As we’ve discussed in great detail over the last few weeks, Jesus has been teaching the disciples many important lessons concerning the Word of God.
Beginning with the “Parable of the Sower,” Jesus has driven home the crucial point that your quest for truth beings with your position concerning the “Author of Truth.” If your heart is hardened towards Jesus, you will not be receptive to His Word and the truth will therefore remain concealed.
Last week Mark continued this train of thought using the “Parable of the Hidden Lamp” to illustrate that, though a person can choose to reject Jesus, no one will be able to claim ignorance concerning the light of His revelation.
The logic is simply brilliant....
1. Everyone will be forced to take a position concerning Jesus....
2. Your position concerning Jesus will determine your position concerning His Word....
3. Which will ultimately determine the amount of truth you’re exposed too.
When it’s all said and done, the direction of your life (whether you live in the light of truth or continue in the blind ignorance rot by sin and rebellion) really does boil down to one key thing.... your position concerning Jesus!
Since your position concerning Jesus means everything, Mark is going to continue his narrative by providing 3 stories that should shape your view of Christ.
Mark 4:35-41 “On the same day, when evening had come, Jesus said to them (the disciples), “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Scene of Activity
Mark is clear his story begins “when evening had come....”
Jesus has spent a long day ministering to the multitudes. Sensing it was time to push on into new areas which was normal for Jesus, He tells the disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side.” He’s instructing the disciples to prepare a boat so they could travel across the Sea of Galilee during the night.
The Sea of Galilee is only about 7 miles wide and 14 miles long.... For a crew of experienced seamen (which many of the disciples were) this journey wouldn’t have taken more than a few hours under the right conditions.
Mark tells us “when they had left the multitude” they all loaded up and set sail, but then he provides an odd detail.... “they took Him (Jesus) along in the boat.”
I don’t think Mark includes this detail to insure we know the disciples didn’t forget to bring along Jesus. Instead I think Mark includes this to indicate the attitude of the disciples once they had set sail. Let me explain....
Though I might be taking a little liberty in how I read this story.... I personally think Jesus boarded the boat with the intention to help. His command to the disciples was “let us cross over....” it wasn’t “Take me over to the other side....”
Because Jesus was a greenhorn, instead of allowing Jesus to help by rowing or manning a sail, it seems they told Jesus to just sit back and stay out of the way. “Jesus, you’re a teacher and before that you were a carpenter.... we are professional fishermen. Please, just sit back, relax, and stay out of our way.”
It’s clear Jesus didn’t argue.... we’re told He took the opportunity for a little R.N.R. Mark tells us Jesus, “was in the stern, asleep on a pillow.” The phrase “a pillow” would be better translated “the pillow.” The idea is that Jesus is sleeping in the captain’s quarters.
So the scene is set.... Jesus is asleep and the disciples are manning the ship. As they traveled across the Sea of Galilee, Mark tells us “a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling” with water.
The Sea of Galilee was located about 600ft below sea level and surrounded almost completely by mountains (the tallest of which was Mt. Hermon).
Because the cold air coming down off the mountains would mix with the warmer air coming off the water, violent and unpredictable storms were a frequent occurrence. These low pressure zones (caused by the wind) have been known to cause swells on the Sea of Galilee up to 6ft tall.
Though it’s a safe to assume experienced fishermen like Peter, James, and John would have navigated their fair share of storms over the years, as our story unfolds it’s obvious this was not your average storm. Things had become so dire the boat was filling with water and they were in danger of sinking.
Matthew’s account of this story indicated the storm was produced by more than simply a “great windstorm.” He tells us, “and suddenly there was a great tempest.” The word “tempest” is the Greek word “seismos” (from which we get our word seismic). This word denotes a violent shaking coming from below.
Every other place in in the Bible this word is used we find it being translated as “earthquake.” (Matthew 24:7, Matthew 27:54, Matthew 28:2, Mark 13:8, Luke 21:11, Acts 16:26, etc.) The wind stirred the sea form above and the quake rattled it from beneath. This was indeed a great storm!
