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Author:Rev. Reuben Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Mt. Nasura
 Mt. Nasura, Western Australia
 frca.org.au/mountnasura/
 
Title:Lord in the Storm
Text:Mark 4:35-41 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Christ's Kingship
 
Preached:2016
Added:2016-11-20
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Ps 89:3,4                                                                                

Ps 42:4,5                                                                                                        

Reading – Psalm 107:23-43

Ps 107:9,10,11

Sermon – Mark 4:35-41

Ps 124:1,2,3

Hy 77:1,2,3

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved in Christ Jesus, to stand at the edge of an ocean is to be humbled. Looking out over the expanse of water, seeing the pounding of the surf—hearing all the noise of the breakers—you realize your weakness, your smallness. You see a little something of the awe-inspiring power of creation, that it’s not only impressive, but it can be deadly. Sometimes the surfers have to stay on shore. Sometimes the ships don’t dare to venture out. And on so many occasions the ocean has swallowed up hundreds and thousands of lives at a time.

Then how amazing to think that the power of God’s kingdom extends even here, to the world of the ocean—and over all created things. Mankind can never tame creation or gain mastery over it. But God is Lord of it all, like the Psalmist sings in Psalm 93, “The floods have lifted up, O LORD; the floods have lifted up their voice… But the LORD on high is mightier than the noise of many waters, He is mightier than the mighty waves of the seas” (vv 3-4). God is greater than the greatest display of creation’s forces, for He is their Maker and Lord.

So the creation too is part of God’s glorious kingdom—even this whole world is under the sovereign rule of Christ. It’s good to remember that, how God is interested in more than just saving individual sinners from death. God wants to reconcile all things to himself, to restore even his creation to wholeness and perfection. He will recreate this earth and make it the home of righteousness forever. We get a glimpse of these things in our text from Mark 4:35-41,

            Jesus shows that He is Lord of all creation: 

1)     the calmness of Jesus in the storm

2)     the silencing of the sea by Jesus

3)     the confession of Jesus by the disciples

 

1)     the calmness of Jesus in the storm: At the beginning of our text, Jesus is in Galilee, which has been the base of operations for his ministry. For him it’s been another day full of activity, as Jesus is busy healing the sick, casting out demons, and teaching in parables. So “on the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side’” (v 35). It’s possible that when He says this Jesus is already in the boat, because He was using it as his floating pulpit; for Mark tells us, “When they had left the multitude, they took him along in the boat as He was” (v 36). From preaching, straight to sailing.

Jesus wants to cross over the Sea of Galilee. They will be going from the busy western side of the sea where Capernaum was, over to the eastern side, to the less populated region of the Gadarenes. He might be looking for quiet, but it’s hard to get away from the crowds; notice how it’s mentioned that “other boats were also with him” (v 36). Perhaps they’ve anchored around to listen to him. Now, as all these boats set sail, they’ll hear not only the powerful preaching of Jesus, but also witness his mighty deeds.

As this little fleet heads out on the water, there is a looming danger. Bible commentators will all note how the Sea of Galilee is notorious for its sudden storms. Why? Because this body of water is about 200 metres below sea level; at its southern end is a deep valley, lined by cliffs, which creates something like a funnel. So the warm air from the higher hills can rush into the valley, meet the colder air over the lake, and quickly whip up a violent storm. Just like that, without warning, the water can become frenzied with wind and waves.

And this is what happens: “A great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling” (v 37). The Greek word for “windstorm” in this verse describes a storm that is full of unpredictable gusts. A terrible squall has come over these boats, tossing them everywhere, and they’re already taking on water.

Those who are more experienced at being out on the water can tell about how a storm can be a terrifying thing. The weather changes from calm to violent, and quickly the ocean confronts you with its power. You realize that you’re at its mercy. One can only hope that your boat is able to ride the waves well, and not take on too much water, and overturn.

Sailors who have to battle serious storms will tell of not falling asleep for days at a time. It’s impossible, with all the crashing and swaying, with the threat of death at every moment. But where is Jesus? “He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow” (v 38). He’s on the high part of the ship, in the rear, away from the heaviest splashing of the waves. Because it was a bit more sheltered, this was the place where any honoured guest would be seated. Jesus is “asleep on a pillow” Mark says—but we shouldn’t picture a soft cushion like the one on our bed. He’s resting on a hard seat, one that was probably made of leather, or even wood.

