Simpatico, Copacetic, and Panache

When the Son of God calmed the raging Sea of Galilee it inspired a heavenly culture in his disciples. Its effect was both simpatico and copacetic with his Kingdom, and he did so with panache. 

               While caught in the teeth of the tempest, Jesus mastered the storm. How he handled this situation (and many other cloudbursts of human need) established context and back-story for everything he taught, whether by parable or discourse. Like all of his mighty works, this is not just a miracle but a sign that points to a greater reality, i.e., with God, nothing is impossible. The sign can be readily applied to the reader of Mark’s Gospel and when one does that, it produces faith. This faith is inspired not only by Jesus’ word but also by his actions, like the calming of the Sea. To better understand the Sign, we will explore three fresh words that are modern, slang, and almost never used outside of a secular setting, and certainly not within the Church’s stained-glass barrier. But they may just bring a smile if it’s a worthy undertaking. I can’t tell you exactly why I’m drawn to these words, but maybe it’s because the more we discover about Jesus we begin to realize that he is germane to, and principle to every word in the dictionary.

               1. Simpatico is an adjective coming from the Greek συμπαθής as found in I Peter 3:8, a phrase which says, “having compassion one of another.” It means to share the same feeling; it refers to that which is likeable and easy to get along with. In this setting we are comparing it to Jesus. He has just been awakened out of a dead tired sleep (how do you sleep in a moment like this?) by the panic of the disciples, who are hardened sailors. “Master! Carest thou not that we perish? And he arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, Peace, be still.” (Mark 4:38-39) Jesus was simpatico with his disciples, demonstrating his care for them. Immediately he is on the storm’s case. He is easy to work with. They don’t have to ask him twice. He reads their feelings and acts instantly in an astounding way.   

               For example, in the Old Testament, there are many texts that carry this same sense, as seen in Isaiah 53:4 which says, “Surely he hath born our griefs and carried our sorrows,” Or Exodus 3:7 – “And the Lord said, I have surely seen the affliction of my people which are in Egypt, and have heard their cry by reason of their taskmasters; for I know their sorrows; and I am come down to deliver them.” Another text in sync with simpatico is Psalm 136 where every verse carries a refrain about the loving-kindness of God and is mentioned some 26 times, appearing as “his mercy (Hebrew חַסְדּוֹ) endureth forever.” At the cross, Jesus made our sorrows his own, and even now “he ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). It is a compassion that can be felt. In that these tender mercies are simpatico with our desolations, reaching into eternity itself, reveal that his kindness is eschatological by nature, i.e., a foretaste of the age to come.  Paul put it this way: “That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness towards us through Christ Jesus.” (Ephesians 2:7)

               2. Copacetic is another creative adjective meaning: in excellent order; that things or a group of people are in harmony, agreeable, pleasant, enjoyable, likable, pleasurable, and amiable; things are ducky and honky-dory, right on. This is also descriptive of Mark 4:39 – “And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”  The breeze-blast was copacetic with the Master as shown by its willing obedience. And his stunned disciples showed their copacetic-ness with Jesus too, who ‘feared exceedingly’ (v. 41), maybe more now than from the storm itself. The Sign presses a fearful mystery upon us: who could this Jesus be?

               3. And Panache / pa-naSH can hold a strong or subtle meaning like: flamboyance, confidence, self-assurance, flair, dash, verve, vitality, vigor, zest, zip, zing, swagger, boldness, enthusiasm, pizzazz, oomph, liveliness, energy, and daring. When Jesus arises from deep sleep he is not out of sorts by the storm for even a moment. He has no time to gather himself and pull it together. This couldn’t have been rehearsed. He has the audacity to command ‘peace and stillness’ on the storm, and he does so with panache and boldness. He is so in charge.

               After a breath-taking moment for the calm to settle in, Jesus turns to his disciples and asks a hard question: “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (v. 40). He questioned their fear and unbelief! But isn’t it normal to be afraid in such circumstances? Yet Jesus cuts them no slack. “What cowards (cf. Greek, δειλοί) you are! Still you have no faith?” He presumes they should be bold, full of zip and zing and daring even in this crazy moment, like he was. To do that, you have to believe you’ve got some power in your corner and can be confident of it. Jesus would call that ‘faith’ or if I may say panache.

               Other examples on God having panache are abundant. Take for example the multiplication of the loaves and fish in John 6.  Jesus knew what he was about to do to feed the multitude.  Apparently a mere boy had been listening to him and offered his lunch of five barley loaves and two small fish (v. 9), which I imagine Jesus receiving with a wink to the lad (panache). Or observe again just after this, an account of another ‘great wind that blew’ upon the Sea (John 6:17-18). The exhausted disciples are getting nowhere, rowing against that wind. From the dim light of the lantern the last thing they wanted to see was heading right for them: a phantom! But it was Jesus. And he called out, “It is I; be not afraid!” (v. 20). He is walking on that terrible storm with panache and attitude, and commands them to not fear. Jesus commands us not to fear; can he do that? Is he right to do that?

               All this was designed to create a culture of faith in his disciples, and in every reader of the Gospels.  It is the culture of the Kingdom of God and the way the King does things. The signs he did were simpatico and copacetic with heaven. And he did those signs with panache and style. It is a culture that can go all through us, that can be transferred through us to others. We’re supposed to get immersed in it and filled with it. But on the other hand, this won’t leave you very simpatico or copacetic with the kingdom of darkness. But it will make you oh so relevant to everyone stuck in it. It is they that will be drawn by the confidence, the panache of the way you conduct yourself. I guess it’s obvious: the culture of Jesus is both cool and groovy.    

Tim Halverson

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