I like to feel in control. I’d not go as far as saying I’m a control freak but I’ve definitely got the tendencies. It’s said that people fear what they can’t understand, but it’s equally true that people fear what they can’t control.
One of the scariest things about enduring life’s storms can be the feeling that we no longer have control and there’s nothing we can do. The anxiety and worry of feeling unable to get a handle on what’s going on often seems even worse than the potential outcomes.
A lesson from history
Two thousand years ago when they finally decided to arrest that agitator, Jesus of Nazareth, they knew they needed to take control. He was a live wire. He refused to be bound by convention, religion, or the laws of physics. So they sent an unreasonably large force of highly trained Roman soldiers, along with some temple guards, to take Him into custody.
So Judas, having procured a band of soldiers and some officers from the chief priests and the Pharisees, went there with lanterns and torches and weapons.
– John 18:3
The English phrase ‘band of soldiers’ can seem hard to pin down but the Greek word, spira, refers to a cohort of Roman soldiers; that means between 300-600 men. These men were drawn from the Tower of Antonia – built by Herod in honour of his patron, Marc Antony. Then they’re accompanied by the temple police. All armed. That’s a lot of investment in controlling a situation.
When we look at Jesus in the garden, in the eye of the storm, we can feel like darkness has taken over and is running amok; often, in our own worst moments we can feel the same way. But the next three verses show something interesting.
Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
– John 18:4-6
It’s a short aside in a story where we know the soldiers drag off our saviour and kill him. It’s easy to overlook. But why do hundreds of trained killing machines fall to the ground in the presence of Jesus? Why give us this detail when they took Him away anyway? Why have the soldiers fall to the ground only to have them stand back up and carry on with the job?
Because it demonstrates who was in control. Jesus was in the worst storm of His life but He was not taken by force of arms – God retained control and Christ was taken because He allowed Himself to be. He was submitted to God’s will, not to the storm.
“What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
– Matthew 8:27
God used that moment to demonstrate control. He demonstrated that no matter how dark the night, no matter how wild the storm, He is still in control. As the incredulous disciples once observed, “What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”
The turbulence of life
Flying into Schipol Airport a few weeks ago we hit a storm. The plane started to shake and shudder, the seat belts were on and nails dug into arm rests as we came through the worst turbulence I’ve ever experienced. But sure enough, we did come through it; we still touched the tarmac safe and sound, the pilot did a great job.
Nobody in their right mind hits turbulence and wishes they were in control of the plane; so why when we hit turbulence in life do we so often fret over what we cannot control?
Even when events would seem to suggest that everything was out of control – when the Messiah is crucified and the stone rolled across the tomb – God’s ability to turn things around goes far beyond that.
When all around seems shaky, when it seems like no one is in control, He is the one who has us in the palm of His hands. He may allow storms to take place but He will never allow you to be out of His sight or overcome. He is always there, and He is always in charge.
Let’s be people who look for the glimmers and reminders, the soldiers falling like dominoes, that show his presence within our storm. He is there, if we look for Him.