Yet He’s sleeping, all the same! Jesus had worked all day, and He is no doubt exhausted. Here we see a glimpse of his humanity, for Jesus shows that He’s not invincible. He has to rest, and his body needs refreshment, just as much as our bodies do.

But there’s more to his sleep than the slumber from a hard days’ work. In the Bible, the ability to sleep peacefully and untroubled shows trust in the protective power of God. We know the beautiful words of Psalm 4:8, “I will both lie down in peace, and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.”

Despite the furious storm, and all the danger, in this moment Jesus has complete faith in his Father. He trusts that God will make him dwell in safety. When we talk about Jesus’s faith, we need to remember again his humanity. He is a person with a nature like ours. As a man, He had to live in reliance on God for all good things, just like we have to.

And the Lord Jesus knew God his Father. From his thirty years of life, He has learned that God is dependable. He has learned that the children of God can be completely at peace in him, no matter the circumstance, because God won’t fail or falter. Despite the worst of storms, He rests content in his God.

How we might envy this sound sleep of Jesus! When there’s much uncertainty in our life, when there is a lot to do, and when we are troubled, falling asleep can be next to impossible. Unrest in our mind and spirit keeps us from enjoying a good night’s rest. We want to solve everything first. We want to think of every angle, try to predict and prophesy every outcome.

In that sense, we’re less like Master Jesus who is so calm in the midst of the storm, and much more like the disciples, who are starting to panic as the wind continues to howl. So “they awoke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’” (v 38). As the storm rages, they’re terrified—they really think they’re about to die.

Keep in mind that at least a third of these men in the boat used to be Galilean fisherman. They’ve sailed this body of water many times before, and they know how to pilot a boat through the waves. For them to cry out like this, this storm must be something else altogether: more serious, more dangerous than anything they’ve seen. So they’re scared. And they’re upset: Doesn’t Jesus care that the boat’s about to go to the bottom, taking them all with it?

It’s revealing what the disciples cry out. First, and quite obviously, it shows a real shortage of faith. They’re far from sharing Jesus’ untroubled trust in God. They’re so far from it, that they think He’s just being indifferent. He doesn’t care about them! It comes across like a reproach, a rebuke: “Jesus, do we mean so little to you? You’re just going to sleep while we all die?” Our fears can make us think the worst of God!

They’re scared, and critical, but there’s more to it—even something positive. For there’s also a sense of expectation, that Jesus is actually able to do something about this. Really, what could He do? They were the seasoned sailors—while He’s a carpenter’s son. Yet they wake him, and plead with him. That’s striking, isn’t it? They’re learning where to go with their troubles. After several months with Jesus, they know this much: Jesus can do things. Jesus can help people. He has compassion. Maybe they wish that He’d move quicker, and they definitely worry about how this will turn out, but they still know He’s got the ability to save those who are deep in distress. So that’s the question: Will He be able to do something about this storm?

 

2)     the silencing by Jesus of the sea: Jesus has been asked to help, so He will. “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’” (v 39). Standing on that rocking vessel in the middle of the lake, Jesus issues his command. And what does He say? Literally, He says: “Be muzzled,” or “Be quiet.” Now, if you look back at chapter 1, these are exactly the words that Jesus addressed to the demon-possessed man who was screaming in the synagogue; Jesus said to him: “Be quiet” (1:25).

Do you think that’s significant, that Jesus says the same thing here? Do you think Mark wants us to notice? He certainly does. For once again Jesus is showing his authority; He is commanding things into submission under his rule, whether demons or storms.

When we look at the Old Testament, the image of turbulent waters is often used to describe the forces of evil. As David cries out in Psalm 69, “Let me be delivered from those who hate me, and out of the deep waters. Let not the floodwater overflow me” (vv 14-15). To the Israelites, the sea was an unknown and dangerous place, so it came to symbolize the power of wickedness, the oppression of evil. Only God can conquer the dark forces of the sea!

