Thursday, September 15, 2011

LIFE AND DEATH DECISION

"When Jesus saw that a curious crowd was growing by the minute, he told his disciples to get him out of there to the other side of the lake. As they left, a religion scholar asked if he could go along. 'I'll go with you, wherever,' he said. 
Jesus was curt: 'Are you ready to rough it? We're not staying in the best inns, you know.'
Another follower said, 'Master, excuse me for a couple of days, please. I have my father's funeral to take care of.' 
Jesus refused. 'First things first. Your business is life, not death. Follow me. Pursue life.'
Then he got into the boat, his disciples with him. The next thing they knew, they were in a severe storm. Waves were crashing into the boat ~ and he was sound asleep! They roused him, pleading, 'Master, save us! We're going down!'
Jesus reprimanded them. 'Why are you such cowards, such faint-hearts?' Then he stood up and told the wind to be silent, the sea to quiet down: 'Silence!' The sea became smooth as glass.
The men rubbed their eyes, astonished. 'What's going on here? Wind and sea come to heel at is command!'"  ~Matthew 8:18-27, The Message

As I read and meditate on this passage, I think about how easily I can become frustrated by my thwarted plans, especially when it involves something that is really important to me.  I can sympathize with this disciple who wants to stay behind for a couple of days to bury his father.

This isn't an unrealistic request the disciple was making. In fact, from a human standpoint, it seems more unrealistic that Jesus would press him to leave before honoring his father with a proper burial.

I have to dig deeper to see the bigger picture. After denying the disciple his request to stay behind, they get into a boat, and an unexpected, fierce storm breaks out. Can you imagine what this disciple must be thinking? "Why didn't I stay and bury my dad?" Or, "God must be punishing me for dishonoring my father this way." Whatever his thoughts are, I'm pretty sure that he isn't happy about his decision. Perhaps he thinks  that this is the price he has to pay....his own life for not being there to honor the life of his father, his own flesh and blood.

I can picture myself in his shoes...the waves are tossing our little boat back and forth. Death seems imminent. I am beyond being afraid...I am in a state of utter panic. And look at that! Through eyes drenched with sea water, I notice that Jesus is sleeping soundly. Is he dead? Is this the burial I am going to witness instead of my own father's?

The other disciples are equally terrified and begin to rouse Jesus. "Save us! We are all going to drown! Do something!" I join in, but my mind is racing ~ how is this one man going to save us from this deadly storm? These men are fools to think that he is going to be able to rescue us. Still, I join in, not knowing what else to do. "Save us, Jesus! I don't want to die!"

I notice how calm Jesus seems. Maybe he's injured ~ maybe he hit his head and doesn't understand our dire circumstances. But then, he looks at us and replies, "Where's your faith, guys? Why so afraid?" He must be delirious...not a good situation when we are putting all our hopes in his ability to somehow rescue us.

The boat is being thrown about like a piece of drift wood. I feel another wave of nausea as I lose my footing once again. I look up, and there is Jesus, standing as if he were on solid ground, oblivious to the boat's movements. He begins to yell at the winds and the waves. All I can think about is my dead father and how I left him behind to follow this lunatic who speaks to nature.

And then the unbelievable happens. The waves stop thrashing us about. The water grows calm. The winds die down to barely a breeze. The storm that should have killed us has come to a complete halt, and all of us turn and look at Jesus. He's not surprised. But the rest of us, scratching our heads in wonder, are speechless.

I think back to my dad. He would have wanted me here in this boat, witnessing what just took place. If I had stayed behind, I would have missed seeing it with my own eyes. My dad would want me to go on with my life, making the most of the time I have with this man who has the power to calm the winds and still the seas. Yes, following Jesus onto this boat was the right thing to do. And somehow I know that I will never be the same.

"The tragedy of life is not so much what men suffer, but rather what they miss." 
~Thomas Carlyle                    

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