35 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 storm of wind arose, and the waves beat 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 if we perish?” 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 afraid? Have you no faith?” 41 And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41, RSV)
Picture this: Jesus and the Twelve are out sailing; nothing unusual about that. But, as they’re crossing, a huge storm comes out of nowhere. The little boats they have are not prepared to take that kind of force, and they’re filling up with water.
Meanwhile, Jesus is taking a nap. (Let us take a moment to marvel at the fact that Jesus can hear people whispering when they think no one is listening, but He doesn’t even stir when the boat is about to capsize.)
So His companions wake Him up, and they’re like, “Hey Jesus, have you noticed that we’re DYING?” Jesus stands and quiets the storm, and then after questioning the lack of faith in His disciples, He goes back to resume His interrupted nap.
Trust falling is a terrifying game. After all, forcing yourself to fall backwards and relying entirely on the person behind you to keep you from falling flat on your back doesn’t sound particularly enjoyable. We still do it, though, because of the feeling we get when our companion catches us. In that moment, we know that we were afraid for nothing and that we can trust the person to watch our back.
The calming of the storm is a lot like the trust fall game. First of all, there were a few fishermen among the group. They would have known something was coming. Maybe they didn’t know that the “something” would be an all out tempest, but they would have known a storm was on the horizon. And they still got in the boat. They chose to fall.
The second aspect of a trust fall is the fact that you can’t see the person standing behind you, even though you know that they’re there. Sound familiar? Jesus was on the boat, and everyone knew that, but what help is someone who is asleep? How did the Twelve know that He was going to be there when they needed Him?
And of course, what’s a trust fall without the falling? That’s what the storm is, in this case. Of course, the stakes were a lot higher for everyone in the boat than they are for the person falling in the game. In the game, you risk a sore behind. On the boat, they risked their lives.
Jesus could have kept sleeping and counted on the fisherman to pull them through. But He didn’t. He “caught” them, and quieted the storm. The trust fall was successful.
The funny part is that everyone was still surprised. They knew He was there, and they knew He could do something about it- otherwise they wouldn’t have woken Jesus up. But in the end, they were still surprised. They couldn’t believe that their own friend had just calmed a nearly fatal storm: “‘Who then is this whom even wind and sea obey?'”
So now the question is, why did Jesus play the trust fall game? Was it to prove His identity? Certainly not. There were a lot more straightforward (and less dangerous) ways of proving His divinity. In fact, revealing Himself was one of the last things Jesus wanted to do. First, He needed to know that His friends trusted Him enough that they could handle the news when it came. So He forced them to fall.
We play this game with Jesus every single second of our lives. He’s constantly asking us to fall blindly into His arms and telling us that He will always be there. We’re constantly trying to fall, but our body rebels at the last second and we put out our hands to catch ourselves. But that only leads to a bigger fall onto the ground. It’s a life long struggle, to learn how to trust. It can be done, though. And in some ways, trust falling onto Jesus is easier than trust falling onto a friend, because we have an absolute guarantee that Jesus will never not catch us.