A squall tumbles headlong onto the lake and the sailboat is being swamped. The boatload of ex-fishermen has seen storms before, but never one like this. Raging waters are coming over the gunwales and the small sailboat is listing at a crazy angle. One thought rises in the minds of the men: they are about to face death! Their greatest fear is being realized this very moment .
It’s something each of us must face sooner or later – our own death. Most of us succeed in tucking the disturbing thought into the deep recesses of our minds, but that won’t change the dreadful reality of our own mortality. Some of us have experienced the piercing pain of losing a loved one firsthand. Some of us are more aware than others of our own imminent death. What may be the most common response of those facing this universal milestone in life is fear.
The men onboard the careening boat know fear; they feel its icy fingers clenching their hearts as wave after wave of the heavy seas crash into their vessel. Like foolish schoolboys they suddenly remember their sleeping passenger and tumble over one another to get to Him.
“Master, Master!” they cry, waking Him from his deep slumber. “We’re going to drown!” they bawl over the howling of the wind. The fear in the voices and eyes of the motley crew touches Jesus and he takes notice. He loves these followers of His, but they are so slow to learn.
We’re like that too, aren’t we? Whether we admit it or not, we fear death too. We’ve learned it from others around us – the skull icons we see around us so commonly in the marketplace are a bold front designed to mock death, but we just can’t seem to conquer that persistent ubiquitous feeling of fear that rises in us at unexpected times. Ian McCormick, the young New Zealander who encountered a near death experience in the soon-to-be-released film, “The Perfect Wave” (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W8DOyx8OjUo) admits feeling fear as his body succumbed to the poison of a deadly jellyfish attack. We seem to believe we deserve to feel and express fear regarding death; nothing else is more extreme in this life than death – of course we are fearful!
Looking at His followers, Jesus feels for them. Their fear is destroying something in them that has only recently begun to grow. Like a tender plant sprouting between rocks on a mountainside, their faith is almost invisible against the massive overshadowing cliff of fear. So He rises, steadying his sandaled feet on the flooded deck of the little boat, and speaks a word of reproach to the elements of nature; the waters become eerily calm, and He turns quietly to His disciples.
“Where is your faith?” He asks them. Jaws drop open as the disciples look around at the glassy sea. What Jesus has done for the disciples, is a picture of what He does for us every day. His presence is the greatest reality we can know as mortals. Fears have no place in the hearts and minds of those who call themselves followers of Jesus. The fear that we might face dangers that could destroy us is a lie unworthy of the seed of faith He has planted in our hearts. His love is the only cure to drive out our fear; it will replace our fears with the calm of His peace. He promises to never leave us, not even through the experience of our own physical death.
“For I am convinced,” admits a follower of Jesus who would later die for his faith, “that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38,39).
It’s time to kiss the fear of death good-bye. We have Jesus as our ever-present companion and He will enable us to face death with jaw-dropping peace. We can believe that.