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True Faith Fights Fear

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Mark: The Kingdom of God Is at Hand  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  35:08
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We fight fear by believing that Jesus is the King of the universe.

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True Faith Fights Fear We’re coming up on storm season here in the northern part of the Midwest and I’ll admit I really enjoy storms… as long as I’m safe and dry inside. If I were stuck outside or, worse yet, stuck in a boat when a storm hit, it would be terrifying and totally unenjoyable; sort of like seeing the lions at the zoo. As long as I’m outside the cage, it’s an awe-inspiring experience to look at so beautiful, majestic, and powerful a creature. However, if I were inside the cage, it would be a dreadful experience of fear, danger, and panic. In today’s sermon passage, the disciples find themselves inside the cage—stuck in a great storm while on a boat in the middle of the sea at night. We are going to use our imaginations this morning to join them in that storm as we think about two things: faith and fear. In point 1, we’ll look at what is significant about The Other Side (v. 35). Then we’ll think about The Sleeping Savior (vv. 36–38) and, third, The Stilled Sea (vv. 39–41). “On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”” (Mark 4:35–41) Point 1: The Other Side (v. 35) Jesus spent almost a whole day publicly proclaiming parables to a large crowd and then privately explaining them to a small crowd of His closest disciples. After that full day of teaching, He told His disciples, “Let us go across to the other side.” That might seem like little more than a scene change to us but it was probably a shocking statement to the disciples and here’s why. Up to this point, Jesus mostly ministered in a region of Israel called Galilee and was heading to another called the Decapolis. Regions like these in Jesus’ day were sort of like “counties” today, large areas of land that have several towns with cultural differences. For example, let’s imagine there’s a family here in Eau Claire County that earns a living by raising grass fed beef and selling handmade Green Bay Packers merchandise. They would thrive selling both products at the Eau Claire farmer’s market. But if they went to a farmer’s market in Minneapolis, their beef would probably sell out but selling Packers merchandise in Vikings territory might start a riot. What would happen if they set up shop at a farmer’s market in India? They still might start a riot, not because of the Packers merchandise—the average person in India probably doesn’t know the Packers exist—but because of the beef. Over 80% of the Indian population practices Hinduism, a religion that believes cows are sacred animals that shouldn’t be eaten. And, although part of the population doesn’t forbid eating beef for religious reasons, the Hindu majority has set the culture as a whole to not eat it. Even the McDonald’s all over India use chicken or vegetables instead of beef for their burgers. That’s a very simple example to help us understand how cultures differed from region to region in Jesus’s day. Galilee was mostly Jewish. There were non-Jewish people who lived there but the culture of the region was largely set by the Jewish nation and faith, sort of like how Hinduism has set the culture in India. So, when Jesus was in Galilee, He proclaimed and displayed the truth of God’s kingdom to people that already believed in the God of the OT. They were familiar with the concept of God being King and, although people had all sorts of misconceptions about it, His kingdom was a place they desired to be. But that wasn’t the case on the “other side” in Decapolis. That was a mostly Gentile or non-Jewish region where pagan religions set the culture. They worshipped other gods and pledged allegiance to other kings—God wasn’t their King and they didn’t want Him to be. We’ll get into this more next week but, for now, I want us understand that the disciples would have considered Jesus’s destination as enemy territory; probably thinking, “That’s where the bad, immoral, ungodly people are—we can’t associate with them because they are part of an enemy kingdom!” Maybe they thought Jesus was going to bring destruction upon them. Regardless, Jesus’s mission was one of deliverance, not destruction. After declaring and displaying God’s love, grace, and sovereignty in Israel, Jesus wanted to travel to a hostile land to do the same. His goal was to preach His gospel far and wide, proving that He had fulfilled the time of God’s promises, that in His presence God’s kingdom had drawn near, and that the appropriate response—regardless of where we come from—is to pledge our allegiance to Him through repentance and faith as we receive all the gracious benefits of His kingdom. The disciples saw an amazing display of Jesus’s authority