I was getting together my prints for our next Picture Study time with my granddaughters and I pulled out an old book I have called "Rembrandt and the Bible."
I looked over some of my favorites, and then my eyes fell on “Storm on the Sea of Galilee.” It’s not one of the six for this term, but I like it anyway.
And it brought back some memories. I recalled a time I taught a children’s Sunday School class, using Charlotte Mason principles and picture study. (As the church’s Christian Education Director, I had some liberty in curriculum. I used CM’s principles many times in that role over the years.)
I sat in the low chair with the kids at the round table, surrounded by bold murals of Noah’s Ark. (I’ve often wondered if those who use that account for church nursery decor recognize its full story of death and destruction, and of God’s deliverance to an obedient few. But I digress.)
We opened the large book and I showed them the picture. I introduced the idea of narration to them, and I gave them time to look carefully at the painting.
I closed the book, and they told it back to me. “There was this boat,” one of them began. “And a big wave!,” another chimed in. One child went on and on with quite a few details. Not to be undone, one boy said loudly, “I saw a guy throwing up!” (Truly, I had never noticed that before.)
And then we talked about how Jesus was in the boat during the storm. Because this was our church time, we opened the Bible and read the historical accounts from the different Gospels of this moment. One young observer asked why the artist hadn’t included the “other little boats.” And we talked about the miracle that followed.
The kids decided to re-enact the painting in a kind of tableau. It wasn’t done up with great costuming or beautiful sets. It was a jacket or two, a blanket from the nursery, more little chairs were arranged, someone was Jesus, and one kid was “the guy throwing up.”
I’ve often wondered what they told their parents about that Sunday School class that day.
But that painting has come to my mind a lot lately. I’ve thought about the period of time in Rembrandt’s work. It depicted a terrible storm - one that caused seasoned, professional fishermen on a familiar sea to be filled with terror. Wave crashed upon wave, unrelentingly.
And Jesus was in the boat. He was the same One they’d seen perform miracles; recently, even.
The big moment is yet ahead - Jesus will calm the storm, still the waves, and all will be well.
But often we’re stalled out in Rembrandt’s painting. No calm, no miracle, no stillness. Wave upon wave is hitting us, with no let-up in sight. Hardly the stuff of encouragement, of blessed assurances, of all-is-well.
And yet - Jesus was in the boat all along. Jesus is with me in my storms today. He has performed miracles in the past. And He may show His mighty power yet again. And I come to Him with my troubles and fear in my heart, asking for Him to do again what He’s done before, or for what I believe He can do now.
But in the meantime, I’m safe. It surely doesn’t look like it or feel like it. And sometimes I might feel more like the guy losing his lunch over the edge. But Jesus is with me, before, during, after. I’m safe. And He is safe to trust.
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