2010-08-15 (am) Mark 4.35-41 Being Jesus’ Family-by Faith
Before we dive in, we’ve noted already that Mark is retelling this story as he heard it told to him. Peter told him of his experience crossing the sea of Galilee with Jesus. Mark’s gospel, is a record of Peter’s recollections.
But there is also something else we must keep in mind. Mark includes this story for a reason. Do you remember, long ago, when we began looking at Mark’s gospel, he told us why he was writing this stuff down. Do you remember? He wrote, in verse 1 of chapter 1, “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
This emphasis will be clear in our passage and we’ll see its importance when we come to the application. But first, the story.
On the end of the day when Jesus taught many people by the lake, when he taught them the parable of the sower, and later, after he had gone to a house with the twelve and some other disciples, where he continued to preach and teach to them. At the end of the day, Jesus was exhausted.
He said, “Let’s go to the other side of the lake.” Jesus wanted to get away from the crowds in order to get some rest.
Now, from our perspective, we may not appreciate Jesus’ exhaustion enough. We know that he’s God’s Son. We know who he really is. But we must never forget that Jesus was fully human even as he was fully divine. He was exhausted. To his disciples this was normal. Any man would have felt the same, and indeed, they too may have been tired.
The disciples, many of them, able sailors, were able to get Jesus to the other side of the lake. If you were looking for an address in New York, the best way to get there from say, the airport, would be to use a taxi, driven by someone who is familiar with the city. The best way to get to the other side of the lake? Have some experienced fishermen take you!
The disciples took Jesus as he was, exhausted, in the boat with them. And theirs was not the only boat to cross.
A furious storm, a perfect storm came up. The sea of Galilee is about 680 feet below sea level, there are cliffs and hills all around. Cool winds blow down from Mt. Hermon, which stands 9,200 feet above sea level. This cold air mixed with the warm humid air on the sea, could produce sudden storms, powerful, unpredictable, terrible.
Keep in mind that Peter, James and John were fishermen, fishermen familiar with this sea. Seasoned by many storms. Even these brave sailors were petrified. It was indeed a frightening moment.
This mad, crazy storm blows all around them and they are scared out of their wits, they are thinking that the end has come. And Jesus? Jesus is sleeping. Sitting in the captain’s chair, or bench, his head resting on the head rest, so exhausted, he sleeps.
So the disciples rush over to Jesus, to wake him up, “Don’t you care that we’re dying?”
Do you see what the disciples were thinking? You saved and healed all those people, but you’re just going to let us die in a storm? Don’t you care about us?
We can’t judge these guys too harshly. They were freaked out! They made a harsh statement about Jesus’ lack of care, probably because they were afraid. The fact that they woke him up at all tells us that they still trusted him. They didn’t have a tonne of faith, but the did have a wee bit.
And, we have to keep in mind who they knew Jesus to be. Though by now they realised that Jesus was more than just a man, to them, predominantly in their mind, the was first and foremost, just a man. They knew Jesus’ family. They were only just beginning to realise that Jesus was more. But in times of great difficulty, those things that seem reasonable and true in safety are challenged. Perhaps they even were thinking, what if he’s not whom we are thinking he is.
Think about when tough times happen in our lives. Don’t we feel the temptation to doubt God? Don’t we begin to wonder, as the disciples did, “Don’t you care about us?”
Jesus, after waking up, according to Matthew’s account, says to them, “Why are you frightened, O men of little faith?” In contrast to the disciples, Jesus wasn’t scared at all. Totally unfazed. He could have been standing in a living room in a bomb shelter thousands of feet below ground.
Jesus stood up, rebuked the wind, told the sea to be quiet and still, and immediately it was so.
Jesus, the one by whom all things were made, still exercised power over that which he made. Just like his Father saying, “Let there be.” Jesus said, be quiet, be still, stop what you’re doing. The result: instant calm.
Have you ever seen a lake after a storm? Even after the wind is gone, the waves continue to roll, though to a lesser degree, of course. But in this case, both stopped immediately. The mountains of waves became like glass. The howling wind was silent.
And Jesus turns to his disciples and lovingly says, “Why are you afraid? Have you still no faith?”
This is a hard statement, it’s true, but Jesus could have been much more stern. The disciples accused Jesus of indifference, of not caring about them at all. Jesus, is loving. He’s teaching. He’s affirming, encouraging.
