During the Jubilee weekend, my daughter and I watched the yachts tacking up the Thames. My daughter asked why they were going backwards and forwards across the river and I explained that if the wind is blowing directly towards you, you can’t sail into it. But you can harness it to sail diagonally across the river. That’s why the yachts are zig-zagging.
It occurred to me that the disciples who were fishermen would have known this. Sailing is an ancient art and they would have known that the weather often doesn’t do what we want it to. When bad conditions came their way, they would have known how to tack and jibe and reef the sails, and do what they needed to do to harness the weather and get to where they were going.
The story of Jesus calming the storm is one that is found in all of the Gospels except John. In the story, Jesus and His disciples are making their way across the Sea of Galilee when they encounter a large storm. As you would imagine, the disciples spring into action to deal with the conditions and to keep them heading in the right direction.
However, in the midst of the storm, they decide to abandon their station and wake up their rabbi. They have come to the end of their own ability and wake Jesus up, begging Him for help. (The story tells us Jesus was asleep on a cushion!)
This scene has been the source of many incredible pieces of art. Rembrandt famously painted it in 1633, in a piece he titled ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee.’ If you look closely at the fishing boat in his painting, you can count 14 faces in it. That’s because Rembrandt painted himself into the ship and no one really knows why. I like to think that he did it because, even though the storm might look like the most dangerous place to be, being close to Jesus is also the safest place to be.
Just like for the disciples, our circumstances aren’t always as we wish them to be. Sometimes the wind is behind us and we can sail straight and true. Other times, we encounter storms and we have to try to harness difficult conditions – as we have over the last few years. Tacking and jibing and reefing the sails – manoeuvring to keep moving forward. The going is tough and sometimes it can feel like we are going backwards and forwards – but we are making progress.
The disciples help remind us that even when we feel like we have the skills or the experience to deal with things on our own, we mustn’t forget to cry out to Jesus for help. And if it feels like we’ve been called to one of the most dangerous places to be, we can remember that being close to the one who ‘the wind and waves obey,’ is also the safest place to be.
Jo Henderson is PF’s Fundraising Officer.
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