Continuing our walk through Sunday’s Gospel lesson from Mark 4, we find ourselves standing alongside the Disciples as Jesus confronts them for their lack of faith. Now, as one who is not particularly good at waking up, this part of the story could be read with a very human Jesus in mind: as if he’s grouchy from having been woken up and so he lays into his friends. I’ve done it. I’ve had it done to me, and while it might make for a funny story, as I mentioned on Monday, Mark isn’t into superfluous details.
Looking again at the narrative, we see that Jesus utters two sentences to his Disciples. First he says, “Why are you afraid?” Without even a pause for any sort of “But, Jesus…” he asks a second question, “Have you still no faith?”
Why are you afraid?
In many parts of the Christian world, doubt is considered to be the opposite of faith. Doubt, in this context, is mostly focused in the brain. If you doubt any of the claims that are made about the Triune God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, then you obviously don’t have faith. Or at least not the right kind of faith. It gets played out in the mainstream culture in debates about literal creationism, the virgin birth, miracles, the resurrection and baptism by the Spirit. If one does not believe that God created everything in seven, 24 hour days, impregnated Mary whose Son could walk on water and rise from the dead, by way of a Spirit who gives true believers the gift of tongues, then you aren’t among those who are saved. I find this unhelpful.
What Scripture seems to argue, at least the Scripture before us today, is that fear, rather than doubt, is the opposite of faith. “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?” The two questions are of equal importance to Jesus. Fear equals a lack of trust and a lack of trust equals a lack of faith. While doubt is a matter of the head, fear is a matter of the heart. Fear holds us back from the full relationship that God calls us into. Fear, as I’ve said before, causes us to act in all sorts of unhealthy ways. God’s modus operandi (MO) is to invite us to “not be afraid.” His angels start their appearances by calming fears. Jesus, when he enters the upper room on Easter Day, attempts to quell the fear in the room.
Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?