While all of this is happening.... Mark tells us Jesus is sound asleep, but it’s my opinion the disciples think Jesus is faking it with the intention of teaching them some greater lesson. Notice their exchange with Jesus.... Mark tells us “they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
If the disciples really believed Jesus was sleeping, the reaction would have been more like, “Jesus wake up we need your help.” Logically, Jesus wouldn’t have helped if He didn’t know what was happening (i.e. He’s asleep).
Instead their question seems to indicate the disciple believed Jesus knew what was happening, and still choose to do nothing to help out. Their accusation basically questioned why Jesus still wasn’t helping even when they assumed He knew the situation was desperate.
From my perspective their accusation only makes sense if they thought Jesus was intentionally sitting on the sidelines (even though they were sinking) just to prove a point.
I see them saying, “Teacher.... Why do you still insist on making your point even when we are perishing? If you wanted to help, now is as good a time as any?”
What happens next is awesome.... “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still! (Be muzzled, and stay muzzled!)” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.”
Let me try to help you unpack what’s happening, because I think we overlook an important detail.... Does Jesus care about the storm? No. Does He feel threatened by the storm? No. Is He fearful they’re going to sink? No. Is anything happening out of Jesus’ control? No. The storm is entirely an afterthought to Jesus.
With this in mind.... Consider how this scene unfolds....
The disciples “woke Jesus and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” I believe as Jesus is getting up for the first time He notices the wind and waves making a racket. His focus in on the disciple not the storm, but He has to deal with the storm so He can address the disciples. I see Him getting up - rebuking the storm as a matter of formality - before asking the disciples.... “why are you so fearful?”
This is funny to me, because what do you say in that moment if you’re the disciples? The the very thing they were afraid might sink them no longer even existed.... I can see Jesus looking around as He asks this question.... "why are you so fearful?" Literally.... what’s scaring you? At this moment their fear of a storm seemed rather ridiculous!
Please understand.... The storm was never the issue. The issue wasn’t even the disciples fear of the storm. (Being afraid of life-threatening situations is only a natural human reaction.) The issue, as we’ll see in a moment, was that their fear in this storm revealed their lack of faith in Jesus. He said to them.... “How is it that you have no faith?”
We’re told in response to Jesus and His actions on the boat that day.... “they feared exceedingly,” and.... were finally forced into asking the most appropriate question they could have asked, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
To begin with, it would be helpful to explain that within Scripture (as within other forms of literature) we find an interesting correlation between the natural world and the spiritual world. There are situations where “natural occurrences” present a typological picture of a “spiritual occurrence.”
There are 3 Prominent Examples of this in Scripture:
1. A “Harvest” can represent the reaping of Spiritual blessings.
2. A “Famine” can represent the withholding of Spiritual blessings, even judgment.
3. A “Storm” can represent a difficult time, or a stretching set of circumstances.
Storms are interesting, because Scripture seems to indicate not all “storms” arise for the same reasons or with the same purpose. There seems to be two types of “storms” that can occur in our lives.
There are Storms of Disobedience.... These are storms of our own making that God allows into our lives with the express purpose of correction.
They are “self-made storms” caused by sin, rebellion, or simply poor choices. It’s undeniable God allows these storms to correct us and set us back on the correct course. Though these storms are the natural manifestation of our decisions, they are avoidable!
A Biblical Example of this type of storm would be Jonah.
There are Storms of Obedience.... These are storms not of our own making that God allows into our lives with the express purpose of perfection.
These storms do not originate as a consequence or a bi-product of anything we’ve done or haven’t done. They are completely out of our control and often arise suddenly and without warning.
These storms occur naturally.... sometimes being nothing more than a result of living in a fallen world. There are occasions when these storms can be of demonic origin.
A Biblical Example of this type of storm would be Job.
