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Author:Dr. Wes Bredenhof
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Congregation:Free Reformed Church of Launceston, Tasmania
 Tasmania, Australia
Preached At:Langley Canadian Reformed Church
 Langley, B.C.
Title:Jesus further reveals himself by calming a great storm
Text:Mark 4:35-41 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Revelation of the Gospel

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Hymn 3
Hymn 7:9
Psalm 124
Psalm 107:9-11
Psalm 56:1,5 (after offertory)
Psalm 93

Reading: Isaiah 43:1-13
Text: Mark 4:35-41

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

Beloved congregation of Jesus Christ,

In 1975, a freighter set sail from Superior, Wisconsin across Lake Superior, the greatest of the Great Lakes.  Its destination was Detroit, Michigan.  Not far into its journey, the freighter filled with iron ore encountered a vicious fall storm.  The ship tried to make her way into the safety of Whitefish Bay, but before she could make it, she capsized and went down to the bottom, taking the entire crew of 29 with her.  Some of you remember this story because it was immortalized in Gordon Lightfoot’s song, The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.  At one point in the song, Lightfoot poignantly asks, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”

It’s a sentiment desperate mariners everywhere and in every age can relate to.  It’s a sentiment that the disciples in our passage could definitely relate to.  There they were out in the middle of a storm and where was God?  Certainly not sleeping in the stern of their boat -- or so they thought.  They were panicked, desperate men.  Maybe you can also relate to how they felt.  “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”  In the context of that sort of confused desperation, our Lord Jesus reveals himself further by calming a great storm.  That’s our theme as I preach to you God’s Word from Mark 4:35-41:  “Jesus further reveals himself by calming a great storm.”   

It had been a long day of preaching and teaching for the Lord Jesus.  Most of the day had been spent out in the boat teaching the crowds on the shore.  However, now the sun was setting and it was time to move on.  So, the Lord Jesus spoke to his disciples and told them to pull up the anchor and set sail for the other side of the Sea of Galilee.  Assuming that he was in or near Capernaum, this meant going east across the widest part of the lake to the country of the Gerasenes – people whom we’ll encounter when we get to chapter 5.

So they left most of the crowd behind and the disciples set sail with him in the boat.  Now there’s a strange expression here in verse 36.  The NIV translates this literally, as do all the other major translations.  The expression is “just as he was.”  This is simply a reference to the fact that he was already in the boat.  The boat had been his pulpit throughout the day.  Mark adds that there were other boats sailing with them as well, this would seem to indicate that at least some of the crowd was trying to follow him across the lake. 

Now before we go any further, you should know something about Galilean fishing boats of Jesus’ day.  Back in 1986, an ancient Galilean fishing boat was unearthed from the mud along the shores of the lake.  It was dated back to the first century, around the time of Christ.  The boat was about 72 feet long and 27 feet wide.  So it was quite large.  But it was only about 4 feet deep.  I don’t know why they built them this way, but archaeologists suggest that this was probably a fairly common way of building fishing boats in Galilee at that time.

So you need to know something about fishing boats, but you also need to know something about the Sea of Galilee and its surrounding terrain.  When we lived in Fort Babine, you could be out on Babine Lake in a boat and it would be so calm, the water was like a mirror.  But in five minutes, the wind could whip up out of the surrounding hills and mountains and create a nightmare on the water.  You would not want to be out there in a small boat.  The same is true for the Sea of Galilee, in fact, it sounds like it’s even worse for these kinds of windstorms.  At the southern end of the lake is a deep, cliff-lined valley.  The wind will get funneled through there, pick up in intensity and then whisk up the lake into a frenzy.  One commentator mentions that parking lots right on the western shore have warning signs that cars can easily get swamped and carried away by the waves.  So when a storm like that starts thrashing the lake, you don’t want to be out on the water.

But that’s exactly where Jesus and his disciples were on this particular evening.  The geography produced weather which conspired with the construction of the boat to create havoc.  The wind spit out tall waves that started throwing water into the boat.  Before long, the boat began to capsize.  And since most people in those days didn’t know how to swim, it looked like the disciples were headed for the dark bottom of the lake.  It was a fisherman’s worst nightmare come true. 

Indeed, the disciples were in a panic.  And remember:  some of these men were experienced mariners.  But ironically, the carpenter was sleeping soundly.  Mark tells us that the Lord Jesus was asleep in the stern on a cushion.  There he was in the back of the boat, at a higher point in the boat, in a bit of a sheltered location, fast asleep.  Loved ones, don’t miss this detail here.  The Lord Jesus became tired and fell asleep.  What does that tell us about him?  Well, it tells us that he was truly human.  He didn’t merely appear to be human, he actually did have a human nature like us.  He became tired and needed sleep.  In fact, he could become so tired and sleep so soundly that not even a vicious windstorm on a lake could wake him up. 

