The Backyard Carnival is happening. It is happening in just under one hundred forty-five hours and thirty minutes. It is happening with one hundred fifty hot dogs and a couple hundred bottles of water (there will be lemonade, too). It is happening with cotton candy and popcorn and snow cones. It is happening with face painting and prizes and gifts. It is happening with thirty or so volunteers. Three hundred homes have been told that it is happening. It is happening to love people by sharing the good news of Jesus Christ.
And the big question we must be asking is, what are we to learn? Or better yet, what do we need to learn? Pay close attention to how we are asking this question.
And As They Sailed He Fell Asleep
Luke 8:22-25 is short. Matthew tells of this moment and it too is short (Matthew 8:23-25). Mark also tells of this moment and it is longer, but not by much (Mark 4:35-41). Why do all three of these Gospels share with us such a short moment?
This is reminiscent of Jonah chapter one in the Old Testament. There Jonah boards a ship. It sets sail and Jonah sleeps. A massive storm comes down upon it and Jonah still sleeps. He awakes only at the urging of the captain. The end result is that God calms the storm.
In all three of these Gospel accounts, Jesus boards a boat with his disciples. The disciples set sail and Jesus sleeps. A massive storm comes down upon them and Jesus still sleeps. He awakes only at the urging of the disciples. The end result is that Jesus calms the storm.
Again, all three of these Gospels share for us this moment – Jesus in a boat with his disciples. They sail. Jesus sleeps. This is the only record of Jesus sleeping. Why did Jesus sleep? The answer seems obvious, right? In Luke 4, there was that day that Jesus healed and restored lives, seemingly that of an entire town, and he did so all evening through dawn the next day. In Luke 6, there was that day Jesus prayed all evening through dawn the next day. Then throughout Luke 6 and Luke 7, Jesus gives so much time to people, teaching and meeting their needs. He is tired by this point, exhausted even! Mark tells us that he got to enjoy a pillow (Mark 4:38)! It is significant that he slept, but more than simply because he was exhausted.
He Got Into a Boat With His Disciples
Notice Luke 8:22. “One day he got into a boat with his disciples.” This could be the most important verse in this short moment. Who was in the boat? Jesus and his disciples. More importantly, Jesus is with his disciples in a boat. Who are these disciples? Simply, a disciple is a student. Jesus is with his students – those learning from him – in a boat!
The word disciples is only used twice in Luke 8. It is there in Luke 8:9. Jesus tells his disciples a parable and his disciples ask a question. “What does it mean?” He tells what the parable meant. It was about hearing the Word of God and the four kinds of people who hear the Word of God. Sundays are filled with those who hear the Bible. And his point in telling the parable is for his disciples to take care then how you hear the Word of God (Luke 8:18).
After this Jesus gets into a boat with his disciples. The boat immediately follows the parable. Why? There was something more to learn. The parable was for their learning. What could the boat, this lake, this storm be for?
Keep looking at Luke 8:22. Jesus got into a boat with his disciples and said, “Let us go across to the other side of the lake.” Jesus is with his disciples. Jesus said to do something. And Jesus is with them as they do it (he is just asleep). Note those three things.
So, why share this moment with us? There is something to learn. Keep in mind that these disciples knew this boat; were familiar with it. It was someone’s boat, one of these disciples. These disciples knew this lake; were familiar with it. These disciples knew how to sail this boat across this lake; were familiar with it. I would say that these disciples knew all the “pitfalls” of sailing a boat across this lake. And they most likely could see the destination.
But I also want to stress that the disciples were in the same boat together. So, there was something for them to learn, yes individually, but also collectively or corporately. It is why we asked the question the way we asked it. When it comes to this carnival, what do we need to learn? Do not lose sight of this, though: who else is in the same boat? Jesus. Jesus is with them; he is asleep, but he is with them. What does that say about Jesus?
And Then Came the Windstorm
The disciples do what Jesus said to do. And then came the windstorm. It was a literal storm. The word for windstorm is what describes a hurricane. This is a lake, but not unusual for this lake. Sudden, terrifying, unexpected, threatening storms were and are normal for this lake – the Sea of Galilee. The wind is just half of it. With wind comes waves. Luke calls them “raging” (v. 24). Matthew calls this a great storm (Matthew 8:24) which is the Greek word seismic. This was an earthquake on water!
These disciples knew this lake and knew these storms. It reminded me of something Jesus said in John 16:33. “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” Notice the disciples never hesitated; never objected; never paused to remind everyone, including Jesus, about the unexpected storms famous for this lake. No one said, “Hold on everyone, just a second. Let’s remember and consider that although it is sunny and pleasant now, things could change in a second.”
Why not? Who expects a storm doing what Jesus said to do?
We have these kinds of storms; not lake storms, but doing the work of the ministry storms. These are storms when doing what Jesus said to do. But remember: Jesus is with his disciples. Jesus said for them to do something. And Jesus is with them as they do it.
These storms can be anything, anything that I end up describing as frustrating, disappointing, discouraging, disheartening, not going as I thought it should go; maybe even devastating. And the storm gets bigger and more intense the longer I keep looking at the storm, thinking about the storm and its effects.
Look at the storm’s effects: the boat is filling with water and now the disciples, the boat, and the mission are all in danger.
The disciples have been doing all they can, in their own ability, to maintain survival, until they come to this undeniable end: we no longer can do it. We now need Jesus.
What is there to make of Jesus still being asleep? He has been asleep the whole time! No storm worries Jesus. The course of things get disrupted and he is always at peace. He is always perfectly calm.
Where is Your Faith?
Notice Luke 8:24. “And they went and woke him…” What is it that finally wakes Jesus? His disciples! “We are perishing!” It was his disciples and their urgent plea which woke him, finally. And it was not until they realized “We are perishing!” They accomplished with their urgent plea what the storm could not do – they woke Jesus up! The storm never disturbed Jesus, but something did.
Jesus awakes. Rebukes the wind. Rebukes the raging waves. “Peace. Be still.” And it all halted at that very moment. The monster wave about to crash into the hull of the boat never made it. All was calm at the very moment Jesus spoke. All was calm. All was bright. Birds were chirping. There was calm. His disciples were a mess, but all was calm.
Now Jesus will ask a question. “Where is your faith?” Notice his disciples’ response: fear. Jesus just did something that no one in the history of the world has done, is doing or will ever do. He controlled the weather (cf. Psalm 107:23-32).
In Luke, Jesus has demonstrated his power and authority over the natural; his power and authority over the supernatural. In Luke, he has met the need of a man by the power and authority of his bare word. In Luke, he has met the need of a mom by the power and authority of his bare word. There is power and authority in his bare word.
This same power and authority applies to going across to the other side of the lake. Notice verse twenty-six which belongs to this short moment: they get across to the other side of the lake.
Listen to the response of his disciples. “Who then is this?” He is the Creator. He is God. He is the Lord who will provide. He is the God who is with me. And there is power and authority when he calls us to do something like Matthew 28:16-20 or Matthew 5:13-16 or John 13:34-35 or Matthew 6:34 or Acts 1:7-8. And so what do we do when storms arise?
Jesus is with his disciples. He has called us to do something. And he is with us as we do it. Why, though, did he question their faith? They lost sight, in the storm, of Jesus’ power and authority. They witnessed it with the storm, but lost sight of it in doing what he said to do. He was with them. And he was with them as they did it.