Rembrandt’s painting “The Storm on the Sea of Galilee” details the story told in three of the Gospel accounts. In the story, Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and told them to go out across the sea of Gallilee toward the other side. While on the sea, Jesus falls asleep, and a sudden storm comes over the sea. The disciples are in distress, and they wake up Jesus and say to him, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” After he awakens, he rebukes the wind and tells it to be still, and then he rebukes the disciples for their lack of faith. Afterwards, they said amongst themselves, “Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him?”
It’s easy to read this story and others like it, and then immediately jump to the analysis. In reading it, we often skip over the fact that what takes place is miraculous and unheard of. If I were one of the disciples in that moment, I can see myself thinking the same things that they did—“What just happened?”
When I read stories in Scripture like this one, I often have to stop and ask myself: “Do I believe this?” It’s one thing to read Paul’s letters, or James’ letters, or Peter’s letters, or any of the rest which detail the nature of living the Christian life. But the Gospels are different. They tell the story, and not just any story—the story, the one that makes everything else matter. It’s easy to read the story of Jesus’ time on earth and gloss over it, skipping to the applications for our life today. But in doing so, we ignore the fact that these things really happened, which is troubling, since our faith hinges on our belief that these things really happened. It’s not enough just to believe that there was a man named Jesus and that he came to show us the right way to live. There’s a moment that comes in the life of every believer, oftentimes more than once, where he or she must answer the question, “Do I really believe this?”
There’s a great song by the artist Sara Groves called “What Do I Know?” In it, she tells about a friend of hers who is nearing 90 years of age, and who is coming to terms with the fact that she’s afraid of dying. There’s a great verse in the song that goes:
“She grew up singing about the glory land,
and she would testify how Jesus changed her life.
It was easy to have faith when she was thirty-four,
but now her friends are dying, and death is at her door.”
In response to this verse and the others like it, Sara responds by saying, “What do I know?” I love that song because of its honesty. Rather than trying to make sense of her friend’s fear, she simply listens, realizing that she really has nothing to say that her friend doesn’t already know.
In the collection, Letters To Malcolm: Chiefly On Prayer, writer C.S. Lewis wrote, “Relying on God has to begin all over again every day as if nothing had yet been done.” More often than not, in fact almost daily, I find myself jumping straight into my daily routine without ever asking myself, “Am I truly relying on God?” Even when that routine involves prayer or the reading of Scripture, there is always a tendency to skip past the initial question of belief and jump straight to the activity, praying for my needs, or searching the Scriptures for guidance or wisdom, without ever stopping to ask myself the question that was asked of me when I first gave my profession of faith: “Who do you believe that Jesus is?”
In asking this, I come back to the scene of the storm on the Sea of Galilee, imagining Jesus standing up and rebuking the wind and waves, watching them obey Him, and listening to the disciples saying, “Who is this that even the wind and the waves obey him?”
“Do I really believe this?”