Why Are You Afraid? (Mark 4:35-41)
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “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 windstorm 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?”
The question, “Why are you afraid?” is followed immediately with the question, “Have you still no faith?” It’s clear that Jesus links faith with the ability to let go of fear. It appears that the two, fear and faith, are inextricably linked together.
Fear can be described as apprehension, being timid or faint-hearted, or lacking in confidence. When we look at the lives of the disciples in the gospel stories many of these descriptors are clearly displayed in their actions. We see the apostles fearful during the storm at sea. They are apprehensive when Jesus asks them to feed the multitude. They are terrified when they see Jesus coming to them on the water. Peter, James and John fell to the ground in fear at the Transfiguration. The disciples’ fear is especially evident in the scenes surrounding the suffering and death of Jesus. Out of fear, Peter denies Jesus three times. The men closest to him flee when Jesus is arrested. They abandon him as he hangs dying on the cross. We are told that Jesus himself was distressed and agitated as he went to the Garden of Gethsemane to pray before his arrest. It is important to know that fear in and of itself is not bad. In fact a healthy fear can save us from harm or hurtful situations. Fear becomes destructive when it is irrational or when we let it control us rather than we controlling our fear.
But not all fear is debilitating. A healthy fear tells us danger is up ahead. Caution tells us that the black ice can cause injuries. Fear that I am ill can cause me to get medical help. Fear of uneven terrain can cause me to walk more carefully. A ferocious animal growling at me says stay away – your life may be in danger.
If our faith is not placed in the person of the Risen Christ, fear may well have its way. Whatever our fears may be our faith should carry us through. We are told at the end of the Gospel of Matthew that the Risen Christ is with us always, and to the end of the age. Jesus asks his disciples, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” We also know from that same passage that Jesus calmed the waters and said, “Peace. Be still.” If he has power to still the raging waters he certainly can still the anxiety and turmoil within us as well. Those words apply to us just as they did to the raging water. “Peace. Be still.” Are we able to believe this?
When have you experienced any of these descriptors in your life – apprehension, alarm, fright, being without courage, being timid, faint-hearted, or lacking in confidence? What did you learn from the experience?
How have you dealt with your fears that might have the potential for limiting your life?
How important is faith when you experience fear?