In Mark 4:35-41, we read about the disciples onboard a boat with Jesus when a violent squall blows in. Jesus is asleep, and his disciples wake him. Jesus calms the storm and asks his followers, "Why are you terrified? Do you not have faith?" They are awestruck.
We see the disciples full of fear, desperation, and helplessness before the uncontrollable forces of nature. Jesus teaches them, and us, the value of faith.
The line of the sail divides the painting in half. In cutting through the middle of the painting, we could say that this idea of salvation gifted to us by Christ on the cross cuts through everything else we know. It is the one true thing that can save us in our woundedness, in our dread, and in our longing.
The bright light draws our eye to the left side of the painting, where a fisherman is in the bow, busy trying to fix the main sail, which has been torn by the wind. Four of the disciples frantically try to save their vessel by holding on to the sail. The mast is clearly in the shape of a cross-- symbolic of Jesus' promise of salvation-and these men appear to be hanging on to it for dear life. Just to the right of them, there's one man who is sitting quietly with his back to us who doesn't seem to be affected by the chaos surrounding him.
What are the other men doing? They have gone to Jesus and asked, "Do you not care that we are perishing?" Jesus looks calm, knowing that God is with them. Look closely to see the one disciple kneeling at Jesus' feet, showing reverence and trust in his Lord.
Above that group is a man looking frightened and unsure of what to do. Then, there's another one at the helm of the boat, on the far right of the painting, appearing grief-stricken. He is trying to steer the boat as he holds on to the tiller, yet he looks fairly hopeless, knowing that he is unable to make a difference by himself. Another looks like he's going to be sick.
Then, we have the figure positioned between the light and the dark, in a blue coat, thought to be a self-portrait of the artist. He looks right out at us, holding on to the rigging, a little lost. Perhaps he's asking us to find ourselves in the Gospel story and attempting to inspire us in faith.
So, where are you in the painting? Which character do you identify with most right now? Are you trying to fix your pain? Are you barely hanging on? Afraid? Ready to meet God? Do you feel sick? Are you angry at God? Are you worshipping the Lord? Are you feeling alone? Lost? Hopeless? Powerless in the face of the global pandemic?
We can bring ourselves to God-- our pain, our wounds, our sins, our hopes. And just as Jesus brought peace to the sea, the storm, and the disciples, he can bring peace to us in the midst of our own storms. He is in the boat with us, and our faith in him brings healing, peace and love.