Consequences of Abandoning Truth” (Regnery 2017).

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