Have you ever had the experience of taking a little child to see the ocean for the very first time?
I had the privilege of doing just that some years ago when my nephew Scott was five years old. He had never seen the ocean before. He had seen pictures of the ocean and had heard people describe it, but he had never seen it for himself.
One day Scott’s family came to the Jersey Shore where I was staying and I took Scott to the beach. As we walked toward the water we had to climb over a large dune. As we did, Scott was holding my hand. When we reached the top of the dune, the vastness of the Atlantic Ocean appeared before us.
Suddenly, I felt Scott grasp my hand a little more tightly. Then he just stood there in utter amazement as he tried to take it all in. The immensity of the ocean was beyond anything he had ever imagined.
After a few moments I took him down toward the water, but he was hesitant about getting too close. As he was standing near the water’s edge, a wave began to come toward us. He immediately backed away.
To me the cresting surf looked beautiful. But to Scott, who was just three feet tall, it was terrifying. Those white-capped waves may have seemed like the bared teeth of a beast ready to bite off his feet.
Eventually, Scott became a little braver and ventured into the water. But whenever a wave rolled in, Scott ran to the safety of the beach. For Scott, experiencing the ocean was awesome and terrifying.
In this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 4:35-41), the disciples have an awesome experience not with the ocean but with the Sea of Galilee.
Jesus and his disciples are in a boat crossing the sea when a violent squall comes up. Waves begin breaking over the boat and it starts to fill with water. The disciples fear for their lives. Yet despite the violent squall and cries of the terrified disciples, Jesus remains “asleep on a cushion” in the stern of the boat.
Obviously, Jesus must have been a sound sleeper, but perhaps he could remain calm because Jesus knew who was ultimately in charge. He was!
When his disciples woke him, Jesus “rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Quiet! Be still!’” He would never have said that unless he knew his authority over the wind and waves.
Jesus was like the Lord who, in our First Reading (Job 38:8-11), described himself to Job as the one who put limits on the sea. For Jews, who were not seafaring people, to control the deep water was to have awesome power.
When the disciples saw Jesus exercise his power over the sea, “They were filled with great awe and said to one another, “Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?”
In that moment, the disciples glimpsed the divinity of Jesus. He was far more than just their rabbi and teacher.
Sunday’s Gospel is a good reminder that Jesus is not just the understanding friend, the accepting companion, and the uncritical observer often pictured by society.
Jesus Christ is our awesome God who controls not only the movement of the waves, but the movement of the galaxies across the abyss of space. He is the one who can still the winds on the sea, and the winds that turn pages of history and pages of our lives.
Jesus Christ is, as Thomas professed, our Lord and God. He is our awesome God deserving of glory and praise.
Just as Scott came to appreciate the awesomeness of the ocean that day on the Jersey Shore, may we recognize the awesome nature and wondrous power of God. A God who in the wonder of his love reveals himself to us in Jesus Christ.
As a song written by Rich Mullins reminds us,
Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God
© 2021 Rev. Thomas B. Iwanowski