Usually it is when a loved one dies that I feel the storms of life bearing down upon me. Sometimes, though, I feel those storms when someone ascribes motives to me that I did not have or when someone misunderstands my words. “That’s not what I meant at all, not at all!” At other times, those unhappy winds blow when I have trouble forgiving myself. It always gets stormy when you realize you cannot go back and undo what has been done. With the guidance of Christian writer Timothy Keller, I took a look at some literal storms in scripture and discovered some metaphorical things.
Jonah knew he was the cause of the great storm at sea as he napped below deck. You can run from God but you can’t hide. I suppose we can assume that he was self-sacrificial when he told his shipmates to quell the storm by throwing him overboard, but we can also read it as a death wish. At any rate, when the sailors threw Jonah into the moiling deep, the waters suddenly settled down and they were then scared sure enough: killing a prophet of a God that powerful was dangerous stuff. What would the consequences be?
There is a parallel to that Old Testament story in Mark. Jesus was dosing in his companions’ boat in a wild windstorm. The frantic disciples got him up saying, “Don’t you care if we perish?” Questioning their faith, Jesus simply rebuked the wind and everything suddenly settled down. Then the disciples were scared sure enough: what kind of man is this that can command the wind and the waves? They thought he had gone to sleep on them in the hour of their great need when it is they who, a little later, went to sleep in the garden during the hour of his great need.
Both of those stories give me a bit of comfort as I look back at the storms of my life. They pale by comparison to the great one at the cross. I have tried to run away from God a time or two in my life. He never sent a big fish to the rescue, but he did find ways to get me where he wanted me. It reminds me of a conversation between Hamlet and Horatio. The former said something like this: Horatio, there is a plan for our life, rough hew it how we will; to which his companion replies, something like, Hamlet, you got that right! There are many detours but one destination.
I do not know whether or not the Gospel writer had Jonah in mind when presenting the story of Jesus calming the storm. He does use similar language. I do know that many figures in the Old Testament prefigure, represent, or typify Christ. Jonah was thrown into the storm and “resurrected” out of the big fish just where God wanted him to preach repentance. Jesus was thrown into the storm and resurrected so that all who turn to him in repentance can be counted as children of the Most High.