For those of us who are somewhat familiar with the Gospels’ accounts of Jesus, we can end up feeling slightly underwhelmed by what we see in those accounts as we read.
It’s been said that “familiarity breeds contempt”–and there is some truth in that. But the other thing that familiarity (or perceived familiarity!) might breed is boredom. We read those seemingly well-known stories about Jesus and we can end up feeling a big nothing! We peer into the text and conclude: “Oh, yes. That’s Jesus. He did those kinds of things. I knew that.”
But all that could change if we read with a little more attentiveness and an intention to step into the account and attempt to live in the moment.
Luke 8:22–25 is one of those familiar passages (parallels appear in the other Gospel accounts).
Now on one of those days Jesus and His disciples got into a boat, and He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they launched out. But as they were sailing along He fell asleep; and a fierce gale of wind descended on the lake, and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. They came to Jesus and woke Him up, saying, “Master, Master, we are perishing!” And He got up and rebuked the wind and the surging waves, and they stopped, and it became calm. And He said to them, “Where is your faith?” They were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?”
Having heard this account before, when we read it (again), we can all too easily respond, thinking, “Yep. That’s Jesus. He’s God come in the flesh. He does that kind of thing.” But step into the account a little more attentively, and you might taste something a bit more captivating.
The men in the boat with Jesus had already been with Him for some time; perhaps months or more. They have already seen Him heal people with a variety of infirmities; they have watched as He delivered people, in breath-taking ways, from demonic oppression. They have heard Him teach and seen the impact of His words on the lives of many, and felt the impact in their own lives. They are, already, impressed by Him. In some real sense, they are familiar with Him.
But did you notice how these men, well-acquainted with Jesus, responded? They were fearful, they were amazed, and they were so stirred by what Jesus had done that they asked one another, “Who is this?!?”
They didn’t respond with: “Oh, of course. That’s Jesus. We know Him. He always does that kind of thing. We expected that.”
If we overlook how surprising and amazing (and, at times, fear-inducing) Jesus can be (as pictured for us in the Gospels), we might just overlook and ignore how surprising and amazing (and, at times, fear-inducing) He can be in our lives.
If we are attentive to His real presence in our lives, we might be provoked to cry out, “Who is this who does these kinds of things?!”