I volunteer at our church middle school youth program. Last week one of our instructors, Michelle, made reference to this canvas by Rembrandt called ‘The Storm on the Sea of Galilee’. It depicts the scene from Mark’s Gospel 4:35-41, where Christ and his disciples are on a boat in the midst of a violent storm which threatens to capsize the boat and throw them all overboard into turbulent waters. Michelle pointed out two very important aspects of Rembrandt’s image. The first thing to remember is, although the sky in most of the painting is dark and ominous, there is an opening in the clouds where the light of the sun (son) breaks through. That speaks to God’s omnipotent presence in our lives even through extremely difficult times.
The second point is more subtle yet equally powerful. The right (rear) side of the boat, the side on which Christ is seated, is low and stable in the water; the disciples are focused on Christ and engaged with him and less so with the events happening around them. The left (front) side of the boat is high on the water; waves crash along side, disciples hopelessly struggling to battle the storm on their own away from Christ. Enough said? As believers, we are all Christ’s disciples. Although we may not be able to control the events around us, we can control how we react to them, and to whom we turn. Which side of the boat are you on? (Click on image for larger view)
(Note: It is also widely believed that the 14th passenger on the boat – the one looking out toward the viewer of the painting, is Rembrandt himself in self-portrait. His position in the middle of the two groups of disciples might indicate his own ‘ah-ha!’ moment.)