Jesus Christ our Saviour is revealed here as being true man and that’s good news for us.  Let me explain how.  First of all, his human nature qualifies him to be the mediator of the covenant of grace.  Being a perfect true man, he is the one who can go between God and us.  On the basis of what he has done, his perfect life and all his suffering and death, he can and does reconcile sinners to the Father.  Your Saviour is a true man – without this essential fact, we would be still lost in darkness. 

Second, his human nature is also good news because we have a high priest who is able to sympathize with our weaknesses.  You say you’re tired, you’re worn out.  He knows what it’s like to be tired – look at our text and see your Saviour sleeping.  He’s been tired.  He’s been worn out.  He knows.  The good news goes further because today he is not sleeping, he is not tired, he is not worn out.  He has a glorified human body and he stands ready to intercede for you before the throne of grace.  He never tires of doing good for you.  As God tells us in Hebrews 4:16, “Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.”  When you’re tired and worn out, go in prayer to the throne of grace to receive mercy and help in your time of need – at the throne of grace you’ll find a Saviour who has been in your shoes. 

So there lay our Saviour soundly sleeping.  His disciples were in a state of panic and woke him from his deep sleep with a frightened question:   “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”  These are the same disciples who will later fall asleep on Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane during his hour of terror.  He asks them to watch and pray with him, but they don’t.  Here the Lord is sleeping and the disciples are facing their hour of terror.  They go to Jesus with panic in their voices asking him what’s wrong with him.  The fact that they woke him up shows that they suspect he may be able to do something about their plight.  But their words also emphatically betray a sense that it’s quite likely Jesus doesn’t really care about them.  They’re not words of faith, but of fearful panic and desperation. 

Without saying a word to his disciples, the Lord Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and  spoke to the waves.  In Greek, it’s just two brisk,words:  “Siopa, pephimoso!”  These are harsh, very direct words.  If we translate what he says literally, “Be silent!  Shut up!”  He talks to the wind as if it were an animate being and he addresses the lake as if it were a heckler getting out of hand.  And, miraculously, the wind and the waves listened.  Immediately, the wind abated and there was a great calm over the lake.

The Lord Jesus spoke as one who had authority over the wind and the sea.  He spoke as God and when he spoke, the elements of creation obeyed.  There is a hint that Christ is God here already with Mark’s word choice.  He says that Jesus rebuked the wind.  Elsewhere in the Bible, this word is usually reserved for something that God does.  One example is Jude 9, where the archangel Michael is said to have disputed with Satan over the body of Moses.  Instead of bringing a slanderous accusation, Michael says, “The Lord rebuke you!”  He recognizes that this kind of rebuking is something that God does.  Here too, the Lord Jesus reveals his divine power and prerogative by exercising the right to rebuke the wind and the waves. 

But there’s more in the Old Testament background.  In Genesis 1, God had control over the waters at creation.  In the Exodus from Egypt, God directed the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan River.  In Isaiah 43, God promises to protect his people through the waters – he can make that promise because he is in control of the waters.  More to the point, in Psalm 107, God is the one who stills the storm to a whisper.  God is the one who hushes the waves of the sea.  We’re going to sing that Psalm in response to the sermon.  We’re also going to sing Psalm 93 as our last song.  There God is the one who has power and might over the thunder of the great waters.  He is the one mightier than the breakers of the sea.  When you take all this Old Testament background into account, a man who speaks to the waters and they listen, such a man must confuse the living daylights out of any respectable Jew.  This is something that only God can do.  One moment this man is sleeping and the next minute he is acting as Almighty God. 

But before the disciples can express their befuddlement at this, the Lord Jesus also turns and rebukes his disciples.  In their panic the disciples had asked him a question and now Jesus turns to them with a measured question of his own.  No matter how you interpret them, Jesus’ words here are cutting, they have a sharp edge of rebuke and admonishment.  You might think that he would pat them on the back for coming to him in the middle of the storm:  “Good disciples, I see I’ve trained you well.  You know where to turn when there are storms.”  But he doesn’t say that and he doesn’t even say anything remotely close to that.  Instead, he hauls them over the coals with his question.

“Why are you so afraid?  Do you still have no faith?”  In other words, “What’s up with your cowardice?  When are you going to get some real faith?”  This is not the Jesus people want to hear about.  This is the Jesus who reprimands his disciples with harsh words that echo his harsh rebuke of the wind and waves.  But whether you like it or not, this is how Jesus is revealed to us in this text. 

We should go further and ask how the Lord Jesus reached this conclusion.  It must have been their question, or more accurately, the assumptions that were behind their question.  The assumption was that they were about to die.  The assumption was that the situation was entirely out of control.  In their panic, they woke up Jesus.  They didn’t even ask him to save them, they just asked why it appeared that he didn’t care about the fact that they were all about to die.  Their false assumptions were what earned his rebuke. 

