20230122 Trust Him
Mark 4:35-41 NET
35 On that day, when evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side of the lake.” 36 So after leaving the crowd, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat, and other boats were with him. 37 Now a great windstorm developed, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was nearly swamped. 38 But he was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. They woke him up and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” 39 So he got up and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Be quiet! Calm down!” Then the wind stopped, and it was dead calm. 40 And he said to them, “Why are you cowardly? Do you still not have faith?” 41 They were overwhelmed by fear and said to one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and sea obey him!”
In ancient days, one of the most frightening things that could be imagined is to be at sea and overwhelmed by powerful winds and waves. A psalm describes such an event:
“Some traveled on the sea in ships, and carried cargo over the vast waters. They witnessed the acts of the LORD, his amazing feats on the deep water. He gave the order for a windstorm, and it stirred up the waves of the sea. They reached up to the sky, then dropped into the depths. The sailors’ strength left them because the danger was so great. They swayed and staggered like a drunk, and all their skill proved ineffective. They cried out to the LORD in their distress; he delivered them from their troubles. He calmed the storm, and the waves grew silent. The sailors rejoiced because the waves grew quiet, and he led them to the harbor they desired. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his loyal love, and for the amazing things he has done for people!” (Psalm 107:23-31).
The psalmist captures the helplessness that the sailors experienced when facing a storm at sea, and the elation they felt when God calmed the storm, and they reached land safely.
My own experience with this kind of thing came when I was in high school. I was a member of the junior reserve officer’s training corps, and one of the perks of belongings to JROTC was that we got to take trips on Navy ships. One Summer, my unit spent a week aboard the aircraft carrier USS Forrestal. We boarded the ship at Mayport Naval Station in Jacksonville, Florida, and headed out into the Atlantic for a week we would never forget. The aircraft carrier itself is large enough to hold enough people that it is like living in an entire city that floats on the water. The ship was over 1000 feet long and over 200 feet wide. I imagined that this building on water would not be very much affected by anything that was happening in the water.
I was wrong. We were not too many days out into the Atlantic when the seas started getting rough. The world started moving this way and that. Drawers slid open and closed and then opened again. Most of us kids were turning green and feeding the fish. We were in one of the largest and most powerful vessels ever designed, and we were being tossed about like we were nothing. That storm finally ended, but it left me with an appreciation for the power and danger of the water and wind.
Such was the case for these disciples in today’s text. They understood clearly that they were in danger of dying, and they called out to their Master to save them. We’ll come back to this idea later, but…
First, let’s look at the mission of Jesus on that day (35).
Jesus had been teaching all day by parables on a boat while large crowds listened from the beach of the lake that they called the sea of Galilee. Evening came, and Jesus told his disciples that he wanted to go by boat to the other side of the lake. So the disciples joined Jesus in that boat and others joined them in other boats and they started across that great lake.
The disciples did not know why Jesus wanted to go to the other side of the lake that day. Jesus knew. He had a mission. We have the privilege of reading Mark’s Gospel and so we know that Jesus was heading to the region of Gerasa. There he would encounter a demon-possessed man, and he would rescue him from the demons and send him back to demonstrate his power in the same town that he had terrorized as a demoniac.
Jesus has a mission in Gerasa and it is not the same mission he had on the beach on the other side of the lake. But it was important that Jesus accomplish that mission because the world needs to know that Jesus is more than just a teacher. He can set us free by the truth of his teachings, but he can also set us free by releasing us from our bondage to the devil and his works. He can do more than just influence our minds. He can restore us to our right mind.
We see this same Jesus in the Gospels healing the sick and injured on one day, telling the woman with the bottle of perfumed oil that her sins are forgiven another day, and teaching the crowds about the sower and his seed the next. He is the same Jesus all the time but his mission changes according to the need.
As followers of Jesus Christ, we possess the same Holy Spirit, and we are called to the same kinds of mission that Jesus was. That is why the Holy Spirit gives us gifts so that we can accomplish different things for him. Not all of us are preachers of the gospel. Not all of us teach. Not all of us deliver people from demons. Not all of us have prayers that heal. But among us all those different missions are still being carried out.
In today’s text, Jesus was on his way to Gerasa to rescue a demonized man. That was his mission.
Next, let’s look at the monsters that threatened that mission (37).
I say monsters (plural) because the text tells us that a great windstorm developed – that was the first monster. As a result of the windstorm, the waves were breaking into the boat and threatening to capsize it. That was the second monster.
The water and the wind are usually part of the means of getting from one section of the lake to another. But these same elements that are usually helpful for the task of transportation by boat have turned into hindrances that day.
That is how it is with missions. I was one time planning a mission to Africa, but when I got to the airport, I discovered that my passport did not have enough space in it for the stamps that would clear me for the countries I would be visiting. That small detail became a monster preventing my mission that day.
For the disciples in the boat that day, the monsters were not only threatening the mission, but they were also threatening to put an end to the lives of the missionaries. Everyone was scared. Well, not everyone.
Now, let’s look at the Master of the mission (38).
Jesus was in the stern of the boat catching some zees. He was asleep on a cushion. He can sleep anywhere. He slept in a manger when he was a baby. He’s sleeping in a boat here. He’s not afraid of monsters. He can see the end from the beginning. He has control of the elements that his disciples worry about. He also has control of the things we worry about.
Why is Jesus unafraid when his disciples are afraid? Well, for one, he has faith. He has eyes that can see the unseen. He has access to a power greater than that of the wind and the waves. He also has a mission to accomplish. If he has a mission to perform, nothing is going to get in his way. That is why the miracles happen.
Now, let’s look at the miracles the Master performed (39)
His panicked disciples woke him up and he said, “Be quiet.” I imagine that the disciples were quiet because of what he said. But he was not talking to them. He was rebuking the wind and the waves. He commanded the monsters. The wind and the waves had transformed into the incredible hulk, and Jesus told them to be quiet and they transformed back into Bruce Banner.
Jesus stopped the storm, but that was just one miracle. You see, if there is a windstorm, and it ceases, a boat on the water can be still in danger from the waves. Jesus not only calmed the wind, but he also spoke to the waves, and they immediately flattened. The text says that it was a dead calm.
Now, let’s look at the men who witnessed the miracles (40-41).
The men in the boat with Jesus had been afraid of the monsters threatening to end their lives. But when Jesus took care of the incredible hulk right before their eyes, did you notice their response? The text says they were overwhelmed – not with relief, not with gratitude, not with joy or worship. It says they were overwhelmed with fear!
We would like to think that if we went around walking on water and calming the sea the way Jesus did, it would result in a lot more people getting saved. But human nature does not work that way. The disciples responded in fear because that is what happens when a power is manifested that you cannot explain.
We would have a lot more miracles happen in our lives if we had enough faith to handle them happening before our eyes. We would also have more such miracles if we stayed actively involved in the missions the Lord has called us to. He has called us to keep proclaiming his gospel, keep obeying his commands, keep loving others in Jesus’ name, and keep doing battle with the real enemy: the devil.
Believers in Jesus Christ are called to a mission. There will be monsters who will oppose and threaten our mission. But we have a Master, and those monsters are no threat to him. He wants his followers to trust him, believe in what the Bible says about him, and continue with the mission despite the storms.