The notorious Jonah provides an interesting contrast to the story of Jesus calming the angry sea (Mark 4 and Matthew 8).
- In both cases, God's will was very clear. To Jonah, God said, "Arise, go to Ninevah, that great city, and cry out against it. . ."
- And to the disciples Jesus said, "Let us cross over to the other side." There could be no argument in either case, His will was presented in a straightforward manner.
- Jonah acted in direct disobedience to God's will and went down into a ship headed to Tarshish, away from the presence of the Lord. The disciples, however, followed Jesus into the boat (Mt 8:23).
- For Jonah, "The Lord sent out a great wind on the sea, and there was a mighty tempest. . ." The disciples encountered the same circumstances. "And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with waves."
- The mariners guiding Jonah's vessel were afraid; the disciples of Jesus experienced that very same fear.
- In both cases, the sailors carried on board a sleeping passenger. Jonah was fast asleep in the lowest parts of the ship; Jesus slept on a pillow in the hinder part of the vessel.
- Finally, the sailors experienced peaceful calm only after offering up desperate prayers. In the one case the sea quit raging after they heaved Jonah overboard, and in the other story the calm was achieved at the Word of the Master.
Are there useful nuggets of truth that I can glean from this study in contrasts?
God is master of every storm, and can use them to chasten disobedience OR to exercise the faith of His obedient disciples. It behooves me to evaluate when I find myself in a tempest. Is this storm sent to chasten my disobedience? If so, I can take courage in the fact that He preserved even the recalcitrant Jonah. " The Lord disciplines those he loves, and he punishes everyone he accepts as a son." Hebrews 12:6 His unchangeable character assures me that as He was merciful to Jonah, He will be merciful to me.
On the other hand, I may be walking in 100% obedience to His will and yet experience a tempest. Will I hold onto faith even when Jesus appears to be asleep, unresponsive to my dire need? Or will I capitulate to my fears and encounter the rebuke of Jesus, "How is it that you have no faith?" The very clear choice is fear or faith. They are mutually exclusive.
Jesus may seem slow in arising to the rescue, but better to wait for Him than to mimic Jonah, who was slow to repent. He waited until AFTER the great fish swallowed him before he began to pray. How much wiser to follow the example of the disciples, whose desperate, "Lord, we perish!" awakened the Master to action.
My heart, let not the noise of the tempest drown out the voice of prayer.