|Wikimedia.org - Stolen Rembrandt |
Christ Calms The Sea
If you've attended Sunday School as a kid, you know this story. You can watch a short video of it here if you like. Or you can read the text:
Mark 4:35-41 King James Version (KJV)
35 And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side.As I was reading the text something set me to thinking. It's a small detail that, while I may have always known it, I never really thought much about it. "And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow:".
36 And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships.
37 And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.
38 And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?
39 And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?
41 And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?
Ships, great and small, have a front, back, and sides but they don't call them that. The front is the bow or stem. The left is port and the right is starboard. The back is the stern or, in this case, the hinder part of the ship. I thought about the implication of Jesus being asleep in the stern of the ship. Why the stern? Well, it might be calmer in the rear. As a boat moves along on the water, the bow hits waves and will bounce. Not very conducive to a sound sleep, and let's be clear here, Jesus was sleeping soundly. A violent storm with thrashing waves, rain, wind, lightning, and probably thunder was going on around him and he slept through it. So, obviously the stern is a good place to sleep.
Aside from a comfy mattress, what made the stern special? I'm not a sailor but I know enough to know that a sailing ship is powered by wind. The sails propel the ship across the surface of the water. If the wind dies, the sails are useless and the ship will come to a dead stop. However, while the sails are powerful in the wind, they are not responsible for directing the path of the ship. That job belongs to the rudder, a relatively small item in the very rear of the ship, extending into the water. It is attached to the tiller, which in the case of small sailing vessels, is manipulated by a human being... sitting in the stern of the ship. The reason there was a pillow is because sitting on a hard bench is uncomfortable, especially if you're spending a lot of time at the tiller, your back against the rail and your butt on a board.
OK, are you getting this? Cause I can spell it out.
At some point, Jesus was sitting in the stern, right next to the rudder, a type of steering wheel, of the boat he was in. He fell asleep. The storm came up.
I'm skeptical that you could lie down in the stern of the ship with someone else operating the rudder. You'd really be in their way. They have to manipulate the tiller to direct the rudder, to turn the ship. In a storm, this would be an insane job. And there's this guy sleeping under your feet? Uh, no, on your seat!
I don't think anyone else was steering that ship. I think Jesus, who was already in the ship when they got in. (See verse 36) And to my way of thinking, he was driving the bus... I mean boat.
Make of it what you will. But I see him getting up and saying (metaphorically), "Hey, will you relax! I'm driving this boat. And I'm managing this storm." The driver of the boat steered them right into a storm that he was controlling.
It was a profound revelation for me but during my research I discovered one more interesting thing. In virtually all the paintings and images I reviewed, Jesus is standing in the bow of the ship, not seated or lying in the stern. I Googled dozens of pages until I ran across an article about a stolen Rembrandt, the image at the top of the page. It is a beautiful painting and it shows Jesus on the starboard side, near the stern but not in the stern. Why do all the painters place him in the bow?
Because in our small minds, a man in charge will be in the front of the ship, sails filled with the power of the wind. And yet, in a storm, that would be the last thing you'd want. In storms, you shorten or reef the sails so they get the least amount of wind. Billowing sails can cause an imbalance that will swamp you or damage your vessel.These were experienced fishermen in that ship. They would have already done everything they knew to do before they woke Jesus. The sails wouldn't have been billowing, they'd be reefed.
The story takes on a whole new significance to me after this. Jesus was steering the ship and they were worried. No wonder he said, "Why are you afraid. Why do you have so little faith (in me and my abilities)?"
How many times have I felt that Jesus was asleep and not paying attention to what was going on around us? Oh how many times I've forgotten who was steering the whole time!