Storms on sea and land. Jesus walked from one right into another.


Jesus arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace,
be still!" The wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He
said to them [his disciples], "Why are you so fearful? How is it
that you have no faith?"

And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, "Who can
this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!"

Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of
the Gadarenes. When Jesus had come out of the boat, immediately
there met Him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit, who
had his dwelling among the tombs; and no one could bind him,
not even with chains, because he had often been bound with
shackles and chains. And the chains had been pulled apart by him,
and the shackles broken in pieces; neither could anyone tame him.

Always, night and day, he was in the mountains and in the tombs,
crying out and cutting himself with stones.

                                                         Mark 4:39 - 5:5 NKJV, condensed

                                      Decisive Moments

Fears on the middle of the lake were only the prelude. Just wait till
you guys reach the shore and see who is waiting for you! It's probably
good we can't see into the future, because many times we would not
want to go there. The disciples had rowed all night and survived a
boisterous storm. They received, not praise for their efforts, but a
reprimand for their faithlessness. As they processed the events of the
last 12 hours, they felt something akin to terror when in their memory
they played back those scenes of Jesus putting a muzzle on the
tempest. Who is this man? And what am I doing here with him?

The Gospel writer, Mark, made these questions a major theme. From
those in the crowds and the people of Jesus' home town, to the scribes
and Pharisees, now the disciples, and in the future the Roman governor
Pilate--everyone will wrestle with the same question. Who is this man?
He is like none other! And the related question, Why do I even care
and want to know who he is?

The storm was past history. Now the disciples were fearful of Jesus,
the great Teacher who called them to discipleship. Who is this who
can speak to the wind and the waves and make them obey? Did they
really want to be his disciple! It's probably good they were so far from
home. That way they could give it more thought before making any
decisive move. Incidentally, there is no indication in any of the
Gospels that Jesus ever considered dismissing any of his disciples.

As I write these words, I realize this is my story, too. Looking closely
at these Gospel stories, reflecting on their meaning and message
and then scribbling out my take on them, I receive inspiration from
God, from those around me and my entire life experience which now
totals 65 years. Some moments I feel blest being so immersed in the
Gospel stories. Other moments my well is dry, my task so undoable.
Sometimes I really like the image of Jesus. Other times I don't like
what I see as I read his story. Meek and mild he is not, even though
he claimed to be. Smart and clever, yes, he's definitely that. But did
he really show us what God is like?

As the disciples watched Jesus day after day, they wondered who
he really was and what they were doing following after him. If Jesus
wasn't from God, then how could he do the amazing things he did--
the miracles of healing, exorcising demons, talking to the wind
and waves and making them obey! They wondered, Should we
continue on with Jesus? Or do we end it and just go home? What
in the world are we doing here, between the tempest on the water
and the wild man on the shore! Decisions are difficult to make.
In hindsight we can evaluate what we have done with our lives,
but by then those keen insights come too late.

In the midst of it all, we make our decisions. The disciples made theirs
based on faith and hope. They wagered their lives on the possibility
this could be a man sent by God to redeem that which can be salvaged
from our miserable world. Sent by God to call forth the better angels
of our souls, to claim us once more and return us to our loving
heavenly Father.

So I, too, wonder what I am doing between the tempest on the water
and the wild man on the shore? Will I continue on, going further--despite
my questions and doubting, my fears and reservations--to pursue my
quest to discover who Jesus is and understand his revelation of God?
Will I move ahead and press in toward my Maker for meaning and
purpose? Is this the best I can do with the next few years of my life?
There are many other options.

I have been asking myself the last few days, Why do I think I have so
much that is worth saying? (Which is part II of the original self-doubt
question, Who do you think you are?) That wild man of Gadara is
lurking in the shadows. Do I really want to go there! Part of me says,
Yes, and runs eagerly straight into the melee. Part of me hesitates
on the sidelines. Part of me prefers the distractions of whatever
catches my fancy. Part of me escapes through the back door. You
know what! I have so many selves, that wild man named Legion is
not so strange after all.

Like the terrified disciples who agonized over their role in the immediate
scene before them and in the many days ahead, we also face a myriad
of possibilities and choices. With the disciples we ask, Is this what
I really want for my life? This man, Jesus, is he the one?


Use the following questions for small groups, journaling, further
study or reflection.


Icebreaker: We all, throughout our lifetimes, have seen some really sad scenes.
                      What is a particular one which you recall?


In Mark's Gospel he described the reaction of the disciples to Jesus' miracle
on the water as more than fear. It was an exceedingly great fear. Some
versions say they were terrified. When Luke told the story, he said the
disciples were afraid and marveled.
            Why would this miracle evoke such a strong response?
            Had you been there, how might you have reacted?
            How was this fear different from their typical fears when
                        their lives were not threatened by a storm?


How do you think the disciples answered their own question about who
Jesus was?
            When have you asked a similar question?
            Do you have a satisfactory answer for your question?
            Why do we even care and want to know who Jesus is?
Sometimes we have thoughts in our heads but find it difficult to articulate it.
If you are in a group, ask the other people to help put your thoughts into words.


When you read the Gospels, are there scenes in which you don't like
what Jesus said or did?
            If so, give some examples.
            Is it difficult or easy for you to object to something in the Bible and
                        express those sentiments to someone else?
Some people are able to set such things aside, awaiting further light. Or
put it on the back burner and leave it there.
            What do you do with your objections?


For the moment, the disciples were trapped . Circumstances didn't allow
much freedom for them to go their own way.
            As a present-day disciple, when have you felt the same way?


What have been some decisive moments for you when you changed
your course, set goals, made promises and commitments, etc.? Or when
you extricated yourself from old commitments?


Jesus never "fired" any disciples or followers.
            What does this tell us about Jesus and discipleship?


Those of you who have positions of leadership or volunteer jobs in your
local house of worship, what is it that keeps you going forward with
and for God?

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