“And when He was entered into a ship, His disciples followed Him.” (Matthew 8:23).
It’s simple, really. Matthew tells us that Jesus got into the boat, and His disciples followed Him. Very matter of fact, with not much else needed to be said. But, when we look at the story from the perspective of Mark and Luke — we see it somewhat differently; not so clearly — indeed, a little ambiguous.
Marks puts it this way, “And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship.” (Mark 4:36). And here is what Luke says, “Now it came to pass on a certain day, that He went into a ship with his disciples: and He said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.” (Luke 8:22).
There are subtle differences in these verses, and I can best point them out by telling you of a conversation I had with a friend, Scott, who was struggling in prayer over the topsy-turvy, upside down economic turn that is redefining the lives of so many in our world today. He was reading the account of Jesus and the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee, caught in the midst of a horrific storm beating against their boat. Jesus was asleep in the boat, and the disciples concluded that the Lord didn’t care if they lived or died.
Scott felt as if the Lord was equally indifferent to him in his own turbulent financial storm. Can you relate to that in your own boat?
But while reading and reflecting upon the story from all three Gospel accounts, one thing in particular struck Scott with great perplexity. Let me explain.
In Matthew’s account of the story, Scott was consoled in knowing that Jesus got into the boat first and then the disciples followed Him. This gave him hope for the financial storm he was facing. ‘After all,’ he reasoned, ‘If the Lord has led me into this, then surely the Lord will certainly see me through it. No worries.’
But then he read Mark’s account, which says that the disciples “took Jesus” with them into the boat. ‘Oh, no,’ Scott thought to himself, ‘is this what I have done?’ Many times we make our plans and rush headlong into our decisions, asking the Lord to bless us — even if it is not His will. Scott wondered if the financial storm effecting his personal holdings was something he brought upon himself, and it could’ve been avoided had he only listened to the Lord first.
Then Scott read the account from the Gospel of Luke, where we find that Jesus “went into a ship with his disciples: and He said unto them, Let us go over unto the other side of the lake. And they launched forth.”
Wait a minute! Matthew says Jesus got in the boat first, and the disciples followed Him. Mark says the disciples took Jesus into the boat with them. And Luke says they went into the boat together. Well, which was it?
Scott was pondering this question when he heard God speak to his heart – “Learn to live with ambiguity.”
Often the Lord is deliberately vague, speaking in riddles and parables, which leave us doubtful of ourselves. The beauty of this dilemma is that it prohibits any measure of self-confidence, and renders us totally dependent upon the Lord — no matter what is happening in and around our lives.
Are you storm-tossed and facing loss? Are you bewildered with uncertainty at the turn of events that have reordered you otherwise well-ordered world? Is your faith being tested, and your doubts exposed? Does it feel to you like the Lord is sleeping in the boat, oblivious to your peril? Are you second-guessing yourself, and thinking maybe you deserve this because you didn’t pray hard enough, go to church more often, tithe better…..etc.
Hold on there Junior. Yes, your boat is in the middle of a storm, but Jesus is in the middle of your boat!
Right now it doesn’t matter if He initiated the process and brought you into it; or if the whole thing was your idea and your drug Him along for support. The fact remains — HE IS WITH YOU NOW! And together you will make it to the other side.
That much is unambiguous! You’ll just have to learn to live with the rest.