Yesterday was the second Sunday of Advent, the day when we focus on the coming of Jesus as the coming of peace. I chose to speak on Mark 4:35-41 – Jesus calming the storm. I’m not completely sure why, but I was intrigued by the manner of the peace that Jesus brings. It struck me that this story could easily be called, ‘Jesus unsettles the disciples.’ By the end of the story, we get told that the disciples were ‘terrified’ of Jesus and by what they’d seen him do.
As I imagined the story, I found myself in the boat with Jesus, catching my breath after the storm had died away at his words. The violent tossing of the boat settling into a gentle rocking, my fingers still clutching the side, but instead of my senses being overwhelmed by the screaming wind and the mountainous waves, it was the silence that scared me; it was being trapped on this boat with one who can converse with storms, one who can sleep through tempests, one who can ask them to leave as if they were an annoying younger brother. The word ‘eerie’ never seemed so appropriate. There is something deeply unsettling about this peace that Jesus brings. I’m not used to quiet like this, or calm this complete. It turns out I need a little bit of chaos in my life, like background noise, just to keep me from coming face to face with silence, with Jesus. Yet the calm that Jesus brings gives me nothing to be afraid of…except him. It denies me all the usual distractions and leaves me contemplating that one, haunting question, ‘who is this?’
After the message I prayed. I found myself confessing that this grown up Jesus was too much for me, that if I was honest I was uneasy in his company. I realised that I was not alone. His vision of the kingdom was often too difficult for people to grasp, his demands on his followers were often too intense, and in this story, his display of power was too overt for anyone to want to take the seat next to him in the back of the boat.
This grown up Jesus is too much for me. I found myself praying for the infant Christ to come and be with me. You see I want what Jesus is about, but its just such an abrupt shock from the world I know and live in. I need to be led there gently, or else the shock might make me run away. I need to keep company with the infant Jesus, and let his vision of the kingdom grow in me, to let his invitation for me to surrender come gradually. For I am a just a child in the faith, and I need a saviour and Lord who is as well. I want and need my faith to grow up with him.
It reminded me of an experience I had with my son Sam on our last trip away. We were in Dunedin, and Sam was a little tired and fragile. He hurt himself somehow and needed a cuddle. I carried him to our room and sat down on my bed. We were staying with my wife’s parents,and they’d made Sam a special wee bed on the floor in our room, which was the perfect size for him (he’s just turned 3) and no one else. Through his sobs, he kept asking me to give him a cuddle on his bed instead of mine. I said, ‘Sorry Sam, but I’m a big boy, and your bed is only for little boys.’ He responded with, ‘I don’t want you to be a big boy anymore, I want you to be a little boy like me!‘ I realised what was going on, so we curled up together on his tiny bed and waited for the tears to go away.
This is what God gives us in Jesus. Not someone who confronts us with our childishness and inadequacy and condemns us by it, but one who comes alongside us , who humbles himself to grow with us. I confess I am not ready for the Jesus who can calm storms at a word, who will ask me to pick up my cross, who will set his face towards his own death and ask me to follow. I need the infant Jesus, so we can start this journey together.
Thank God he comes like this.