You can imagine that storm at sea, the howling of the wind, the crashing of the waves, the water filling up the boat and threatening to sink it. You can picture the scene, whether or not you’ve been in a boat at sea, because you have your own storms to navigate, your own chaos: Howling winds, crashing waves, water up to your neck, and your whole world on the verge of shipwreck.
In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was formless and void, and darkness covered the face of the deep. By His Word and Spirit He brought forth light out of the darkness, and He established a beautiful and brilliant order throughout His Creation. It is still by His Word and Spirit that He creates and gives life and upholds all things in their proper place; whereas, apart from His Word and Spirit, creation collapses back into chaos.
There is such chaos in the world on account of man’s sin. For the Lord God, who made the man in His own Image, also gave the man dominion over the Creation. By the Word of the Lord, the man was to exercise authority over the earth, to govern it according to the good order that God had established, and to act as God’s own agent and representative. Thus, for example, it was the man who gave names to all the animals. So, too, the man and his wife were to fill the earth with children and to subdue it, not as tyrants but as a godly king and queen over God’s good Creation. By the same token, when the woman and the man deviated from God’s Word and reversed the order of His Creation, they opened up the floodgates to the wild waters of chaos: Real storms that wreak havoc on land and sea and in the air, and a host of metaphorical storms that rock your world.
Now, man still attempts to exercise dominion. And so you should within your own calling and station in life, in accordance with the Law of the Lord. The chaos of sin and death is undone by the right logic of the Word of God, by living in harmony with His good and acceptable will. When you fear, love, and trust in God above all things and love your neighbor as yourself, then the light shines in the darkness and the chaos gives way to a beautiful order and form.
Yet, man attempts to exercise dominion, not by living under the authority of God’s Word, but by imposing his own will against his neighbor and by pitting his own strength against the challenges and dangers of life in a fallen world. He sets his own wisdom, ingenuity, and skill to the task of survival. He takes on the chaos like an exhilarating adventure. He thrills at the prospect of riding the storm out and forcing it to serve his purposes. He harnesses the wind and dams the water.
It can be an invigorating contest, up until the point when it all goes horribly wrong and becomes life-threatening. Then it’s no fun anymore, but scary. Not only the danger that threatens your body and life, but the overcoming of your will, that is the most disturbing chaos. The danger can be a thrill, but not the realization that you are powerless, that you are at the whim of wind and wave — that is when the chaos rolls over you completely and drags you down into its depths of darkness.
The external chaos is bad enough, but even more alarming and disarming is the chaos inside of you, driving your thoughts and feelings, your words and actions. You’d like to believe that you’re in control of yourself, in charge of your own heart, mind, and will. Except the storms within toss you around and threaten you as much or more than those that rage without. You’re not really in control. Lustful thoughts seize your mind, no matter how hard you try to resist them. Envy and jealousy put you at odds with the neighbors you are called to love. Bitterness and resentment cast long dark shadows across your soul, no matter how pleasant your outward demeanor may be. Disappointments and regrets rob you of any confidence or ambition.
Your addictions call the shots, instead of reason or sound judgment. You spend money you don’t have on things you don’t need. You eat and drink things that you know will be harmful to your health. You waste endless hours of your time on frivolous pursuits, instead of doing your duty.
These are the howling winds and the crashing waves that threaten you and overwhelm you from the inside-out. Chaos and confusion reign within, and you are powerless to save yourself.
But, of course, there is Jesus who has come to help, and He is here with you. Right? The Lord Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God, restores peace and calm to His good Creation. With His Word He undoes the chaos and orders all things rightly. Even the winds and waves obey Him; for He is Himself the Word by whom all things are made, and He is also the true Man who exercises godly dominion over Creation. You have heard the evidence of that in this familiar Holy Gospel.
So, then, why are the disciples even more afraid when Jesus has quieted the wind and stilled the waves than they were of the storm in the first place? That is what St. Mark has described. Before, they were afraid because they were perishing; but afterwards, they are very much afraid. Why? And why are you so afraid of the good and right ordering that Jesus establishes by His Word?
Such fear is another aspect of the chaos inside of you. It is the fear of sin and death, instead of fear, love, and trust in God. For in your fallen state the power and authority and right ordering of the Word of Christ can only be perceived and interpreted as the force of the Law, as the imposing of His will upon all that is contrary to His Word. So, yes, all that chaos in the world that threatens you must obey Him and submit to Him. But so is all the chaos within you likewise confronted by the authority of His commands, and your own stubborn will is silenced and stilled before Him.
That perception of the Lord and His authority, according to the power and the judgment of His Law, is even more frightening than the chaos that rages around you. For it presses upon you and challenges your will, and in a single stroke it undoes all your sin and your self-righteousness.
That’s what you hear when Jesus speaks and the winds and waves obey Him. And that’s what you hear when the Lord speaks to Job in response to that poor man’s worries and complaints. That’s what you hear in response to your own sufferings, your struggles, and your sorrows. Who are you — little man, or little woman — to question or complain about the judgments of the Lord?
But God is not backhanding Job with chastisements when He speaks. He does not add yet another crushing blow atop the assaults and accusations of the devil. He does not compound the chaos, and neither does He calm things down by constraining and compelling Job to “shut up.” Rather, He quiets Job with comfort and consolation in his suffering. The Lord reveals the mysterious truth that suffering is not a mark of His displeasure, nor is it foreign to His good and gracious purpose.