Either way.... it’s undeniable God allows these storms into our lives in order to test - and stretch - and grow our faith in Him as well as our dependence upon Him. The Bible often refers to these storms of testing as “trials.”
James 1:2-4, “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience. But let patience have its perfect work, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking nothing.”
With all of this in mind.... we can reason the storm the disciples faced that night on the Sea of Galilee was a Storm of Obedience not a Storm of Disobedience.
Jesus had commanded the disciples enter the boat and set sail to the other side. They obeyed Jesus and it was in the midst of their obedience they found themselves in middle of this incredible storm.
Here’s the lesson.... as we see illustrated in this story.... storms of life don’t always occur because you did something wrong. They don’t always indicate you did something to deserve them. Just because you find yourself in a storm doesn’t automatically mean you’re being punished by God or receiving the judgment of God. Sometimes storms just happen!
I think it’s often easier to endure a Storm of Disobedience for two reasons:
1. Because it’s a storm of my own making, it’s often easier to see the storm coming, and in many ways this affords me the opportunity to prepare.
2. Because it’s a storm of my own making, it’s easier to know why it’s happening. I messed up and this storm is the inevitable consequence.
In contrast.... there are two things that make a Storm of Obedience difficult:
1. Because of the sudden nature of these storms, the storm is often on top of me before I have a chance to prepare or get my barring.
2. Because I didn’t do anything to cause the storm, I often have no idea why it’s happening. In many instances, these storms leave me asking why God would allow the storm to happen in the first place?
Though it’s a difficult pill to swallow, the why answer (though complex in the specifics) is rather simple (in the generals).... though difficult and sometimes painful, Storms of Obedience are allowed by God because they serve an important function in the life of the believer.
Storms Deepen my Faith....
Stage #1: Storms of Obedience Evaluate my Faith....
There is a detail we often overlook when examining this story.... everything began with a command of Jesus that included a promise from Jesus.
The story opens with Jesus saying to his disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Jesus had commanded them to board a boat - set sail - and across the Sea of Galilee with one express purpose.... to make it to the other side.
This story is important because this was a group of men who had witnessed the miraculous power of Jesus’ Word in the lives of others, but had not yet experienced it for themselves.
Intellectually, they knew that when Jesus gave a command the command itself carried with it the power for obedience.
In Mark 2 they had witnessed Jesus give a paralytic man an impossible command.... “Arise, take up your bed and go to your house.” As the man moved in faith to obey, the strength to obey was imparted to him. We’re told “immediately he arose” - impossible under his own strength.
But.... we aren’t given any indication the disciples had experienced the power of Jesus’ Word for themselves. This was all about to change....
Jesus gave them a command.... cross the sea! You would have thought with all of their intellectual understanding no matter what arose on their journey of obedience, they would have trusted that Jesus would not fail to see them through to the other side? But... they lost sight of this!
The disciples lapse of faith began with a lack of faith concerning God’s Word and His promises. It clear from their reaction in the midst of the storm, that their faith in Jesus and His word were rather shallow.
Stage #2: Storms of Obedience Strip Away my Self-Reliance....
Jesus had given a command, “Let us cross over to the other side.” It’s my belief Jesus was asleep, not because He wasn’t willing to help (sailing was a team effort).... He was asleep because they wouldn’t allow Him to help!
Though Jesus had given a command.... the men in that boat didn’t want His help. They wanted to obey His commands on their own strength. They wanted to engage the journey and reach the destination without His the help and involvement.
And why was this.... I believe they didn’t think they’d need it. I think they wanted to show Jesus they were capable of doing something without Him.
Most of those men grew up on that Sea. They were experienced, trained fishermen. I don’t think they didn’t want Jesus’ help for malicious reasons.... I think they simply believed they wouldn’t need His help to accomplish this task. “Jesus, you asked us to do something and we got this. Sit back and rest.”
I find further proof of this theory in this simple detail.... at what point in the storm are do the disciples finally brake down and asked for Jesus’ help?