You know where this is leading for us, don’t you?  This text exposes the false assumptions that all believers (including you and I) often make when faced with storms of all sorts, not just the physical storms when you’re in a boat with the wind blowing and the waves crashing in.  Sometimes we actively assume the worst.  We assume that things are out of control.  We often assume that God is distant and uninvolved with what we’re going through.  Or perhaps we don’t even think about how God fits into our situation.  We have all kinds of stress and difficult situations and perhaps it doesn’t even occur to us that God is there.  We don’t think that God is relevant to the situation.  Loved ones, these false assumptions deserve the rebuke of the Lord Jesus:  what’s going on with your cowardice and timidity?  Do you still have no faith? 

And when we hear that rebuke, as we hear it addressed to us this afternoon, what should be our response?  You might try, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!  Help me to grow out of those wrong assumptions and into the right ones.”

So, how does this text help us to grow out of the wrong assumptions and into the right ones?  Or as Paul puts it in Ephesians and Colossians, to put off the old, and put on the new?  It all comes together with the revelation of who Jesus is here and the call for us to believe in him as he has been revealed.  Look to Jesus and fix your eyes on him in faith. 

That’s where the last verse of our text wants to take us.  Mark tells us that the disciples were filled with a great fear, they were terrified.  Now we don’t exactly know what this fear is, whether it’s the fear of God or something different.  I suspect that it’s the fear that someone feels when they’ve been exposed for who they really are by someone they really admire.  The younger brothers and sisters can imagine if they had a teacher that they really looked up to, a teacher who seemed to enjoy having them in the class.  They got along really well with this teacher.  And then one day the teacher really tears a strip off you and you know that you had it coming to you.  It’s not a pleasant feeling.  I think that’s the kind of fear that Mark is talking about here, but it’s not something that I’m going to be insistent upon.  Perhaps it is the fear of God, maybe it’s both. 

Regardless, what follows next is a state of befuddlement and the disciples asking each other, “Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him!”  The identity of Jesus Christ is a key concern of the Gospel According to Mark.  It’s why Mark starts the way he does with his title telling us that it is the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.  And as we keep going through Mark, we’ll see this identity question coming up again.  “Who is this?  Even the wind and the waves obey him!” 

He sleeps in the boat, but he commands the wind and the waves.  He is man, but he is more.  He is also God the Son through whom all things were made.  He is God the Son who is in control over every element of the universe.  He is God the Son who speaks and the wind and the waves listen.  Loved ones, this is your Saviour. 

A few moments ago, I mentioned the good news in knowing and believing that the Lord Jesus is true man.  Now here he is revealed as true God and there we find good news for us as well, also good news for those who are facing trials and difficulties, storms of whatever sort. 

First off, I mentioned that his humanity qualified him as the mediator of the covenant of grace.  His divinity is also a qualification for that role.  He would never have been able to bear the wrath of God against our sins if he had not possessed a true divine nature.  As our mediator, he can point to his perfect, once-for-all sacrifice on the cross, by which he bore the penalty which we all deserved.

Second and more directly connected to our text, your Saviour is with you in his Holy Spirit.  God is never distant or removed from your life.  As you experience trials and difficulties, you must believe that God often moves in mysterious ways.  Sometimes we don’t feel or experience his presence, but he is there and he does care.  Someone once compared it to the sun hiding behind the clouds.  You can’t see the sun and you can’t feel its warmth.  But it’s still there.  So is God in the midst of your trials and difficulties.  Building on that, we have to understand the nature of Christ’s deliverance.  Listen carefully:  the Lord Jesus does not deliver us from storms, but through storms.  Through the storm, the Lord Jesus delivered his disciples from false assumptions, helping them to grow into the right ones.  He will continue to work the same way in our lives.  Through the storms, he will deliver us from false assumptions and grow us in faith and fruit.   

Finally, the Lord Jesus is revealed here not only as God who is there, but also as the God who has power.  He has power over the winds and the waves, but there’s much more to his power than that.  When you look to Christ in faith and fix your eyes on him, he has power to transform your life.  He has power to give you more and more victory over the power of sin in your life.  Loved ones, look to Christ your Saviour in faith and what will result will be more faith and trust, and the fruits of faith will follow. 

Gordon Lightfoot asked, “Does anyone know where the love of God goes when the waves turn the minutes to hours?”  Yes, Mr. Lightfoot, we have the answer in Scripture.  The love of God is where it always is – in Jesus Christ and on us as we are in him.  When the waves turn the minutes to hours, we will steadfastly look to Christ and he will deliver us in the ways that really matter.

Let us pray:

Father in heaven,

We thank you for the revelation of Jesus Christ in our text.  Thank you for a Saviour who is both true man and true God.  We praise you that we have a Saviour qualified to be the mediator of the covenant of grace.  We worship you for a Saviour who understands our weakness.  We praise you for the Lord Jesus, our true God with power to transform our lives.  Father, we also hear his rebuke of our false assumptions.  We repent and we cry out to you, Lord, help our unbelief.  As we look to Christ our Saviour, transform us and help us to put off the false assumptions and take on the true ones more and more.  Lord, apart from you, we are nothing and our works are nothing.  We need you every minute and every hour.  Help us to continue fixing our eyes on Christ alone and on the gospel.  We pray in his name, AMEN.                         

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

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