Why Are You Afraid?
“Why are you afraid?” he asked. This has to be one of the strangest questions Jesus ever asked his disciples. And this blog post explains why.
What Happened Leading Up To The Question
After a long day of teaching Jesus tells his disciples to jump into the boat and go over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. But as they make their way across, a storm comes up. Some of the disciples are experienced commercial fishermen, so they’re familiar with the Sea of Galilee and its associated weather. With that in mind it follows, this storm that comes up, it’s well beyond the norm for storms in that area. The winds are extreme to the point where waves are covering the boat. (Matthew 8:23-27) The storm is so intense that these experienced commercial fishermen are convinced they’re going to die. Meanwhile Jesus, likely exhausted from teaching and healing the pressing multitude, is in the back, asleep.
So they wake him up and they say, “…do you not care that we are perishing?”
And he asks them, “Why are you afraid?”
Why I Become Afraid
Why are you afraid? Under the circumstances it seems like a strange question to me. Under the current circumstances of the disciples, I have to confess, fear feels like a reasonable reaction to me. And maybe you’ve experienced that same feeling. I know I have. I’ve experienced that feeling like I was drowning in my problems. Overwhelmed by difficulties. The storm in my life was way beyond my own energy and ability to overcome. And it felt like God didn’t care. It felt like He was napping in the back of the boat.
Have you ever felt that way?
I have a friend who felt that way about his diseased body. I have another friend who felt that way about his unemployment. And another friend who felt that way about his lonely single lifestyle.
I think we have all felt that way. But I think Jesus would ask each of us the same question, “Why are you afraid?”
What He Said Next
Jesus didn’t stop after he asked, “Why are you afraid?” He asked a second question that provides insight into why he asked the first. His second question was this: “Do you still have no faith?”
I believe Jesus is saying here, After spending time with me the way you have. After hearing my words. After learning of my life, do you still have no faith? Didn’t I tell you, “Look at the birds of the air, that they do not sow, nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not worth much more than they? And who of you by being worried can add a single hour to his life?” (Matthew 6:26-27)
And didn’t I also say, “Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs of your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (Matthew 10:29-31)
He was telling them, and he tells us, Have faith because God cares for you.
Proximity To Jesus
The other point to consider in this story is where the disciples were in proximity to Jesus. Because Jesus was in the boat with his disciples, their fate became his fate. Would that boat really sink while the Son of God rested inside it? Would the boat sink from a storm while the very Creator of water, weather, and waves was a passenger?
Ray Stedman says to remember two things when you’re battered by a storm: “The boat will not sink, and the storm will not last forever.”
Those are two great things to remember. Especially because it’s human nature to think and behave as though whatever we’re currently experiencing in life is going to be permanent. C.S. Lewis put it this way:
“I’ll tell you how to look at it. Haven’t you noticed how, in our own little war here on earth, there are different phases, and while any one phase is going on people get into the habit of thinking and behaving as if it were going to be permanent? But really the thing is changing under your hands all the time, and neither your assets nor your dangers are the same as the year before.”
So remembering “The boat will not sink, and the storm will not last forever,” are two things that can sustain you during a storm.
And I would add a third. The likelihood of your boat sinking is in direct correlation with your proximity to Jesus. So we need to ask ourselves the question, Is Jesus in my boat? Or have I launched off on my own without him? Maybe I’m going without him because I desire a different destination than the one he has in mind for me. Or maybe I’m keeping him just within shouting distance, or just within sight.
But the thing is, your proximity to Jesus is crucial to your survival. Without Jesus when the storms come your boat can sink. Without Jesus when the storms come you can be blown off course.
So take him into your boat. And set out for the destination he has in mind.
Then your boat truly won’t sink. Even if the storm lasts until the end of your time on earth. (See Steve May’s Life of Suffering (And how God healed him))
Put your faith and hope in Him.
You might also like this post on suffering and perspective: Thanksgiving and Chicago’s Dan Ryan Expressway
References and Resources:
RayStedman.org: Why Are You Afraid
Tim Keller has an excellent teaching on what the Bible says about the causes of a crushed spirit. You can listen to it here: The Wounded Spirit (HT to my friend Ryan Sample, pastor of Lakeside Family Church, for recommending this teaching.)
Skip Heitzig, Christians in the Crucible of Pain, Connection Communications, 2012
Jim Davis, Why Me? (And Why That’s the Wrong Question), Leafwood, 2014
Steve Mays, Overwhelmed by God, Regal Books, 2014
Image via Jeffsmallwood – Creative Commons