Jackson Blick, Fremont High Track Team, 2013
The past 10 day now have been some of the darkest storm clouds we’ve walked through yet. There is a sense of profound loss and grief with the death of our son Jackson. We are humbled and grateful for the way that countless others have entered the suffering with us and all the families involved.
As Jodi and I have talked this week, we are grieving deeply on the one hand and with great hope on the other. But what is hope? One of the things that we have held tightly to this week is the raw prayer or scream of the disciples in Mark 4 when they are about to die in a windswept boat at night:
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
They are saying in essence that if Jesus really loved them, he would not let them go through a terrifying event like that – hardened, experienced fishermen drowning at sea.
One of my favorite stories from the Bible as a kid (okay, maybe now too) is Jonah and the whale. I scratched my head the first time someone told me that the punchline of the story was not the whale – though that IS one of the really cool parts for someone who loves animals! The point of the story is not really even Jonah. Rather, it is about how Jonah points to Christ who calms more than just the sea in Mark 4.
Jesus has such a unique and surprising answer directly to these drowning disciples that has baffled me this week. A pastor named Tim Keller writes on this passage in a very helpful way – I have also included a link to the full book below in iTunes or Amazon for Kindle as this has entered one of the slots of our top 5 favorite books of all time.
Here are the short yet powerful six verses so you can see this for yourself as we have seen it this week in a great way and stood on it:
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
As Jesus calms the storm he answers the disciples’ question – “do you love us” – with this statement. Listen and soak as we have this week as Keller writes,
“If you [disciples] knew how I love you, you would have stayed calm.” That’s nearly impossible, we think; we know we can’t handle storms so calmly. But we have something that the disciples didn’t have yet. We have a resource that can enable us to stay calm inside no matter how the storms rage outside.
Here’s a clue: Mark has deliberately laid out this account using language that is parallel, almost identical, to the language of the famous Old Testament account of Jonah.
Both Jesus and Jonah were in a boat, and both boats were overtaken by a storm—the descriptions of the storms are almost identical.
Both Jesus and Jonah were asleep.
In both stories the sailors woke up the sleeper and said, “We’re going to die.”
And in both cases, there was a miraculous divine intervention and the sea was calmed.
Further, in both stories the sailors then became even more terrified than they were before the storm was calmed.
Two almost identical stories—with just one difference. In the midst of the storm, Jonah said to the sailors, in effect: “There’s only one thing to do. If I perish, you survive. If I die, you will live” (Jonah 1:12).
And they threw him into the sea. Which doesn’t happen in Mark’s story.
Or does it?
I think Mark is showing that the stories aren’t actually different when you stand back a bit and look at them with the rest of the story of Jesus in view. In Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus says, “One greater than Jonah is here,” and he’s referring to himself: I’m the true Jonah. He meant this: Someday I’m going to calm all storms, still all waves. I’m going to destroy destruction, break brokenness, kill death. How can he do that? He can do it only because when he was on the cross he was thrown—willingly, like Jonah—into the ultimate storm, under the ultimate waves, the waves of sin and death. Jesus was thrown into the only storm that can actually sink us—the storm of eternal justice, of what we owe for our wrongdoing. That storm wasn’t calmed—not until it swept him away.
If the sight of Jesus bowing his head into that ultimate storm is burned into the core of your being, you will never say, “God, don’t you care?” And if you know that he did not abandon you in that ultimate storm, what makes you think he would abandon you in the much smaller storms you’re experiencing right now? And, someday, of course, he will return and still all storms for eternity.
If you let that penetrate to the very center of your being, you will know he loves you. You will know he cares.”
It is in seeing this selfless, radical act of Jesus on the cross for me, in the ultimate storm, that has allowed us to feel deep grief with great hope and taste real Love. – E&J
Excerpt From: Keller, Timothy. “King’s Cross.” PENGUIN group, 2010-12-28. iBooks.
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Eric, I have been and will continue to pray for all of you. ♥ Anne Jones
Thank you so much for these wise words, Eric and Jodi. God’s goodness and glory are radiating amidst all the sorrow. Much love to you all, and continual prayers for God’s comfort in your grief.
Eric- we’ve been covering you in prayer faithfully this past 10 days. I’m so deeply sorry foe your family’s loss. Thank you for your beautiful and eloquent words. In His grip – Cyndi
It is in our darkest hour that we find that He is strong enough to carry us. Praying for your family.
Amazing insight and faith! God bless you and those you love.
Thanks Eric for this…so true; the absolute strength of Jesus allows me to be weak and instead of looking to my strength, or lack there of, I look to His Strength…He will not fail us…may that grant us Peace <