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notre dame montreal

Jesus Stills the Storm



The reading from Genesis describes the creation of man and woman. It describes our role to work with God in managing His creation and our place in the order of creation. The breath that God’s breathes into human nostrils is used to name and give character to all the living creatures around them and man is given the instruction not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

It’s a picture of man created to be in relationship with God, with His creation and with each other, the ideal world as God created it.

From the garden in Genesis to the throne room in Revelation all that is done reflects God’s loving creativity and His sharing of that creativity with the creatures made in His own image

The reading from Revelation praises God’s glory in creation. Chapter 5 will go on to praise the lamb as redeemer but here we are focused on God as creator

Revelation is a complex book and is often taken out of context by many who want to imbue it with their own meaning

In fact it parallels the same type of writing we find in the book of Daniel, which was written to oppose the anti-Jewish measures of Antiochus Epiphanes IV at the time of the Maccabean revolt BC 166 – 164 and this gives a clue as to its meaning. It was written for a particular people at a particular time.

Similarly, earlier in the book of Revelation we read that it was written to the 7 churches in Asia Minor, and generally it’s understood that it was written for them so that they would remain faithful during the persecution which was to shortly come

As we looked at during one of our last Advent course, it’s impossible to read Revelation without taking into account what was going on in the Roman Empire at the time. If we fail to take it into account we’ll read too much into the text, as many have done over the years

If we do that it’s clear that cosmic collapse for John in Revelation does not mean the end of the world. It means the last days and ultimate end of an idolatrous imperial power (Rome). It also has significant implications for established Judaism, the fall of the Jewish nation and its capital Jerusalem

So Revelation is not primarily about the last days before Christ returns but about the last days of the current Roman Empire and the Jewish nation in its then current form

It’s not surprising then that what we read in Revelation is a confrontation of the dominant culture of the day and an offer to the faithful an alternative to the world of present experience

The message of Revelation is therefore primarily a message of hope. John is convinced of the second coming and the ultimate victory of the lamb (which is often what we focus on in Revelation) but in reality tells us little about it

So as we read Revelation we should do so, not so much to give us an insight into the future, but an insight into the hope of the past and the present

Revelation gives a symbolic account of the early church whilst at the same time containing eternal principles, a promise of hope for an oppressed people and a timely reminder of the ultimate failure of any human institution which takes the place of God in the world. Any institution which tries to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

(This is known as the Theological interpretation which is a blend of the Preterist (the book of Revelation just concerned with the 1st century church and its struggle against Rome) and Idealist (just eternal principles) interpretations).

For the Romans, the control point of the empire was the throne room where orders were given and decrees issued. But what Revelation gives us is an insight into the cosmic throne room, the control room of history where matters of the world really are determined and God’s cosmic creation worships Him

God is in control of the world; He always has been and always will be, no matter what it appears like from our human perspective

We see this in the gospel reading. The disciples are in a small flat bottomed, unstable boat in the middle of a lake when a storm breaks

Disciples didn’t even equate what was going on with a matter of faith

At this stage they are not even asking Jesus to save them, merely pointing out what to them is obvious, they are going to drown and they are petrified. They are grasping at straws in their panic

It’s easy for our faith to evaporate like the disciples’ in times of crisis and yet that’s when we need it more than ever

It’s so easy for us to want to be in control ourselves and forget that it is God who is in control

Whatever the faith of the disciples, we know the story, Jesus gets up and rebukes the storm and calm breaks out

With storms being common on the lake it’s surprising in many ways that this story was included in the gospel

But it’s included because of what it teaches us about Jesus. He had already demonstrated on many occasions that He had authority over the natural world when He healed people and forgave their sins but in their panic the disciples had obviously forgotten the principles and foundation of their faith

Jesus truly is in control, not just of the elements and creation but our lives too, because He has ultimate trust in the creator God and because of this He can work in perfect harmony with Him

As we look at the world around us and the state we have got into with God’s creation this parable and the message of Genesis and Revelation tell us that we can only hope to be in harmony with God’s creation and look after it the way God intended if we are in harmony with the God who created it in the first place.

History is littered with examples of people and societies who try to go it alone and fail, try to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.

Whether we are trying to manage our lives, our societies or our environment we need to do so in harmony with the creator God who puts all things into place, call everything into existence at its genesis in the first instance.

Whatever human institutions are built to try to manage our society and our environment, ultimately they will be sub optimal at best unless and until they are in harmony with God

The Jews found that out, the Roman Empire found that out, and just perhaps society is finding that out today