over physical and spiritual forces and it started on the way to the “other side.” Point 2: The Sleeping Savior (vv. 36–38) “And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”” (Mark 4:36–38). Let’s really get into this, imagine you are one of Jesus’ twelve disciples in the boat with Him. You’re excited about following this new, dynamic teacher all over Israel and now you’re following Him across the sea to a heathen land. After a long day, you fall asleep wondering, “What is He going to do? Will it be dangerous?” Suddenly, you’re jolted so hard you fall out of bed and hit the wooden floor of the boot. Instantly you know that your boat is traveling through a storm and from what you hear and feel in the dark, it’s a nasty one. You rush up top to help the others and as you open the door, a huge wave breaks over the ship, knocking you on the floor again and soaking everything in the room. You make it to the deck and see everyone panicking. Water is filling the boat and there’s no end to the storm in sight. You take a quick head count: 12 including you. Trying to be louder than the howling wind, you shout, “Who’s missing? Did someone go overboard?” When you realize that Jesus is the one who’s missing, a new panic sets in. But no one saw Him leave His room. So, you run below and find Him lying at the stern. You wonder, “Is He sick? Knocked out? Dead?” Nope, He’s sound asleep. The disciples were clearly afraid of the storm and seemingly frustrated with Jesus. Neither reaction was right but both were understandable—I don’t think we would have reacted differently. I get uneasy in a boat on a calm shore in broad daylight; so, being terrified in a boat on a stormy sea at night makes sense to me. As for their apparent frustration with Jesus, it might be easy for us to judge them more harshly than we would ourselves. We weren’t in that storm—they were. We know the end of the story—they didn’t. What would you think, feel, say, and do if you found your beloved leader asleep while everyone else faced a terrifying storm? I would’ve thought He was either crazy, careless, or seriously ill. The question the disciples ask after waking Jesus shows that they thought He was careless: “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Even though we can’t tell what tone of voice they used, it reads more like an accusation than a genuine question. It was a rhetorical question that meant, “Teacher, you obviously do not care that we are perishing—explain yourself!” The disciples mistakenly concluded that Jesus slept because He didn’t care. What was the real reason? Why was Jesus sleeping during this storm? The typical answer goes something like this: “Jesus wasn’t afraid of the storm because He knew He was going to die on a cross at a later date, not in a storm that night.” That seems like a reasonable answer but I have one big problem with it. Faith always has an object—a source, a reason for belief. We should always be able to fill in the blank when saying, “I believe because ____” or “I’m not afraid because ____” or “I’m at peace because ____.” If that typical answer were right—that Jesus wasn’t afraid of the storm because He knew He was going to die on a cross at a later date—it would mean Jesus filled in those blanks not with “because God is true, good, and faithful” but with “because I know when and how I will die and it is not tonight or in this way.” It subtly changes the object of Jesus’s faith from God and to something else. It claims that Jesus overcame fear not by believing in the promises of God but by believing it simply was not His appointed day or way to die. It makes not God but knowledge of the time and circumstances of His death the foundation for His fearless faith and I don’t think that was the case. Jesus definitely knew those things—there’s no argument there—but I think it was faith in the promises of God rather than knowledge of His future death that allowed Him to peacefully sleep in that storm. He slept not by believing, “I know my time hasn’t come yet” but by believing, “I know My Father and He is always good, faithful, and true.” He slept not by believing, “I will fear no evil today because I know I won’t die for another 748 days” but by believing Psalm 23:4, “Even though I walk [or sail] through the valley of the shadow of death I will fear no evil for You, [My Father], are with Me.” Or by believing Psalm 3:3–6, “But you, O Lord, are a shield about me, my glory, and the lifter of my head… I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.” Or by believing Proverbs 3:21–26, “keep sound wisdom and discretion… Then you will walk on your way securely, and your foot will not stumble. If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.” Even though Jesus knew all things—including the circumstances of His death—He didn’t fight and conqueror fear by depending on that knowledge but by trusting and relying upon His Father. This is good news for us because if Jesus fought and conquered fear by using a special knowledge