So it can hardly be a coincidence that Jesus calming the storm is so much like his casting out of demons. Think of three ways they are similar. First, there is great violence and noise, from the crying demon, and from the howling wind—and great personal danger to go with that noise. Then there is that sharp command from Jesus: “Be quiet!” And after the Lord’s command, both times, the result is silence, a perfect calm.

In the Gospel of Mark, every new miracle of Jesus discloses something about his glory and majesty, about who He is as the Son of God. The stilling of the storm does too, because here He’s exercising his power over all things. Even the darkness and the chaos of evil have to listen to him, even the unrest of the natural world is under his command. It doesn’t meant that this storm is somehow demonic—it’s God alone who controls the weather and sends the wind and rain. But this is part of Jesus’ mission to make all things new. He silences the wailing of a broken world, starting to restore creation to its peace.

He speaks, “And the wind ceased and there was a great calm” (v 39). Let’s notice how immediate this is. Those familiar with the ocean will know that sometimes the wind can drop, but the waves will continue to be choppy and unsettled for hours. Not here: in an instant there is a flat calm. From a tumultuous storm, to water as smooth as glass.

What a display of Jesus’ authority! He has been showing this throughout Mark’s Gospel so far: Jesus has authority on earth to forgive sins; He has authority to say what the Sabbath day is all about; He has authority in his teaching; He has authority over the demons. And now this: Jesus has authority over all creation.

And this is more than just a display of raw power. Notice what the disciples ask; they are worried that they will perish, and they ask him to save. And Jesus takes action: He saves his disciples. Don’t forget all the people in those other boats too—while He’s saving his disciples, He saves them! Already here, long before the cross, Jesus is saving multitudes from death, even moving heaven and earth to do it. He is the Lord of all creation, so He won’t let anything get in the way of his plan to redeem sinners.

No wonder Jesus puts that question to his disciples. “He said to them, ‘Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?’” (v 40). The disciples had panicked. All they saw was the storm, and they were sure they were about to die, swallowed up in the violence of the sea. Didn’t Jesus care for them?

As we said before, we’re often in the same boat as the disciples: we’re scared, desperate, anxious, sure that our troubles—whatever they are—are going to overwhelm us. We wonder if God is hearing our prayers. We act like we think that this time, God is surely going to fail us. “It’s over. I can’t get out of this. There’s no hope.” We don’t deny God’s power and grace, but we certainly don’t live like we believe it.

But Jesus says, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Think about how those two questions are closely connected to each other: It is the disciples’ lack of trust in Jesus that has made them cowards. If they really had faith in their master, they would’ve been OK; they wouldn’t have worried about drowning. And shouldn’t they have known that by now? They’ve been with Jesus for a year or more, yet their faith is still so small. They know this Jesus, so they should trust him, and not be afraid.

Those two still run together all the time: faithlessness, and fearfulness. Doubt, and dread. And it doesn’t need to be that way. We haven’t seen Jesus, but we know him. If we have walked with Christ at all, we know about his power. We know about his grace. Then we have his Word, which has guaranteed promises on every page. We know that all Jesus has to do is speak, like He spoke to the demons and He spoke to the storm. He commands all things, and He can bring peace out of any storm. It doesn’t mean that He always will. But He can, and more than that, Christ remains with us always—for He is God himself.

 

3)     the confession of Jesus by the disciples: In the aftermath of Jesus’ words, there is a stunned silence. The waters are silent, and the disciples are silent. “They feared exceedingly,” Mark says (v 41). They feared before too, but this is different. This is no longer the terror of a certain death, or the faintheartedness of a lack of faith. This is the fear that rightly hits people when they realize that they’re in the presence of God.

As mentioned, the disciples have seen Jesus’ deeds of power before. They’ve already witnessed incredible things—but this is something new. This Jesus is far greater than they ever realized. They are deeply moved, and struck with a reverent wonder.

You can just imagine them whispering verse 41 to one another: “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey him!” In their humbled awe, they’re grappling with what they’ve seen, trying to make sense of it. Notice that they say it “to one another.” The disciples are huddled there on the boat, talking amongst themselves; it’s as if they don’t dare speak to the one who’s just commanded the storm to be still. Who are they, to speak to him?

