Jesus' Power Over Physical and Spiritual Laws
December 12, 1999 Gospel of Mark
So far in the Gospel of Mark we have discussed the power that Jesus has over sin, evil spirits, religious legalism and the topic of sickness\suffering\need.
Now we will see this last category of his power in Mark's Gospel about his power over physical and spiritual laws.
Since all law has its origin in God, he must have the right to pre-empt them. Since he wrote the book, he can freely edit it.
He has placed certain natural events in motion, but he is above them and not bound by them.
He is able to intercede in his creation at any time whether to teach us or protect us. God is intimately involved.
He is not hemmed in by anyone's box, much less his own. The boundless expanse is his habitation.
We live in a seemingly self-sustaining system created by God. But it is not as self-sustaining as it seems. He is actively involved, holding it all together (Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:1-3).
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Colossians 1:15-17 NIVUS)
In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:1-3 NIVUS)
There are times when he chooses to act on our behalf outside of our normal expectations of the way we have come to expect things to work.
There are the physical laws of creation that sometimes buffet us with violence, but they also bring the weather patterns that sustain us.
There is the law of gravity that we don't often consider because it is so consistent. But if it weren't for gravity we would all drift out into space. God can suspend them at any time.
And there is another law of a spiritual and moral nature that says the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), and since all sin, all will die.
The gravitational pull of sin and death is the bottomless pit of hell. This death is an eternal death in separation from God.
But just like God can suspend any of the natural laws of creation, he can also suspend the natural law of eternal death.
The catalyst upon which God acts is our response to the faith he gives us.
The faith conditions he places on his promises are the keys that open them to us (Rom. 8:28).
Will we allow him to teach us this faith? Will we use it to ask him to save us in this life and the next?
God cannot be mocked. The laws he has placed in effect are there to teach us that he is there.
And they serve the double purpose of making us dependent upon him.
Although we depend upon the physical and moral laws of the universe to protect us and preserve our lives, we can sometimes run afoul of them.
It is then that we cry out to God for grace and mercy. And he responds gladly to his children.
But he also purposely stretches our faith.
E. His Power over the Laws of Creation
The power that earthly forces hold over us is a major cause of human fear.
We are helpless, so it seems, in the face of such random forces as tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes and other powerful displays of destructive power stemming from the forces of creation.
They are the normal occurrences of weather patterns that God also uses for good to bring seasons and to water the earth.
But the outer limits of these processes threaten life and damage property. We question whether God really cares for us and whether he can control what he created.
Jesus proves he is God over creation and we need not fear.
1. His Power over Wind and Waves (4:35-41)
Jesus and the disciples were in a boat crossing over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee when a furious squall broke loose and waves washed over the boat that nearly swamped it (4:35-41).
These disciples were fishermen and they knew the danger of the sea.
Notably, Jesus was asleep during the commotion and the disciples awoke him with the question of whether he cared if they drowned.
He woke up and commanded the wind and waves to be still and it became completely calm.
He then asked the disciples why they had so little faith.
They are amazed at his power over earthly forces.
The situation was such that Jesus probably was not ignorant of what was happening.
He allowed the disciples to face fear as an instruction in faith.
If they had perfect faith they would have remained calm and commanded the waves themselves in his name. At least, they would not have accused him of not caring. And of course they were safe with him.
He is as near to us as he was to the disciples in the boat. All we need do is call upon him.
But we too are challenged to have faith and not to fear. Jesus is in the same boat together with us.
One of the politically correct catchwords of our day is that those who have physical disabilities are "physically challenged."
I think that the same term can be used in the spiritual sense. The disciples, as well as us, are "spiritually challenged."
Sometimes we need heavy doses of faith therapy so that we can stay afloat.
2. His Power over Human Limitations (6:45-52)
Once again, the disciples are on the Sea of Galilee in a boat.
But this time Jesus is not with them and it is night (6:45-52). He has stayed behind on the shore to pray.
The boat is in the middle of the sea and the disciples are straining at the oars against a heavy wind.
It is notable that Jesus could see their plight because it was at night and beyond human sight distance. Late at night he went out to them walking on the water.
Jesus has capabilities beyond any mere human. He can see in the spirit and walk without gravity.
And there was probably some translocation happening here too.
He took his time to reach them. In fact, he had probably been praying for them that their strength and faith would not fail.
Surely they had learned from the last time they were in trouble on the lake.
He pretended not to see them and allowed them to see him first walking on the water.
He is not in the business of coddling his disciples like a mother hen. They must learn to forage for themselves.
After all, they have his name to depend upon. They must learn to apply his power by faith.
But they were terrified because they thought he was a ghost. So he told them to be courageous and not to fear.
He got into the boat and the wind died down.
In their amazement they could not understand his power even after the feeding of the 5,000 the day before. Perhaps they were even skeptical.
They were still coming to grips with the fact that he is God and they need not fear.
3. His Power over All Things Living (11:12-14)
Being hungry and seeing a fig tree upon leaving Bethany, Jesus went to gather fruit but found the tree barren with only leaves (11:12-14).
It was not the season for figs and the tree would not normally even have had leaves. The condition of the tree was an anomaly, a hoax.
Now Jesus would have known the true condition of the tree. But here was another object lesson for us all.
Jerusalem had the appearance of righteousness without the fruit of righteousness.
Jesus put a curse on the tree and pronounced it useless since it was barren.
The next day they observed the tree withered from the roots (11:20-21).
The curse was total to the killing even of the roots of the tree. But it shows the power of Jesus over all life.
If we bear the fruit of faith in him we need not fear. If our root is established in him we will bear fruit.
