February 12, 2017
Two weeks ago a guy I play hockey with shared some bad news. He and his wife learned that she had breast cancer and they were waiting to hear about whether or not she needs chemo. They were shocked. It came out of the blue.
That is the way of things in this world. Life in this world is not a respecter of persons. To be sure some of our problems are our own doing, but much of what happens to us just happens. It is beyond our control. We have little say over it.
In Marks’s gospel, Mark makes a point to show that Jesus has authority over all circumstances in life. If you just read through the first 4 chapters you will be amazed at what Jesus is able to do. Today we are looking at a very powerful event that took place in the ministry of Jesus. As we look at this event my hope is that you will come to realize that Jesus has authority over every circumstance of your life.
I. HEAR THE DISCIPLES REBUKE JESUS. Mk.4:35-38
Jesus had been teaching all day while sitting in a boat on the Sea of Galilee. As evening approached he told his disciples to sail to the other side of the lake. In other words they would be heading to the east side of the lake which was a Gentile area.
The Sea of Galilee is 13 miles long and 8 miles wide, about the size of Washington, D.C. It is about 700 feet below sea level and is the lowest fresh water lake on earth and second-lowest in the world after the Dead Sea which is 1,412 feet below sea level. It is also important to know that the Sea of Galilee is subject to serious squalls in the early evening. The squalls can quickly turn a sailing trip into a life threatening situation. Today these are called “sharkias,” which is Arabic for “shark.”
They began to sail across the lake and one of these furious squalls came and it was so serious that water from the waves was breaking into the boat and the boat was filling up.
A boat from around the time of Jesus was discovered in the Sea of Galilee in 1986. It was about 27 feet long, 7½ wide, and about 4½ feet high. Even though a number of the disciples were experienced sailors on the Sea of Galilee, this was a serious situation and they feared for their lives.
Now let’s think about this. They set sail at the request of Jesus. They were doing what Jesus asked them to do. If you will, they were in the center of God’s will, as we sometimes like to say. But obviously doing what God wants you to do does not shield one from the harsh circumstances of life. If we have that expectation we are going to be disappointed. Following Jesus does not guarantee health, wealth, recognition, success, or ease in this world.
Everyone knows that life in this world is subject to many frightening and dangerous circumstances regardless of your religious beliefs. We live in a fallen world where things go wrong on a regular basis. People get sick with viruses and diseases. Natural disasters are common. People make mistakes. People do bad things to others. There are bad germs and chemicals. Things break and fall apart. Accidents happen every day and clearly, God seems to allow his people to experience all that life in this world brings. Jesus told us that in this world we will have trouble.
And do not miss the irony. Jesus was in the boat with his disciples, sleeping! This story appears in all three synoptic gospels. It is the only time we read about Jesus sleeping. Of all times to be sleeping! The disciples woke him up and said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” They were rebuking Jesus. “What? Are you are going to let us perish? We are your disciples!”
We would all say that Jesus truly cares about whether or not we perish. But the reality for many of us who are followers of Christ is that when we are facing terrifying circumstances we begin to question God. “How can you do this to me? Why would you allow this to happen to me?” For all practical purposes it seems to us that Jesus is asleep. He doesn’t seem to answer our prayers. He doesn’t always bring healing. And so we register our rebuke towards God and Jesus. “I don’t think God cares about me.”
Note that Jesus doesn’t rebuke his disciples by saying, “Hey, watch your tongue. You shouldn’t be talking to me like that! Don’t you know who I am?” I’m being facetious here. But I want to make the point that God and his Son, Jesus, fully understand our situations and they fully understand who we are and know the frailty of our frame. I believe it is always best to bring your complaints about God to him. Get it out in the open. These disciples thought they were about to perish and they woke Jesus up in desperation and rebuked him.
Perhaps you have, or are now, or will soon, face serious, even life threatening, circumstances. What doubts and questions do you carry in your heart about God? Give voice to them in prayer. It is important for your spiritual wellbeing.
II. HEAR JESUS REBUKE THE STORM. Mk.4:39, 41
The main take away from this story is that Jesus is Israel’s God come in the flesh, who exercises the full authority of God. The winds ceased and sea grew calm. In fact it literally says “there was a mega calm. We get our word, “mega” from the Greek word used here.
There are two Old Testament passages that seem to stand behind this event. The first is found in Ps.107:23-32. Let me read it. “Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man! Let them extol him in the congregation of the people, and praise him in the assembly of the elders.”
The second passage is found in the book of Jonah. You remember the story. Jonah boarded a ship to Tarshish in order to run away from God and God sent a terrible storm and Jonah told the pagan sailors that the only way to save themselves was to throw him into the water. They did this and the seas became calm. In Jonah 1:16 we read, “Then the men feared the LORD exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the LORD and made vows.”
One other observation: In v.39 Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea. The same word is used in Mark when Jesus speaks to demons to cast them out. There is no magic here. This is divine authority.
These observations are all meant to show that Jesus is God. Jesus is God, the same God as is found in the Old Testament. No one can calm the seas by merely speaking to them. We would laugh at a person who tried to do that. But as we will soon see, no one was laughing in the boat that day when Jesus said, “Peace! Be still!”