Was it at the earlier signs that a storm was brewing? Was it at the point they realized this was unlike any storm they had ever encountered? Was it at the point they were beginning to take on water? No.
These prideful men didn’t cry out for help until they had reached the breaking point. Matthew tells us the boat was “covered with waves.” Luke’s account is a little more blunt.... we’re told they “were in jeopardy.”
Jesus allowed this storm to evaluate their faith, but I am also convinced He allowed this storm to strip these men of their pride and self-reliance!
As He does with us.... Jesus allowed the storm to break them of their self-confidence. He allowed the storm to push them to the brink of what they could handle on their own strength. Understand.... He did this, not to their detriment, but for their betterment.
Stage #3: Storms of Obedience Renew my Dependence on Jesus....
Let’s considering the manner in which these disciples approached Jesus....
Don’t forget.... these men are in a Storm of Obedience that has revealed their lack of faith and already stripped away their self-reliance.... they are at the point of desperation and complete despair when they cry out, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
Some might say their protest began when they concluded Jesus’ inaction revealed His indifference. But I believe their protest ran much deeper....
I believe the disciple were upset because (as they tried to weather this storm) they saw Jesus intentionally sitting on the sidelines. They interpreted His inaction, not as indifference, but as Jesus trying to teach them a lesson!
There are 2 interesting ironies that emerge if you consider it this way:
1. Why was Jesus on the sidelines to begin with? In our story Jesus was inactive for one reason.... the disciples had put Him there and failed to call Him into the action. They wanted to do it themselves.
2. Jesus was using the storm to teach them a lesson! Storms are designed to (1) reveal faith, (2) strip away self-reliance, and (3) renew my dependence on Jesus! He was waiting to be called into action!
Though one can question the manner in which they came to Jesus in the heat of the moment, don’t miss the bigger point.... they came to Jesus!
Think about this.... Jesus hadn’t been stirred by the howling of the wind. He hadn’t been woken by the rocking of the waves. The deafening crash of the thunder or the brilliant flash of lightning had no effect on a sleeping Jesus. What woke Jesus was one thing.... the cry of His disciples for help! And what do we see.... Jesus always responds to the cries of His disciples for help!
Stage #4: Storms of Obedience Move Jesus to Action....
Mark spent the last chapter discussing our heart towards Jesus and His Word. With this story Mark illustrates the process by which our faith in the Word roots itself deep and grows, but Mark communicates a story that practically demonstrates the power of Jesus Word.
Jesus sowed the Word into the wind and sea.... “Peace, Be Still!” and it’s clear those Words carried with them power.... “the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” But you should understand.... When you witness the same Word Jesus sows into your hearts bringing calm in the midst of a horrible storm.... the result should be a deepening ones faith!
Storms of Obedience: Evaluate my Faith, they Strip Away my Self-Reliance, Renewing my Dependence on Jesus.... and when I see Jesus Moved to Action and I witness the power of His Word in my moment of need.... my seed of Faith Grows!
Let me exhort you not to misappropriate a lesson from this story.... Just because Jesus spoke and the storm ceased in this particular story, doesn’t mean Jesus intends to work in the same way when it comes to your storm. He may or may not work in this way!
The appropriate lesson you can learn concerning Storms of Obedience is this....
- Jesus has a purpose in allowing storms.... Growing my Faith.
- Jesus doesn’t leave you to face storms alone.... He’s always with you.
- Jesus has power over the storms you face.... Rely on Him to Endure.
Jesus’ Word is always able to provide peace.... Rest with Jesus!
The Storm Forced them to asking a Relevant Question
We’re told following the events of that day.... “they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
The interesting thing about storms is that everyone faces them. It doesn’t matter if you believe in God or you don’t.... storms are on the horizon! The question you should ask is do you want to face them alone?
But also realize.... there is no bigger testimony to the power of God and His Word than a believer at peace in the midst of the storm.
The King James Version says they asked one another, “What manner of man is this?” In the story we’ll examine next week, they were about to find out....