What can the biggest art theft in US history tell us about God’s sovereignty?
My favorite painter is Rembrandt. In his only seascape painting, The Storm on the Sea in Galilee, the apostles are in the boat with Jesus crossing the Sea of Galilee. A violent storm has the boat near destruction and the apostles scramble to wake up Jesus who saves them by quieting the storm.
Mark 4:35-41 Jesus Calms a Storm
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
This painting used to be in a museum in Boston but in 1990 it was stolen, along with 12 other paintings, in what is considered the biggest art theft in US history.
Many have noticed there are 14 people in the boat. There should only be 13 people (Jesus plus the twelve apostles). The 14th person is Rembrandt, who put himself into the painting. Rembrandt felt that to really grasp the significance of the salvation story, you have to be in the boat—in complete desperation for your life—not from the safety of the shore.
At a recent Men’s retreat, I was reminded of our insatiable desire for control. Many of the men admitted a longing to be freed from this desire. Or to have God change their behavior when things didn’t go their way. At the heart of this problem is our pride and our lack of trust in God's sovereignty.
Imagine you're in the boat with Jesus. You’re with Him through smooth sailing on sunny days but also violent storms that put you in desperation for your life. God is sovereign over all. If Jesus is the captain of the ship, and indeed your very life, you don't have to be in constant pursuit of control. He will not fail you and we need not fear.