Scripture: Mark 4:35-41
Peace is typically defined as an absence of conflict. But I think there is even more to it. Having true internal peace means we are not afraid right now and we have a strong belief that things will be OK going forward too.
Fear can stop people in their tracks. It can keep you from getting out of bed. It can keep you from walking out the door. It can keep you from speaking to someone. It can really be debilitating and keep people from moving forward in life – keeping them from doing things they want to do or even need to do.
Are you afraid this morning? Coming to church can be a fearful thing for many people. Fear about not doing or saying the right things. Fear about being judged. I’m really glad you had the courage to come out and worship with us.
British mathematician, philosopher and famous atheist, Bertrand Russell had this to say about fear and faith. “Religion is based mainly on fear … fear of the mysterious, fear of defeat, fear of death. Fear is the basis of the whole thing.… Science can help us to get over this craven fear in which mankind has lived so long.”
Bertrand Russell in Why I Am Not a Christian and Other Essays on Religion and Related Subjects
What do you think about that statement?
I totally agree with Russell on the first part about religion being based on fear. All of the world religions leave people in fear of death with no certainty only a hope that they are good enough.
Religion is man’s attempt to bind himself to God – to figure out what God or the gods want from me and then try to do that.
But Christianity is not a religion – that’s what makes it different from every other faith. It’s God reaching out to people and inviting them to a relationship with Himself through His Son Jesus Christ. And it is all based on what Jesus did for me – dying on the cross for my sins. It is all about God’s mercy and grace offered through salvation. It is not about me trying to be good enough to earn God’s favor. Sadly, Russell did not know the God who created him and loved him.
I definitely don’t agree with his last statement. “Science can help us get over fear.” Yes, observable science can help us predict what will happen the next time. But it really hasn’t helped people with the fear of COVID when scientist didn’t know what would happen next. Many people still haven’t returned to work, to church, to visit family, to go back to school, because they are still afraid. They are afraid of getting sick and they are afraid of dying. And they are afraid of what happens after they die. Science does not have all the answers. It does, however, have lots of unanswered questions.
Only the God who created us can provide peace and overcome our fears in the midst of uncertainty.
We are continuing our sermon series from the Gospel of Mark titled The Crown & The Cross.
Jesus is presented as a man of decisive action with a clear message and mission, and the reader is called to actively response to the message.
Mark divides Jesus’ life into two parts: his identity as Messiah and King over all things in chapters 1-8a (the crown) and then we see His purpose in suffering and dying on the cross in chapters 8b-16.
Jesus drew people into the parables, imagining themselves in the story and compelling his listeners to respond to the events of the story by making a judgment about the characters and in doing that they realize that they must make a similar judgment in their own lives.
This morning the disciples are asked why they were so afraid in a storm and then why don’t you have faith? Mark leaves those questions hanging for us. Are you still afraid? Who do you believe Jesus is? Where is your faith? Do you trust Jesus Christ to save you?
Let’s Go! (vv. 35-36)
- v. 35 So this was a really long day! Jesus dealt with the scribes accusing him of being possessed by Satan. The crowds were so big, that Jesus had to get into a boat and preach from there. He shared a number of parables about sharing the Gospel, the Good News about God’s Kingdom and then explained about how just a tiny seed could grow into a tree big enough for shade and to house birds. Now it’s evening or what we would call late afternoon and Jesus said “Let’s go across to the other side.”
- v. 36 Leaving the crowd they left “just as he was.” Jesus didn’t go back to shore to prepare anything. There was a sense of urgency. Jesus said “Let’s Go” and the disciples immediately responded by setting sail for the other side of the Sea (approximately 5 miles). Several other boats followed them out into the deeper waters of the Sea of Galilee. So far, the disciples are doing great. They obeyed without question or needing to know where they were going or why.
Galilean Fishing Boat (First Century AD)
This was not a little two-person row boat or a even a bass tracker. It was probably a 27’ fishing boat with a mast and two sets of oars. It had room for fifteen people on board.
Back in 1986, the hull of a fishing boat was recovered from the mud on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, about five miles south of Capernaum – where Jesus and many of his disciples lived. The boat—26½ feet long, 7½ feet wide, and 4½ feet high—corresponds in design to a first-century mosaic of a Galilean boat preserved in Migdal only a mile from where the boat was discovered. This matched the descriptions from the Bible and helped people understand the types of boats used in Jesus day.
So we have historical evidence that Jesus and the disciples would all fit together in one boat. You can trust God’s Word to be true and accurate.
- v. 38 But Jesus was in the stern asleep on a cushion.
Q: What part of the boat is the stern? A: The back.
A number of Bible scholars have compared the sleeping of Jesus on the stormy waters to the prophet Jonah. Like Jesus, sleeping on the boat, Jonah was sleeping below deck while a huge storm raged outside.
The ship’s crew asked Jonah to pray to his God for deliverance. The men on Jonah’s boat were saved from the storm only when Jonah was thrown overboard. God calmed the seas and then provided a way for Jonah to be saved from the sea – God planned for Jonah to be swallowed up by a great fish for three days before being spit up on the shore.
But Jesus was able to control the storm himself without calling on anyone else for help. He simply commanded the storm to stop and it did.
Jesus provided ultimate salvation by sacrificing Himself.
