This sonnet is based on the account of the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee with Jesus when they are overtaken by a great storm.
I’ve often thought of this passage in conjunction with Carrie Underwood’s song, “Jesus, Take the Wheel”–except, when the disciples finally call out, he’s asleep at the wheel, or tiller. The disciples don’t shout instructions to their land lubber rabbi, they ask the most heart wrenching question of fear and doubt, “Lord, do you not care that we are perishing?” This is one of the constant questions underneath all our questions. The answer which bolsters and strengthens is knowing the significance of how he answers it.
Here is the passage from Mark 4:35-41:
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
It was because you wanted that we
Started for the other side that evening–
Crossing at night Galilee’s warm, fitful sea
When the cool air of Mt Hermon comes beating.
And as we’d seen a hundred times before,
You lose when caught out in the night-storm’s billow.
So we reeled and rowed–heaved to any shore
With an untended tiller, you asleep there on the pillow.
And shouting, “Lord, don’t you care if we die?
We did as you asked! Ignored our own warnings!”
And waking to our fear, you spoke to the sky
And all was as quiet as a holiday morning.
Who are you that into the storm you lead–
Permitting despair, that your friends may be freed?
© Randy Edwards
artwork: Gustave Dore