He possesses but we can never attain, what hope do we have to overcome fear? But if He was victorious by faith in the Father’s promises and the Spirit’s power, then we can be victorious in Him by the same faith. In our passage, Jesus displayed that sinless obedience by depending upon the Father in the power of the Spirit by sleeping. You now have biblical support for napping. I can rest because I believe God is at work. God would rather have us sleep trusting in His power than have us work not trusting in His power. Point 3: The Stilled Sea (vv. 39–41) Let’s jump back into the boat. You just panicked and woke Jesus up and, without saying a word to you, He calmly steps out onto the deck and begins speaking to the storm. He rebukes the wind and says to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Like expertly trained soldiers instantly responding to their captain’s command, the wind and the sea halt. It’s pitch black and dead quiet—the only noise you hear is the boat creaking as it slowly stops swaying from the momentum of the wind. Jesus waits a moment while his disciples stand on the deck, jaws dropped and soaking wet, and He asks, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Completely astonished you and the other 11 disciples are “filled with great fear and [say] to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” I’m amazed at how the disciples and Jesus have the exact opposite reactions and concerns. The disciples are astonished at Jesus’s lack of concern for their lives. Jesus is astonished at their lack of faith in Him. The disciples are entirely concerned about what happens on the inside of the boat. Jesus is entirely concerned about what happens on the inside of their hearts. The disciples wrongly concluded that Jesus didn’t care if they died in the storm. Jesus rightly concluded that they had thrown faith overboard and were holding on to fear instead. And that’s what this passage does: it reveals what we are holding on to—faith in Jesus or fear of something else. We see this in Jesus’s questions and in how the disciples reacted to the miracle they witnessed. Jesus’s questions—“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”—imply three things: · They shouldn’t have been afraid. · They were afraid because they didn’t believe. · Faith was the solution to their fear. What they had witnessed about Jesus was sufficient to eliminate fear but it didn’t. Why? Because even though they witnessed many of Jesus’s teachings and miracles and believed that they were genuine, they hadn’t come to the right belief about His identity. We know this because after Jesus’s questions, the next thing Mark wrote was not, “and they were filled with great faith” but “and they were filled with great fear” (4:41). But I don’t think this “great fear” was a good kind of fear because it caused them to ask, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” In other words, they said, “Jesus is not who we thought He was, since the wind and the sea obey Him. We thought He was just an amazing teacher but He just did something only God can do… we can’t figure this out and that scares us.” These men were Jews, most of them probably from Galilee. They knew the Scriptures; so, their question shows not ignorance but unbelief. They should have known who Jesus was by what He just did. Figuring it out was about as hard as playing “connect the dots” with only two dots. There is one dot in the OT and another dot in what they just witnessed. · “By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples, so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs” (Psalm 65:5–8). · “O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them” (Psalm 89:8–9). · “Your throne [O Lord] is established from of old; you are from everlasting. The floods have lifted up, O Lord, the floods have lifted up their voice; the floods lift up their roaring. Mightier than the thunders of many waters, mightier than the waves of the sea, the Lord on high is mighty!” (Psalm 93:1–4). The OT dot tells us that only God can still the sea. The NT dot shows us that Jesus stilled the sea. So, what is the finished picture after connecting those two dots? Jesus is God in human flesh. Do you believe that? Application: Motivational speaker, therapist, or King? This passage is not about seeing Jesus as a motivational speaker who helps us accomplish our wildest dreams by not letting anything stand in our way. This passage is also not about seeing Jesus as a therapist who helps us avoid suffering and escape the trials of life with little to no harm. This passage is about waking up to the reality that Jesus is the King of the universe. This passage isn’t a promise that God will fill our lives with bravery or benefit but with belief. The message is not, “Dream big, be adventurous, believe in yourself” or “you’ll never face a storm if Jesus is in your boat.” The message is simple: Jesus is our God, King, and Savior. 7
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