This morning the local Baptist minister preached about faith.
His main Gospel reading focused on Matthew 8:23-27, which tells the story of Jesus stilling the storm on the sea. In verse twenty-six, Jesus (who had been asleep, but awakened) said to the disciples manning the boat, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”
This led to the minister saying there were two kinds of Christians: those of weak faith and those of strong faith.
To say “weak faith” is to mean “have belief.”
Faith means a personal experience, knowing what is true. Anything less than that is not faith.
Belief is an intellectual approach towards that which is not known, only assumed to be true.
The minister marveled at the prior stories told in Matthew’s eighth chapter: Jesus healed a leper; he healed a paralyzed servant of a Centurion; and, he healed Peter’s mother-in-law when Jesus went to Peter’s house and found her with a fever.
The Baptist minister placed greater focus on the Centurion story, because Jesus told him, “Truly I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.”
This was because the Centurion told Jesus he did not have to come to his house. He knew that all Jesus needed to do was give the order for his servant to be healed and it would be done. So, Jesus told the Centurion, “Go; let it be done for you according to your faith.” And, at that time the servant was healed.
Now, the Baptist minister said Jesus got in the boat with his disciples, saying, “He must have been tired, so he went to sleep. After all, Jesus had put in a long day healing people and walking around. He was in the flesh like everyone else, so he got tired and needed rest.”
The minister marveled at the power of Jesus “to rebuke the winds and the sea.” He did not see the clear metaphor of that story that applied then, as well as it applies today.
Every time in the books of the Holy Bible where there is talk of sleep, that must be seen as metaphor for death. The classic example is when Jesus was told that Lazarus was ill and he needed to come quickly. Jesus said then, “Lazarus is only sleeping.”
When the shortest verse in the Bible is, “He wept,” those tears spoke as if Jesus got tired of saying, “Why are you afraid, you of little faith?”
The disciples Simon-Peter, James and John of Zebedee were fishermen. They owned boats that they knew how to navigate on the Sea of Galilee. They had made their living as fishermen … as sailors.
On the Sabbaths they accompanied Jesus, as he did his business for Yahweh – preaching and healing. During the week, however, those seamen went back to their day jobs, as fishermen.
The metaphor of them getting on the boat with Jesus asleep (Mark says “asleep in the stern”) … at the rear of the boat … out of the fishermen’s way, says Jesus was useless baggage to workers. He was like Lazarus in a tomb – out of sight and out of mind. Then, up came a storm and the waves of the sea began to crash into the boat. They became fearful and afraid.
Doing their day job meant suddenly, unexpectedly, all hell broke loose. The boat was sinking and their mortality suddenly screamed in their faces, “Call Jesus!”
Jesus being dead to them (the metaphor of sleep) says they went about life just lugging Jesus around, like he was a cross dangling from a chain around their necks, a decal on their rear bumper or an icon on the dash of their cars. They went about their routine, daily business without following Jesus, because they had mortgages and car notes to pay. There was no way they could navigate the sea of a wicked world being ‘Jesus-lovers’ or ‘holy rollers.’ They had to hide their beliefs and play by the rules of the wild, wild sea; and, that meant putting their faith behind them, as they sailed onward.
The Baptist minister hit this nail on the head (somewhat), saying that people call “faith” their denomination of Christian religion. He said, “Oh I’m of the Baptist faith, or I’m of the Methodist faith.” He then said, “That is not what faith means.”
He said that was weak faith; but he meant that was belief.
Believing in Jesus, based on what some denomination of Christianity tells one to believe is not faith.
The men in that boat being afraid – as real as that story was, as a true event of a storm coming up suddenly and Jesus having to rescue them – reflects upon everyone who claims to be a Christian today. Saying, “I’m Christian” and then not being Jesus reborn, as a true Christ, is lying. That means being one who puts his or her religious beliefs in the closet – dead to the world – while one goes about a sinful life.
It is not unusual. It is normal. To be faithless and afraid is what people do … all the time.
The Baptist minister did not warn his pewples what Jesus said to the Roman Centurion, whose faith was in a system of command, where orders given must be carried out by the soldiers that were an integral part that made that system work. Jesus told him: “I tell you, many will come from east and west and will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the heirs of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”
That was Jesus telling a Gentile, “The future of faith in what I can do lies in people just like you – non-Jewish. The future salvation of souls – those who will eat with Abraham and Isaac and Jacob – will be those souls who have complete faith that I and them are one, in a system of Yahweh. They will be the soldiers carrying out the orders, who will truly be called Christians. However, all those who think all they need is a little belief and then they get all the benefits, with none of the servitude … well, they will be thrown into hell.”
The Baptist minister promoted the same ole same ole. All you have to do is have faith that Jesus is this external entity that will come rescue you when you are in trouble, IF you have a big amount of belief called faith.
The truth was said by Jesus to the Centurion, when he said to him, “I tell you, in no one in Israel have I found such faith.” Jesus said that to a Roman commander while in Galilee. The name “Israel” must be read for the truth it stands for: one “Who Retains God” … which means being one with His Son.
Likewise, the truth was said by Jesus to his disciples, who put his soul to death in their boat(s). By doing that, they were thinking they were heirs to a kingdom (as Jews). When he said to them, “ Why are you afraid, you of little faith?” he was saying their ticket to death was to the bottom of the sea, not to some heavenly kingdom.
None of them were “in Israel.”
The Baptist minister talked a lot about fears … saying there was a lot to be fearful of these days … COVID pandemic fears, fears of a possible war in Europe … so faith was most important to have at this time.
The problem is he never once said how you get faith.
He never once pointed out the metaphor of Jesus being asleep within the boat of his disciples said Jesus was not alive within them.
He never once told his viewing and listening audience, “You must be one with Jesus, living as Jesus reborn, not carrying Jesus around like some dead icon … a cross neckless, a decal on a window, a membership card for some church.”
The reason there are so many fearful things in the world – all those storms that suddenly come up, springing from out of nowhere – is Jesus is sleeping. He is not living in those who say they believe in Jesus.
If Jesus were living and COVID19 became something used by fearmongers to keep Christians from going to church, then all who were Jesus reborn would rise and rebuke the wind raising that sea spray … saying (as Mark wrote), “Quiet! Be still!”
If Jesus were living and Russia were threatening to invade Ukraine, then the order would be made, “Go back home! Or, be thrown into the outer darkness!”
Alas, fear holds the day; and, that is because Jesus is asleep in the stern of the boat, when he should be the commander at the helm.