On that day, when evening had come, Jesus said, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’ And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. A great gale arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him up and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ He woke up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great awe and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’
If you asked us today to state what the opposite of faith was, we would be inclined to say, Doubt. But in this passage (as in many other passages in the New Testament) it seems to be fear, or rather a certain kind of fear. See this contrast of fear and faith in the verse, “Why are you frightened? Do you still have no faith?”
Our natural instincts are our friends; they are our equipment for survival as individuals and as a species. So this must be true of fear. But like all our instincts it can become neurotic and turn against us. Then it becomes a crippling force, preventing us from doing anything, good or bad. It can cripple us visibly and invisibly: if my knees are knocking and my face is pale, I am visibly in the grip of fear; but I am invisibly in its grip if I have easily put aside – or not even considered – challenges and openings that were lying there for me. I can be frightened without appearing to be so.
That little boat crossing a storm-tossed lake is a symbol of our life. Many things tell us – and we tell one another – to be afraid. But “do we still have no faith?”
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