There’s a familiar story in the book of Mark where Jesus and his disciples are crossing the sea of Galilee and encounter a storm. I’ve heard amazing messages about how having Jesus in your boat will help you weather any storm. I’ve heard about how having Jesus in your boat will give you a peace that will surpass your understanding.
This story definitely shows us the benefits of having the right person in your boat. But what happens when you have the wrong person or people in your boat? This is what happens to a group of sailors in the Old Testament.
The story of Jonah is probably one of the more well known Bible stories even among non-Christians. You could go into Dollar Tree today and probably find a childrens copy of it. If you aren’t familiar with it, here’s a brief summary:
- God tells the prophet Jonah to go to Nineveh and tell them to repent of their wickedness or be destroyed. (Jonah 1:1-2)
- Jonah throws a fit (my words) and does the opposite by sailing to Tarshish (Jonah 1:3)
- The Lord sends a storm strong enough that well trained sailors are terrified and Jonah is below deck, taking a nap. (Jonah 1:4-5)
- The sailors start throwing cargo off the ship and wake Jonah up to tell him to pray but find out his disobedience is the reason for the storm.(Jonah 1:6-10)
And this is where we will pick up the story. When I read the Bible, I like to not only look at the narrative, but consider the point of view from other characters. As I began to read this story, I wondered what it was like for these sailors. They are just sailing to Tarshish with goods and cargo, just going about business as usual. But because of who they’ve allowed to sail with them, they encounter a major setback.
They weren’t the ones who disobeyed God (well, directly. We are told that they are pagans or people who do not follow God). They weren’t the ones who rebelled against God’s instructions. Jonah was. But because of their proximity to him, they get caught up in his consequences for his disobedience..
Have you seen this happen to anyone? Has it happened to you? Is it happening right now? Sometimes, we make choices that will cause a negative outcome in our lives. We spend more than we can afford. We waste time scrolling on social media for hours watching others live out their dreams. We overindulge in unhealthy food that causes our health to suffer. But what happens when we endanger others because of our decisions?
At first, the sailors have no idea why this is happening to them. They try to lighten the load of the ship by throwing things off. They are praying to their gods to save them. But once they find out Jonah is the cause of their problems, they have to make a choice. Jonah tells them that the storm will stop if they throw him overboard.
This is where I put myself in the story.
Jonah: “I’m a Hebrew and I disobeyed the God who made the sea and the land and the entire universe.”
Me as a sailor: “That’s cool, I heard about you guys and Egypt and sticking it to the Pharaoh. But you did what!?”
Jonah: “Yeah, God told me to share his message of salvation with the people of Nineveh, but I don’t like them, so I’m doing my own thing. Sorry you got caught up in it, though. Just throw me overboard, and everything will calm down for you.”:
Me as a sailor: **Picks Jonah up, tosses him over the side of the ship and heads to Tarshish to sell my lavender bath bombs**
But this is not what happened. At least not initially. The sailors do what so many people do when they’re given advice on how to turn a situation around.
“Instead, the men did their best to row back to land. But they could not, for the sea grew even wilder than before.” (Jonah 1:13 emphasis added)
They were told exactly what to do to cause their lives to be at ease, and they ignored it. I’ve seen people in bad relationships (both platonic and romantic) that are not benefiting them or leading to anything positive. When told it’s time to cut ties with that person, they INSTEAD try other things. They hope that bringing that person to church will help or planning a weekend getaway will help improve things when the only thing to do is politely remove them from their life.
As the sailors notice that their efforts are not improving their situation, they eventually do what they should have done in the beginning and finally get rid of the person in the boat causing the problem. Side benefit: The sailors begin to acknowledge God, offer a sacrifice to him and make vows to him, which is the Old Testament version of a “come to Jesus” moment.
Jonah never belonged on that boat and his very presence put others’ lives in danger. Next week, I’ll talk about the kind of people you should not allow in your boat and also, what kind of people make good sailing companions.
If you have a specific destination or goal for your life, it’s imperative that you only take along the right people. The wrong people will only cause you unnecessary problems, setbacks, and cause your route to be filled with disorder, devastation, and delays.
“You are only going to be as good as the people you surround yourself with, so be brave enough to let go those who keep weighing you down.” -Ziad K. Abdelnour