They know that Jesus has disclosed something extraordinary about himself. He is a man like them—a man who needs to eat and sleep—but He’s also much more. That comes out in their question: “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey him!” For who else speaks to creation, and it listens? Who dares to shout into the whirlwind, and expect a response? For the disciples, their question can be answered in only one way: Who is able to command wind and sea, but God alone?

It’s safe to assume that these twelve disciples have grown up going to the synagogue, where they were instructed every week by the elders. As church-going Israelites, they know the Scriptures—and they know that it’s the LORD God who controls that powerful, raging, violent sea. Already from the beginning of time the LORD has been showing his dominion over the waters. At creation God did this, when He commanded: “‘Let the waters be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear,’ and it was so” (Gen 1:9).

Not just at creation, but always, God governs the seas. Think of how it was God who rolled back the waves of the Red Sea to allow Israel to cross. Or remember how God moved the seas and sent a storm, in order to bring Jonah to his knees. We read Psalm 107 and it’s praise for the sovereign God in the midst of the storm. “He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea… [Men] cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet” (vv 25, 28-30).

Time and again, Scripture reveals God as the Lord of creation, when even the oceans are  moved by his voice. This is God’s domain, and his alone. Some things that are wrong on this earth can be corrected. There are mothers who dry tears, there are repair shops for your car, there are dentists to fix your cavities—but no one can correct the weather. You can talk about it, complain about it, but do nothing to change it. Only God can do this.

And what has Jesus done? Who can this be, that even wind and sea obey him? It’s starting to dawn on the disciples. It’s not a full confession of faith, like Peter will make in chapter 8. But it’s getting there. Jesus is someone like God. He must have immense power, and must be Lord of creation. The disciples “fear exceedingly,” for now they look on Christ with different eyes.

What a source of strength for those in the company of Jesus! What an encouragement for who follow him! We have a great Saviour. There is none greater, for He is God himself! He’s not just the carpenter’s son. He’s not just a wise teacher. He’s not just a faithful friend. But He holds divine power, and sits on heaven’s throne. He commands not just the holy angels, He has authority not merely over Satan and his hosts, but He rules all things in heaven and on earth. What’s more, Jesus is Lord for us. We can read in Ephesians 1 that God made Christ “head over all things for the church” (v 22). It is Christ our Saviour who is master and commander of everything in this universe.

And as He rules all things, Christ is not indifferent to the struggles of his people. He doesn’t ignore our prayers and cries for help. Even when they arise out of a faith that is most imperfect, Jesus listens and answers. Beloved, it is true that Christ doesn’t save his people from every storm. Jesus didn’t come to give us smooth sailing, and the wind behind our back. More than that, He came to reconcile us and all creation, to God his Father.

This came about because there was a time in Jesus’ life when He gave up his authority and surrendered his control. Instead of speaking sharp commands to his mocking enemies like He could have, Jesus was silent, and He let them go on. Instead of defending himself, Jesus yielded up his life on the cross, so that we could be redeemed forever. He was man, and He was God, so that He could do this.

We can trust then that if it is his will, Christ will save us from whatever earthly trouble, and solve whatever earthly problem. He might rescue us from these things, and He might not. But if we are traveling with Christ, He will save us from our worst and greatest threat: the overwhelming and deadly power of sin that threatens always to drown us. By faith in him, Jesus will free us with his perfect gift of forgiveness, and then He’ll preserve us in that redemption until the very end.

Look again at how our text ends in verse 41. It ends with the attention where it should be, with all eyes on Jesus: “Who can this be, that even the wind and sea obey him?” That question is a humble invitation to all of us, brothers and sisters. It’s an invitation to consider where we look, and what we love. It’s a call for everyone to give his own answer to the question, and to profess faith, and to praise our God in Christ.

When we hear about the great works of Jesus in his Word, and when we experience his almighty power in our lives, our response should be awe-filled worship: Who is this great God, but our Saviour? He is King over all! He is Lord of creation! He is Rescuer of those who are dying! So how can you praise him better? And how can you trust him more?  Amen.




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Reuben Bredenhof, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
The source for this sermon was: http://frcmn.org/sermons/

(c) Copyright 2016, Rev. Reuben Bredenhof

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