You of little faith, why are you so afraid? -Matthew 8:26
Let’s face it, fear is a normal reality of human experience. When faced with the unknown, whether doing something we’ve never done before, or caught in something terrifying like a tornado, or hurricane, or jumping out of a plane, fear is a reasonable human response. And yet, when the disciples feared for their lives on a boat in the middle of violent storm on the Sea of Galilee, Jesus, who had been sleeping, simply asked, “Why are you so afraid?”
I was challenged this morning by the author of Dare to Answer, John Busacher, as he addressed this question in a Zoom meeting with our men’s group. John suggested something had “ended” for the disciples as they climbed into that boat to go to the other side of the sea. What was it? It was the safety and security of their own Jewish community on their side of the sea and going into “uncharted territory” among the Gentiles. But even more important, their narrow view of who Jesus was would be altered—and Jesus used a violent storm and a demon-possessed madman to do it.
While the specific circumstances are different today, perhaps we too are facing uncharted territory and terror from the Coronavirus storm. Perhaps God is using this pandemic to confront our understanding of who He is by answering the question, “Why are you so afraid?” This is still a crucial question for today. As Busacker pointed out, this question is not merely about coping with a physical situation that has produced a heightened degree of fear. It is about my belief about the goodness and greatness of God—do I believe God is with me. Do I believe He will calm this storm too? Or do I have too little faith?
The Rest of the Story
But the storm is not the whole story. When Jesus and the disciples arrived on the other side, they were immediately confronted by a demon-possessed man called Legion because of the numerous demons possessing him. Busacker points out that Jesus did something extraordinary. He cast out the demons… all of them. But, when the people saw that this man was indeed free of his tormentors and that Jesus sent the demons into a herd of pigs who ran into the sea and drowned, they were afraid.
A reasonable person would say that’s a reasonable response. And they would be right. But, as Busacker points out, their fear, like most fear we experience in life, presented these people with a choice. Would they focus on Jesus who cast out the demons, or would they focus on the demon-driven pigs? They chose the pigs. Which led them to tell Jesus to leave them.
The man who had been set free, on the other hand, asked to go back with Jesus. But Jesus did something else unexpected. He did not let the man come back with Him. Instead, He told him to go home to his family and tell them what Jesus had done for him. Which he did, and all the people were amazed. They listened to this man who had been set free, and he made an impact.
So, here’s the point—two points, actually, in the form of questions. First, what are you afraid of? Do you really believe God is with you and can calm the storm? Secondly, where and to whom is Jesus sending you (and me) in this time of walking through uncharted territory? Each of us were once imprisoned by the chains of our sin, but God, in Christ, set us free and He calls us to tell our story.
It is not unreasonable to experience fear in these times, but what will we do with it? We must choose: Do what He asks us to do knowing He is with us, or let our fears move us away from the opportunities and blessings He has for us. It may be that people’s hearts have been cracked-open in this time of uncertainty, and all that is needed is someone who will have the courage to tell them all that Jesus has done for them. So, why are you so afraid?
The beginning of anxiety is the end of faith and the beginning of true faith is the end of anxiety.
Fear knocked at the door. Faith answered. There was no one there.
-Old English Proverb