Jesus’ sleeping through the storm shows His complete confidence in God the Father.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety. Psalm 4:8
It is also one of many indications in Mark of his humanity. He was tired after this really long day of ministry and he needed to rest. We see his complete weakness and exhaustion. This is in fact one of the few times the Gospels mention Jesus sleeping so we know it is purposeful. Because when he is woken by the disciples he displays omnipotent power. Here is God incarnate. Fully human and fully God.
Don’t You Care? (vv. 37-38)
A great wind storm rose up and the waves were breaking into the boat. The Sea of Galilee is set in a bowl with high hills all around it. The colder air of the mountains surrounding it clash with the warmer air rising from the lake and that produces violent weather. The people who live there today explain that it is subject to sudden storms with high winds and waves. An open fishing boat with low sides could easily be swamped and in danger of sinking. Many of the disciples were experienced fishermen. They knew when they were in trouble. They feared for their lives.
The disciples woke Jesus up and said “Teacher, don’t you care that we are going to die?”
Each of the synoptic Gospels records Jesus words slightly differently.
Matthew softens the reproach to a prayer – Matthew 8:25 says “Save us Lord we are perishing.”
Luke 8:24 to a plea for help.
The rudeness of Mark’s wording reflects the way frustrated and desperate people speak and is probably a verbatim reminiscence of the disciples’ response in the crisis. Remember Mark wrote this Gospel from Peter’s first-hand knowledge. Peter was there in the boat and he remembered how terrified they were. It is probably the most honest.
Have you ever asked God if He cares? The Psalms are filled with cries of Why is this happening God? Don’t You care? Please God remember me and rescue me. Peter learned this lesson well in that boat. He encourages us in 1 Peter 5:7 to cast all our cares on Jesus, because He cares for you.
Peace! Be Still! (v. 39)
Humanity has long recognized its inability to control the forces of nature and the elements. Even today, when a powerful storm happens it is referred to as an act of God.
Cornell Law School’s definition of Act of God:
“At common law, an overwhelming event caused exclusively by natural forces whose effects could not possibly be prevented (e.g., flood, earthquake, tornado).”
Jesus simply speaks to the storm like he is correcting a misbehaving child. Winds stop and be at peace. Waves – be still. When a storm stops the wind and rain will die down, but the waves often continue for quite some time.
Deep Sea fishing story in NJ
The waves immediately stopped and the sea was like glass. This could only be the creator controlling his creation.
Storms of problems come into our lives and just like the weather we have no control.
But because of God’s Word and the life of Jesus we can face the storms differently.
What do we know about these storms?
God is with us through the storm. Jesus was in the boat with the disciples. He felt the winds they felt; He saw the waves crashing into the boat. He knew they were facing and what they were afraid of.
Jesus cares about our problems. He knows exactly what you are dealing with and he understands your weakness and struggles.
God uses them to test our faith and help us grow spiritually.
Without them our faith would remain small and weak.
After going through them our faith grows. We trust God more as we see His power, mercy, and purpose through our trials. We are prepared for the next storm and we are not afraid.
Why are you so afraid? (v. 40)
After rebuking the storm, Jesus now turns to His disciples to rebuke or challenge them about their fear and panic.
Where is your faith? what are you trusting in?
Your boating skills? Can you control the wind and the waves? I can!
Imagine you fell down a steep river bank and were sliding faster towards a deep drop into raging waters. If you saw a branch sticking out would you grab it? Do you have to know how strong it is? No. You just need to reach out and hold on for dear life. It’s not the quality of your faith, but the object of your faith. Jesus is able to save you. You just need enough faith to reach out to Him and accept his strong arm of salvation. Our faith may be small, but we can ask for more and God will give it to us. He will also give us opportunities to see it grow stronger and stronger.
Are you facing a terrible storm right now? How does God want you to respond? If you trust Him you will grow and be more prepared to help others or to face something bigger down the road. God will never leave you alone in the midst of your storms.
Who is this? (v. 41)
The disciples are now more afraid than they were of the storm. Yes, the winds and waves could capsize or sink the boat. Yes, they could even lose their lives. But they were realizing that this teacher they have been following is really God. They are sitting in a boat with the Holy One. The Almighty God.
And they are fearful for their very souls. Who can see God and live? Remember Isaiah’s response to being in God’s presence? I am unclean and You are Holy, Holy, Holy.
You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them. Psalm 89:9 (ESV)
Only God can control the seas. Only God can control the weather.
Mark wants the reader to clearly see that Jesus is God. The Messiah. Wearer of the Crown. King of Kings.
The purpose of the storm is for the disciples to witness Jesus’ power of nature and see that He is God. It is for their benefit.
The question before the disciples and Mark’s readers is this: Will their fear lead them also to “put their trust in him”?
We question God’s plan and care for us
We have fear instead of having faith
Storms or trials in our lives are for our benefit. They help us see God’s power and control. They help build our faith.
If you are in the middle of a storm – are you turning to Jesus or abandoning ship?
Reassures believers that Jesus is always with you.
Jesus Brings Peace in the midst of life’s storms.
You can trust Him
God is in complete control and never leaves you, so instead of fear we can have faith and trust Him. He is our peace.
Peace with God comes only with a relationship with God through faith in Jesus Christ, His Son.