If the disciples were afraid before the storm ended, that was nothing compared to the fear they felt after it ended. Clearly, this is no mere man. And Jesus asks them,
Why ARE you afraid. Not, why were you afraid, but why are you afraid? He could have added, “Haven’t I just proven my care for you? Haven’t I proven my concern? Didn’t I just stop the storm for you? Can’t you see that I’m both powerful and loving? Your response should simply be childlike trust.”
But what Jesus actually said was, “Have you still no faith?” They were of little faith, they were timid, they did not trust Jesus yet. They didn’t trust him. Even though they had seen Jesus do many things, they still didn’t trust him with their lives. Jesus, using the word still, shows us something important. Our life experiences have a purpose. We must use them to full advantage, to move us along in our sanctification, our becoming holy and set apart for God. Isn’t that exactly what Joseph did? Not until later did he understand why he was nearly killed by his brothers, thrown in a pit, sold as a slave, wrongly accused, thrown into prison, left there for years, all those terrible things happened to him so that he could save his family from starvation.
Instead of asking God, “Don’t you care about me.” We need to exercise our faith, whether it is small or great, saying, “I can’t see the end. I will trust your promises to me. Increase my faith, please.”
After this the disciples were amazed. Suddenly their understanding of Jesus jumped up a whole number of notches. They were in awe of Jesus, they had both reverence and fear. Here was more than a mere man. He was someone of great power, great love.
One of the military’s greatest dreams is the ability to control weather. Humans cannot do it. We cannot even predict it with any real accuracy. Only God can control it. The disciples began to say to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him.
This was beyond their experience so far. This was more than they imagined. Suddenly Jesus loomed larger, bigger. Jesus is no mere man. There’s more to him, much more.
Mark purposely ends the retelling of Peter’s experience on the boat that night with this question: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
That, brothers and sisters, is the question. Have you answered that question, in your own mind? Have you really considered who this Jesus is? When you talk to people about Jesus and they say things like, “He was a great moral teacher, have you shown them this passage and asked them this question?
Notice Mark doesn’t answer the question because he doesn’t have to. Mark’s telling of his Gospel, the telling of the story is clear. This man is Jesus, God’s Son.
That’s the point of this story. That’s the point of this passage. Jesus is God’s Son, who is able to control the elements of nature, bending them to do his will because he is their creator. He’s like a potter with a lump of clay; he can mould and shape things to make them what he wants. He can change something to make it into something else. He can take the dead and make them alive, he can take 5 loves and 2 fish and feed thousands, he can make wind and waves obey him.
We read this passage and it forces us to consider whom this man is. Jesus. Great moral teacher, yes. Commander of wind and wave. That’s beyond the league of everyone else. There’s simply more to Jesus than what people might want to try to take away from the scriptures.
Now, to our application. We need to ask ourselves, how is our faith? Is it little, like the disciples? Or do we have as much or more faith than them.
What is faith? Faith is trusting Jesus’ promises. It is believing that Jesus will follow through. It is believing that what happens in life is no mere coincidence, but rather that it is happening to teach us something important, about ourselves, about God, about the faith or trust that we have in him.
So our application is do we believe Jesus? Do we have faith or trust in him?
But we need to look at what this passage is not about. This was a storm, a real physical storm on a lake, with boats that were about to be swamped, sunk.
This is not a metaphorical storm, like the storms of life. The difficulties that come our way. This passage is not a prescription for us to cry out to Jesus and he will magically make all our difficulties disappear.
I’m not saying that Jesus isn’t able to do that. I’m not saying that we’re not allow to pray prayers like that. What I’m saying is this passage doesn’t teach that. This passage doesn’t teach that Jesus magically saves us from metaphorical storms.
It is clear from the passage, isn’t it? It is clear from the way I explained it, right? This passage is about seeing Jesus’ divinity, his love for his disciples, his care for them, and his care for us.
If Jesus hadn’t been woken up, what would have happened? God the Father would have got them to the other side. God wasn’t about to let Jesus die in a storm.
When metaphorical storms of life happen, when we go through tough times, when we are afraid, even for our own lives, what must we learn from this passage? Jesus is God. Jesus loves us. We need to place our trust in him and keep on going, no matter what.
And if he should ask us, “Have you still no faith?” We can say, maybe not, Jesus, but we know who you are. We are trusting you as much as we can. Help us with our unbelief! Amen.