Are you a follower of Jesus Christ? Does Jesus Christ dwell in you, in your vessel, through his Holy Spirit? Do you realize who it is that lives in you? It is Jesus, God in the flesh, who has all power and authority in heaven and earth. He can do what God does because he is God!
III. HEAR JESUS REBUKE THE DISCIPLES. Mk.4:40
Now one would think that the disciples would have been laughing and high fiving each other. I can just hear them: “Whew, Lord that was a close one. We were almost goners. Thank you Jesus. You are the way-maker. Jehovah Jireh! The Lord will provide.” But that is not what we hear. In fact when Jesus said, “Peace! Be still!” It wasn’t just the wind and the waves that became quiet. Everyone in the boat became quiet. The next voice we hear is Jesus speaking to his disciples.
The lesson from this event is not about how God will get us out of perilous situations. If you take that thought home you will be disappointed in God and in life. It’s not that God never delivers us from perilous circumstances. He does. But that is not what we should expect because that is not what has been promised. In fact, Jesus told us to expect trouble in this world.
After the wind ceased and there was a great calm, Jesus rebuked his disciples. “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? What did Jesus mean, “Have you still no faith”? Didn’t they show faith by calling out to Jesus? Wasn’t that a prayer of faith? I want to suggest to you that while they were surely right to call out to Jesus, they called out to Jesus in doubt and distrust. They had seen Jesus do all kinds of miracles, but when Jesus just kept sleeping in the boat they doubted. “Don’t you care that we are perishing?”
Have you ever called out to God in that way? “God, don’t you see that I can’t pay my bills?” “God, I have been looking for a job and you are not coming through for me.” God, why did you let me be abused and mistreated? Where were you when that was happening?” God, why don’t you heal me or my loved one? God, my marriage is falling apart and you don’t seem to be doing anything about it.” “God, why did you let my loved one die?” We often ask the why questions. But behind the why is a deeper question. “Don’t you care if I perish?”
Men and women, the lesson of this event is that we can and we must, trust Jesus in any and every situation. What Jesus said to the wind and the waves, is exactly what he is saying to our heart and mind. “Peace! Be still!”
Just listen to some scripture passages on this. Psalm 23:1-2 says, “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me.” In Is.30:15 we read, “For thus said the Lord GOD, the Holy One of Israel, "In returning (repentance) and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength." In Acts 27 we read about Paul’s perilous journey by ship to Rome. In v.20 it says, “When neither sun nor stars appeared for many days, and no small tempest lay on us, all hope of our being saved was at last abandoned.” Then Paul stood up and said, “I urge you to take heart, for there will be no loss of life among you, but only of the ship. For this very night there stood before me an angel of the God to whom I belong and whom I worship, and he said, 'Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you.' So take heart, men, for I have faith in God that it will be exactly as I have been told.” A day or so later we read, “As day was about to dawn, Paul urged them all to take some food, saying, "Today is the fourteenth day that you have continued in suspense and without food, having taken nothing. Therefore I urge you to take some food. For it will give you strength, for not a hair is to perish from the head of any of you." And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat. Then they all were encouraged and ate some food themselves.” They were shipwrecked on the island of Malta. Every life on board was saved.
You see Paul had learned through the many experiences of his life that God can be trusted. He did not doubt that God was in full control of the situation, even though it looked hopeless. Jesus was present in the boat with the disciples on the Sea of Galilee. They could see him peacefully sleeping at rest in the presence of God. God was present in all his fullness on the ship with Paul, but he could not be seen. It makes no difference. God is always present and faithful. Jesus said, “I am with you always, even to the end of the age.
One more passage. In Ps.46:10-11 it says, “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth!" The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress.” One of the most difficult lessons for us to learn is to be still and know that God is God and that God is with us.” Not only is God with us. God is for us. Do not doubt his presence, his love, and goodness towards you.
In v.41 we read that the disciples, “were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" “Be still, and know that I am God. I will be exalted among the nations, I will be exalted in the earth.” Jesus revealed himself as God exalted over the earth. “Even the winds and the waves obey him.” And we are called to exalt him and obey him by trusting in him.
I don’t know what you are going through in your life. I know that all of us will experience perilous circumstances and the wind and the waves will fill our hearts with fear. At some point, unless the Lord returns, all of us will die. But we need not fear. Christ is in the boat with us. Call out to him in faith and trust. He will not let you go. With Christ in the vessel we can smile at the storm.
Recently Angie and I learned that a dear pastor friend of ours has ALS. We’ve known this couple for many years. He is a gifted pastor. But now his earthly life is going to be cut short. There is nothing good about having ALS. When I read their updates, I am overwhelmed with the sadness. He is unable to talk. His wife recently wrote, “Some days he's frustrated because he can't talk to the bank/insurance/pizza place and so on, on the phone! He will tell you that he is working at getting closer to God, so that he can feel God's constant presence as he goes through the day. I see him working at that! The peace that passes understanding, is not just a line in a memorized verse anymore. It's necessary for coping with his days. Knowing that you all are praying for him, specifically, is a great comfort and he says that often!
I don’t know what you and I will experience in the next week, month, or year, but whatever comes into our lives, we must entrust ourselves to Jesus. Fix your eyes on Jesus. He will bring you through everything and your eternal life is absolutely safe with him. No one and no thing can take your life away from Jesus. Amen