Jesus uses this as an object lesson of faith in prayer to bear the fruit of forgiveness. By faith in him we are forgiven and able to bear the fruit of righteousness.
F. His Power over Death
The ultimate enemy is death. It is this force that gives us the greatest fear because it is the ultimate penalty for sin. And it is this force over which Jesus has his greatest victory.
By faith in him we too are freed from the agony of sin and death which is spiritual death.
Death not only makes us fearful but it angers us because we know that from the beginning it was not intended to be this way.
But we are now assured of living together forever with Jesus when we live with him here in this life by faith.
Death in Jesus is not permanent. As he rose from the dead so will those who believe in him.
His ministry included several instances of deliverance from death that we might believe in his own power over death.
1. The Death of a Loved One (5:21-24, 35-43)
A synagogue ruler named Jairus comes to Jesus and falls at his feet pleading for his little girl who is dying. He believes that if Jesus places his hands on her she will live (5:21-24).
Jairus evidently has a real concern because after the interruption that immediately follows, he is sent word that the girl has actually died (5:35-43).
Often times it takes the imminent death of one we love to bring us to faith, falling humbly at the feet of Jesus.
But the interruption on the way is to test his faith because it delays Jesus getting there in time before she dies.
The woman with the issue of blood has her faith tested in coming forward and now Jairus will have his faith tested in going forward.
Those who come with the news even say that it is too late now to bother Jesus with the problem. They don't conceive he has power to raise the dead as well as heal.
Jesus is not discouraged about going on and tells Jairus not to fear but to believe.
When they get to the house they hear the proof of death in the wailing.
Jesus responds that the child is not dead but asleep. He is that confident in his ability and power to raise her.
He sees her as alive. But no one else does. They laugh at him.
He took Peter, James, and John, his inner circle, along with the parents of the girl and went in to the girl.
He took her hand and spoke to her to get up. But can the dead hear? They can when Jesus speaks.
She gets up and walks and is able to eat and everyone is astonished. With Jesus death is not permanent.
As parents we must bring Jesus to our children so they can live and not fear death.
And as we see him lift up our loved ones we have confidence in him also for ourselves.
2. The Threat of Death (14:32-42)
Jesus approaches the night of testing before the cross tomorrow (14:32-42).
He knows his death is imminent, but that is why he has come.
This is no longer someone else’s death but the threat of his own.
We are reminded again that Jesus is as fully man as he is fully God.
No man looks with delight at his own death’s crossing.
The agony Jesus knew the cross would bear for him, and the agony of the sins he would bear for us, caused intense suffering for him even before the cross became a fact.
We are often saved certain suffering because of our limited advance knowledge. This is not so with Jesus who knew all things.
The sin of man he would bear, and separation from the Father it would cost, was nearly unbearable.
Jesus was sinless and he did not need to die for his own sin. But it was the will of the Father that he die for ours.
And he did not face the coming suffering alone. He tapped a source of strength with universal proportions in the Father whom he sought.
God’s will for us is that we too need not face death alone without the power of faith and strength in him.
Jesus was deserted by all his friends. No one would stay awake to pray with him. So as the crisis drew nearer he withdrew further into the garden toward that which he felt closest.
Much is revealed about Jesus’ character in his prayer that not his will but the Father’s will be done (10:45). God’s will is perfect and this is what matters.
Jesus reveals to us where to draw strength in the most severe circumstances so that we need not fear. He will take the sting of death for us.
At the end, Jesus was fully prepared for the crisis.
3. The Death of Jesus (15:33-39)
Now we come to the ultimate test at the cross (15:33-39). But Jesus is prepared.
His exclamation of being forsaken by God upon the cross is not fear of death but the agony of men’s sin he took upon himself and the temporary separation from God it caused as darkness came over the whole land.
Notice the loud cry before he breathes his last. A man who cannot stave off death on the cross cannot cry loud.
He suffered and died willingly. He gave up his life for us. No man took his life from him.
This is the summary before the conclusion in the story of the good news of God (1:14). The conclusion is the undeniable evidence of the resurrection (16:6).
The kingdom of God (1:15) has now taken a new turn. But it has been destined from the beginning (9:31; 10:33-34).
Just as the good news cost John’s life (6:14ff), it now costs Jesus’ life. But the death of Jesus has much more powerful consequences (1:7).
It has been his message all along (8:34-9:1).
Now the way of fellowship between God and man has been opened by the death of Jesus on the cross for sin and the temple curtain is torn in two. It is God’s seal of approval.
And we hear the truth of it all from the centurion at the foot of the cross that, “Surely this man was the Son of God!”
This is the culmination of his entire ministry of power over the forces of sin, evil spirits, human suffering, legalistic authority, creation, and now death.
We need never fear again if we have faith in Jesus.
Faith in him can accomplish all things because God can accomplish all things.
Faith and fear are incompatible. But faith without fear is commendable.
So do not fear, for I am with you; do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you and help you; I will uphold you with my righteous right hand. (Isaiah 41:10 NIVUS)
Timeless Truth: Faith is trust in the unseen, not in the unknown. --- Faith is to believe what we do not see, and the reward of this faith is to see what we believe. It is trusting in advance what will only make sense in reverse.
Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your souls. (1 Peter 1:8-9 NIVUS)
"Do not let your hearts be troubled. Trust in God; trust also in me. (John 14:1 NIVUS)
And again, "I will put my trust in him." And again he says, "Here am I, and the children God has given me." (Hebrews 2:13 NIVUS)
We live in two realms – the physical and the spiritual. But whether in the physical or the spiritual, it is faith, not fear, that wins the day. Jesus is Lord of both. And he is able to transport us fully from the one realm to the other.