There is no end to sermons on this story that allegorizes the boat, and everything else in this sea passage tale. I’ve done it many times through the years; you’ve often heard it: “how many times does it feel like you are in a storm and Jesus is asleep at the stern?” “What are the storms that are tossing your life around?” Good questions- but there is another way to look at it which is that a boat is simply what it is, a traveling vessel, a means by which to get from one place to another. Maybe one of the things this Gospel story points to, is that Jesus is just trying to get us to the other side.
That is something in and of itself because most of us, left to our own devices, would rather stay where we are. That’s human nature, but it is also to be the nature of faith. We can’t seem to hear Jesus’ invitation, “let us go to the other side.” How easy it is to stay in our comfort zones, to remain in what is known, even if that which is known has lost its luster. So we sit. And we wait. For what? The right time? For someone else to make the first move? Maybe this is why Jesus doesn’t give the disciples any time to think about the trip.
But here’s the thing, Jesus seems rather dissatisfied with letting us live on one side of the lake for too long, letting inertia rule. So he takes his disciples to the other side. And getting to the other side is no easy trip. Perhaps there will be a torrential downpour, or dead calm, maybe a giant challenge waiting to greet us on the other side. That’s what happens when Jesus tries to move us from one place to another. That’s the nature of change.
If the disciples had said to Jesus “well, what if there is a storm?” they would have never gotten into the boat because there are always storms on the Sea of Galilee, many coming without notice. If the disciples had said to Jesus, “Well first tell us what’s on the other side?” they would have never gotten into the boat because what happened is that when they arrived in the country of the Garasenes- today’s Golan Heights area of Israel, they were going to encounter a demon-possessed guy who lived in a cemetery and Jesus was going to send his demons into a herd of two thousand pigs. and then the pigs are going to go jump into the lake. I mean you can’t make this stuff up.
The hardest thing is getting into the boat. I don’t know exactly what that looks like for you personally I don’t know you well enough, but I do know in Bobby Dylan’s inimitable words, “The times they are a changing”. Our social culture is changing, church culture certainly is changing, and our personal lives will inevitably face change of some sort-perhaps sooner rather than later. All that can seem daunting if not scary but the text offers some good news.
Notice that Jesus does not say, you go to the other side, but let us go to the other side. Jesus was there all along no matter what Jesus was doing, whether that be preaching about parables or sleeping on a pillow. The promise of this text is also that there is something on the other side that Jesus knows about-and needs to get us to. Naturally the journey has its own set of challenges-the disciples have to see Jesus differently, themselves differently. It means living into a new reality. And that takes some getting used to. But when your location changes- your point of view changes so does your perspective and others’ perspective of you. When your location changes, so do you. Someone once said, “Growth is painful. Change is painful. But nothing is as painful as staying stuck.”
Perhaps the act of faith is not just the trust that Jesus will still the storm. It is also taking Jesus’ invitation to heart. In this case the act of faith is getting into the boat. It is believing that a different landscape-another way of seeing things is not only possible, it is essential. Amen.