It is true that the Law reveals the good and right ordering of God’s world. But there is a deeper and different authority of the Law than its demands and prohibitions, threats and punishments. All of these confront you and accuse you and weigh so heavily upon you, but only because your heart and mind, your body, soul, and spirit, and the whole sinful world around you, are disordered and chaotic with sinful unbelief and stubborn disobedience. At the heart of the Law, however, is the harmony of faith and love, the peaceful unity of the Holy Triune God who lives in perfect freedom and acts in perfect love, who gives life to those who are His own creatures.
Hence, the foundation and good order of Creation, and so also the fulfillment of the entire Law, is Christ Jesus, the incarnate Son, crucified and risen. He is the Cornerstone, not only of His Church, but of the heavens and the earth and all things. From before the foundation of the world He was slain for the salvation of all flesh, and all things are made brand new in His Resurrection from the dead. His Self-sacrifice upon the Cross is the Self-giving Love of the one true God, the divine grace by which and for which whatever is made has been made.
The Son of God enters the waters of St. Mary’s womb, and He is born from those waters under the Law, in order to redeem those under the Law. He then enters the waters of St. John’s Baptism in the Jordan River, thereby submitting Himself to sacrificial death as the Lamb of God for the sins of the world; and from those waters He makes His way steadfastly to the Cross. So does He also embark upon the sea, in order to cross over with His people — through death into life. As such, He too is found on the boat in the chaotic storm, amid the raging winds and the thrashing waves.
He is on board “just as He is.” He has flesh and blood like you. He sleeps because He is true Man. Which means, not only that He gets tired and must sleep, just as you must take your rest, but also that He lives by faith, just as you are called to live. Only, where you so often cannot sleep but toss and turn at night, He rests in peace and quietness while the winds and waves toss the boat around. It is neither exhaustion, nor laziness, nor a lack of care and concern for His fellows, but faith and trust in His Father which enables the Lord Jesus to sleep in peace with all the chaos going on.
He lives as the true Man by entrusting Himself entirely to His God and Father in faith and love. That is how all of Creation — and man in particular — is created to live; so that is how Jesus lives. And that is then also how He dies. For not only does He lay Himself down to sleep in the peace of His Father, but so does He lay down His life, even unto death, in the confidence of His Father’s love and care for Him. So there is this striking contrast between His peaceful sleeping and His panic-stricken disciples who wonder whether He even cares that they are perishing. And there are such times when you also question His care for you, when the storm rages and your Jesus sleeps.
But it is in His sleeping, even in His death upon the Cross, that He fully sets Himself, His faith and love against the chaos of sinful unbelief. His voluntary suffering and death in faithful obedience to His God and Father atones for all of man’s sin and remedies the brokenness of Creation. So, too, it is in His rising from death and the grave that all of Creation is fully restored in peace, as life and immortality are brought to light through the preaching of the Gospel.
It is in His dying and rising that the Lord Jesus Christ receives the authority to exercise a godly dominion of love over all of Creation. And nowhere does He do so more profoundly than here in the Holy Communion. For here He takes bread and wine from His Creation, and He gives them to you as His own Body and Blood, as Meat and Drink indeed for your body of flesh and blood. He uses His dominion to bless and sanctify Creation, to love, and to give life by giving Himself. And in His Body and His Blood, given and poured out for you for the forgiveness of your sins, you have Peace in Christ Jesus. For with His forgiveness the winds and waves are hushed and stilled.
It is true that He rebukes you for your doubts and fears of unbelief. He calls you to repentance and to faith — to fear the Lord, yes, but so also to love and trust in Him. To die and rise with Him in the sure and certain hope of His Resurrection. To be at peace in His love for you. And so to exercise dominion in the place where He has put you, not as a tyrant, but in mercy like His own.
You are on your way. You’re in the midst of the sea, in the midst of crossing over. You’re not yet to the other side, and meanwhile there is much that rages against you, both from without and from within. For you have gone into the waters of Holy Baptism, and, make no mistake, those are deadly waters, in which you are drowned and destroyed with your old Adam, put to death and buried with Christ Jesus. But consider what that means. As you are baptized into Christ Jesus, then you are in the boat with Him, and He is in the boat with you, that is, within the Holy Ark of His Christian Church. And herein you are safe in the midst of the storm, even though you are sometimes so afraid, and even though it seems as though your Lord Jesus were sleeping and not very much concerned about you. He has laid Himself down to sleep in flesh and blood like yours, in order that you may find your peace and rest and quiet sleep in Him. Just as He has died for you, so that, by your dying with Him in the waters of Baptism, you may also rise and live with Him.
Here you are safe. For all your doubts and fears and lack of faith do not make the One who loves you any less faithful. You may wonder what is going on, and whether He will ever help you, but in truth He is here with you, and He will not let you perish. To be sure, your body will die, just as He has died. But so shall your body be raised to be like His own glorious Body, and you shall live forever with Him in body and soul. No hurricane or tidal wave on earth can drown or blow away that sure and certain hope, which has already been accomplished in the Body of Christ Jesus, your Savior. In His sleeping is your Sabbath Rest, even in death. And in His rising from the dead you are saved unto the Life everlasting. In Him God the Father has already given His “Yes” and “Amen” to your every need and all your prayers. And thus do you have Peace in Him forever.
In the Name + of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.