Ships that Pass in the Night
Ships that Pass in the Night
There is a well-known saying about ships “that pass in the night.” Two ships for a moment come very close together. But they are each on their own course. They are headed in completely different directions. They pass by without even recognizing each other.
This article is concerned with two important ships. They never sailed in common waters. But everything that applies to “ships that pass in the night” applies to them.
The first ship is a rather small fishing vessel. 2000-year-old remains of this boat were found on the north-western shore of the Sea of Galilee. It was a single-mast ship that could hold at most only fifteen men. It was a mere four and a half feet high. One can easily imagine surging waves of a Galilean storm splashing into the boat. Had I been on board during one such event, I would have been horribly seasick and deeply afraid.
This small fishing vessel is called the Zebedee, named by two brothers after their father. When the two brothers became disciples of Jesus of Nazareth, the boat became a transport vessel. When the twelve apostles and the Lord (with perhaps a few others) travelled in the Zebedee, it was rather full.
The second ship is a more seaworthy craft and was known as the HMS Beagle. This was a 235-ton brig sloop with ten guns. Such ships were often used as accompanying ships which also brought supplies to the colonies. This ship was commissioned for surveying the Empire.
Why name a ship after a dog? Animal names were often used in His Majesty’s Royal Navy. There were about nine ships with a similar name. It was no shame, for after all, a beagle is a bright whippersnapper. And this ship was filled with bright whippersnappers.
On Board the Beagle⤒🔗
From 1831 to 1836 the Beagle had an important passenger, Charles Robert Darwin, a recent graduate in divinity from Cambridge University who was more interested in natural history than Bible history.
Darwin wrote The Origin of Species, in which he popularized the existing theory of evolution. I am not so much interested now in the theory of evolution. Despite widespread acceptance in academic circles, the theory remains only a theory. Things do evolve and change, and so the idea of a certain measure of evolution is not preposterous. Darwin went wrong when he used this theory to explain the origin of species, the beginning of life itself.
What concerns me more is Darwin’s notion of natural selection. We know it, perhaps, better as “the survival of the fittest.” Only the most capable, the best, the strongest, and the fittest of a species survive the process of natural selection. The weak, debilitated, handicapped, and inferior forms of a species are bound for extinction.
In Darwin’s thinking there is no place for the weak and disabled. The survival of the fittest means the extinction of the weakest. Whatever is not strong and healthy must be discarded. It should not escape us that this mentality has permeated modern society. Some even proclaim that an unborn child with a defect ought to be forthwith aborted.
On board of the Beagle there are only strong and beautiful people. Those who are unfit have to walk the plank. Whatever is inferior must disappear, either by natural selection or by human intervention.
On Board the Zebedee←⤒🔗
On the other vessel, admittedly a rather rickety sloop, there is a different mentality. On the Zebedee the crew and passengers recognize that God is the Creator and Lord of all things. They know that this God has a special eye for the weak and the imperfect. They have heard a wondrous word, “Though the Lord is on high, He looks upon the lowly” (Psalm 138:6). They believe that “the Lord is their Shepherd and that they shall not be in want” (Psalm 23:1).
On board of the Zebedee there is also a Passenger. He knows all about the origin of species and their evolution. He sees that there are on this little sloop no perfect people. If “natural selection” was the prevailing rule, none of them would survive. By nature they are all doomed to perish.
Therefore He came to save them. “He humbled himself and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross” (Philippians 2:6). Therefore God exalted Him to the highest place, not by natural selection, but because of simple obedience.
The self-righteous and haughty attitude of the men on the Beagle cannot exist with the men on the Zebedee. Jesus Christ turns things around. Strength becomes apparent in weakness. Science submits to faith.
“The race is not to the swift, or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise, or wealth to the brilliant, or favour to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all” (Ecclesiastes 9:11). The myth of the survival of the fittest is debunked by the truth that we can survive only through Jesus Christ.
Through the Storm into the Harbour←⤒🔗
The ocean floor is littered with shipwrecks. The Beagle and the Zebedee did not sink to the bottom of the seas which they travelled. They fell into disuse and disrepair.
After its international voyages, the Beagle was commissioned as a coast guard or customs ship. She was moored midriver on the River Roach. In 1851 oyster traders complained that the Beagle was blocking the way and she was sold for demolition.
After many years of service as a fishing vessel, the Zebedee was probably pulled on to the shore and left behind. Incredibly, this small fishing boat made in through some terrible storms.
We read about such a storm in Mark 4: 35-41. Jesus was on board, but He was so tired that He fell asleep in the stern, on a cushion. The storm was so fierce that the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. Through it all Jesus kept sleeping. His disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” Don’t you care? What a question to ask the Lord Jesus! He cares so much that He even let his blessed body be nailed to the cross. Christ is never lacking in power. But we easily and often lack faith.
He rebuked the wind and the waves and it was instantly calm. This mighty act blew his disciples right out of the water; they asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” Having Jesus in the boat meant coming through the fiercest storms and always entering the safety of the harbour. The Titanic sank, but not the Zebedee.
I’ve always thought that Charles Robert Darwin was on the wrong boat.
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