Plutarch, tells a story that goes something like this:
Once upon a time, the Roman empire was faced with a rebel. A powerfully charismatic man who attracted a crowd of followers.
Julius Ceasar broke the law, and started a civil war. In one year, he crossed to the other side of the Rubicon in northern Italy, and chased the armies of Pompey all the way to the southern Adriatic Coast.
He went so fast, he left most of his crowd behind.
After chasing the horizon, Caesar found himself across the Adriatic Sea, in the land of Apollo. He was there, basically, alone, with a small cohort.
Without waiting for the crowd to catch up, he got into a boat, and began to cross the sea.
Ceasar got on board at night, dressed humbly like a slave, and laid down at the bottom of the vessel. The craft was rowed by twelve, and set off out down river.
This particular night there had blown a strong wind from the sea, so at the mouth of the river, the opposition of river current and a wavy sea was extremely rough and angry.
There was such a violent swell that the master of the boat ordered his sailors to come about and return.
But Caesar, upon hearing the shout, took the man by the hand, and said, “Go on, my friend, and fear nothing; you carry Caesar and his fortune in your boat.”
The mariners, when they heard that, forgot the storm, and laying all their strength to their oars, did what they could to force their way down the river.
The men said, “The very gods themselves cannot hinder the storms in their time; yet even still he pushes forward.”
Sounds kind of like the story in the Gospel of Mark.
· Both Jesus and Julius are anxious to cross over to the other side.
· Both leave the crowd behind.
· Both set out in a stormy sea.
· Both are untroubled by wind, wave, or fear.
Fact is — both stories were written at about the same time – maybe within a decade.
And their authors, have stuff in common —
As a Platonist and a Jew, Plutarch and Mark both believed in one supreme God; both lived during the madness of Nero; both believed in eternal life; both believed in morality; and both were good writers.
So what’s the difference?
Which story matters to you? Which one gives you courage? Which one gives you hope?
I would bet, that you find it is easier to believe the story about Julius than the story about Jesus.
A Great Man’s vanity is way more believable than a humble man’s divinity.
And stories about miracles – just don’t do as much for people these days, as stories of courage do.
You and I don’t really believe that Jesus calmed a storm – right? Or that he actually turned some bread and fish into food for 5,000 – right? Or that he actually rose from the dead – right?
Well — I do.
I really do.
And I don’t exactly know why.
I’m probably just a fool.
But deep, deep, deep down, I actually believe, that no matter what happens, if I ask for God’s Peace, and wait not on fear, but hope for courage, amazing things will come to pass.
I totally believe this.
I think miraculous things happen all the time.
And here’s why:
Miracles are not “impossibilities which happen” – but rather the awesome possibilities of the God of the Universe.
Who am I to say what can and cannot happen, in the entire universe?
Honestly, do you know what is truly possible?
Have you really reached the limits of possibility? Has anyone ever?
The ones who come closest to horizons always seem to be the ones who say, “Fear not, we can go further.”
I know just enough about science to know that subatomic and interstellar space is completely beyond my grasp.
And what fool actually believes he’s really got it?
We can maybe, kind of get it – but even Stephen Hawkings should admit that relative to his ignorance his knowledge is nothing.
We ain’t never gonna get our minds all the way around the universe.
I spent a couple weeks in the Mosquito Coast of Honduras about eight years ago. My buddy and I were living with an Indian family in a wooden hut way out in the jungle. We spent our days riding in dug-out canoes, and exploring the jungle with indian guides. I marveled at the fearlessness of even the kids, who in an instant would jump into a muddy river, chasing after the sight of mere bubbles, only to pop up minutes later with a large snapping turtle.
They could wrestle small alligators, run up tall trees barefoot, and catch giant iguanas by the tail. The women were way stronger than me, and almost as strong as my friend, fresh from the Marine Corps.
One night, my buddy and I stayed up late watching the stars. We had a star chart and various tools. The indian kids had absolutely no idea what we were doing. Honestly, they didn’t know. One kid asked us about the star that had a tail. We said, what? Then we remembered that the Hale-Bopp comet had just passed through.
It was amazing how little they knew about the universe.
I remember going back to our hut that night, and hearing songs come pouring out of the hut next door. My friend and I didn’t really understand what they were doing, and it was going on for hours into the night. Every now and then we heard a word which sounded like “Jesus,” but for the most part that was all we picked up.
Around midnight we finally found a kid we could talk to, and we asked him what they were doing. He said, “The old man is sick — they are singing songs to God to heal him.” And they sang songs all night.
It was amazing how little we knew about faith.
The next morning the women taught us one song in the Miskito language. The words were pretty simple. At the end I said, “what does it mean.”
And she said, “God is big.”
The old man pulled through.
My friends, “God is big.” Bigger than a storm at sea. Bigger than a whirlwind.
Jesus has given us more than magic and more than morals – he’s given us a way to get to know this Big God of the Universe, a way we can relate to.
If God were put in terms we can understand – in human terms – he’d be like Jesus.
Simple as that.
And he has done this already.
Though we are tossing and turning in this crazy fearful human world – he says, “Peace. Be still. Follow me, and we will get to the other side.”