Sermon \ June 21st, 2015 \ Mark 4:35-38 \ The One Who Cares \ Pastor Terry Defoe
35 That day, when evening came, [Jesus] said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (N.I.V.)
We can all think back to situations where we thought we knew a person quite well. We thought we could predict how they would react in a particular situation. But then something occurred where we discovered that their response was very different from what we expected. And we thought, "Well, I guess I don’t know that person as well as I thought I did!" In our text this morning, disciples who had been with Jesus for quite a while – and who thought they knew him quite well – found him acting in a way that surprised them; perhaps even shocked them. Along with countless people in our world today, they faced the question of just who this man really was – and is. Their knowledge wasn't as complete as they thought it was. Thankfully, as a result of this incident, those disciples learned more about Jesus and indeed, more about themselves. I pray that our Gracious God would bless the time we spend in His Word this day and help us understand our Lord Jesus better!
One day, early in His ministry, Jesus sat in a boat and preached to a large group gathered on the shore. It’s likely that some of those people, anxious to hear Jesus, had gotten into their boats and formed a small flotilla around the boat Jesus was in. After a while, Jesus decided to leave that place and head eastward - across the lake of Galilee. That particular trip across the Sea of Galilee is one of six mentioned in the New Testament. The disciples and Jesus, along with a few other vessels, headed east, toward the opposite shore of the lake, a distance, we are told, of about six miles. Jesus’ disciples had made this trip many times and expected nothing out of the ordinary on this particular evening. But this was to be a night none of them would ever forget.
People who live in that area tell us that the Sea of Galilee, even today, has a reputation for sudden and severe storms. Those storms can arise very quickly, without warning. Even though this is a relatively small lake, chances of a boating accident here are high. The Lake of Galilee lies between high hills which form a deep trough. This allows the wind to sweep down – with tremendous force – from the surrounding highlands and down onto the lake. We need to remember that the lake of Galilee is 700 feet below sea-level and that it attracts the cooler winds from the surrounding hills. Here on the prairies we can get an idea of the suddenness of this storm by remembering how quickly a thunderstorm can appear. At its height, we are all aware of the damage that it’s capable of handing out.
Years ago, back in Vancouver a friend of mine – his name was Tom – owned a cabin cruiser and enjoyed going out salmon fishing in the coastal waters. One day, we decided to try our luck fishing in Howe Sound, which is about 20 miles northwest of Vancouver. It was a cold, rainy day and the open waters of the Gulf of Georgia had a fair chop, but the waters of the inlet were smooth as glass and were decorated with the designs made by the falling rain. As the day progressed, Tom and I headed further and further up into the inlet – and away from the open ocean. Finally, it came time to head home. We hadn't caught a single fish. It was 6 or 7 miles back to Horseshoe Bay from where we were and another 8 miles around Point Grey to the Fraser River to where Tom’s boat was moored. As we headed back, it soon became apparent we were heading straight into a storm. Very quickly, the water became extremely rough as the wind increased. Even though Tom’s cabin cruiser was enclosed and had a powerful motor, we were very concerned for our safety – especially myself, the land-lubber. We couldn't see the shore any longer and the water splashing over the bow of the boat reduced our visibility considerably.
We realized that we couldn't make it back around to the Fraser River, so we headed for the sheltered waters of Horseshoe Bay. You have no idea how fear can grip you in a situation like that. With that experience in mind, it’s not difficult for me to imagine how Jesus’ disciples must have felt that night; being in an open boat with no compass or motor. Tom and I made it safely to Horseshoe Bay. We left his boat moored there, and we took the bus all the way into Vancouver. That was an experience I'll never forget.
Most of Jesus’ disciples were expert fishermen. They had spent countless hours on the Lake of Galilee and they knew its moods. They had been through storms on the lake before and they had lived to tell the tale. But this storm was different. Their confidence in their own ability to cope with it began to disappear. This storm stretched their sea-faring abilities to the limit. Concern gave way to fear and fear to panic. They came to the realization that – without outside help – their situation was desperate. These experienced sailors found themselves in a situation in which they needed rescue. They began to realize just how small and insignificant they were compared to the awesome forces of God's creation.
Before this, Jesus’ disciples thought they could handle almost anything. Most of us are the same and it often takes a severe testing to bring us to the realization that there are some things in this life which we just can't handle on our own. When you think about it, when we see Jesus’ disciples here and think about the way they acted, we are really looking at ourselves. The disciples' lack of faith that brought a sharp rebuke from Jesus.
Why are you so afraid,” he asked.
Do you still have no faith? (Mark 4:40, N.I.V.)
You’ll notice that only when Jesus’ disciples came to the frightening conclusion that their knowledge and ability were not sufficient in this situation, did they turn to the Lord for help. But aren’t we often like that? Isn’t it true that we often willing to try all kinds of other things before we call on the Lord? There's an old saying that, in wartime, there are "no atheists in the foxholes." It’s significant that most people, even those without faith, often cry out "God help me" in their moment of greatest need.
Our Lord Jesus bids us come to him with our problems before they become unmanageable. He wants us to think of Him first, not last. It’s interesting that Jesus always had time for little children in his ministry, even though His disciples were anxious to get on with "bigger and better things." Likewise, he has time for all of our adult problems, especially our ongoing problem with sin, if we will only bring those problems to him. Isn't it amazing that Jesus’ disciples, individuals who had spent so much time with Him, failed to ask for his help – at least not until the very last minute? The Lord wants us to depend on him; he wants us to lean on him in every time of need. He wants us to give him our problems. He wants us to give them all to him and not to cling to any of them. As His Holy Spirit works in us, through Word and Sacrament, He wants us to surrender our lives, our whole being, everything we are and have, into his gracious care.
The Holy Scriptures declare that Christ intervenes in our lives, not because we deserve that intervention, but because of his unmerited love; that very special kind of love that we Christians call GRACE. Martin Luther once said in a sermon based on our text this morning that:
“(Christ) neither receives nor seeks any reward for his help, but permits (us) to enjoy – and use – his power and resources."
Christ's offer of intervention still stands today – just as real as it was when those promises were first made. In Matthew, chapter 11, verse 28 (N.I.V.) we read:
28 “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.
There’s a saying that I heard once at a meeting in Portland Oregon. It went like this:
"Blessed is the person who expects NOTHING from the LORD,
for that person will never be disappointed!"
God’s promises are there for all of us. Promises unearned. Undeserved. By grace, delivered through the Scriptures and the Sacraments. Promises apprehended by the gracious gift of faith. Thanks be to God!
Consider these words from our text. Mark, chapter 4, verses 37 and 38:
37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.
So let me ask you, how could it be that Jesus could sleep at a time like that? If you and I were there, we would have been panic-stricken just like Jesus’ disciples were. But Jesus slept peacefully – despite the storm! Jesus trusted his heavenly Father – unconditionally. Even though the world around him was gripped in what seemed to be chaos, Jesus slept on, unconcerned. He was secure in his Father’s love. This is what perfect faith in God looks like. Jesus had worked hard that day. He was tired and He quickly fell asleep. Jesus knew, firsthand, the "peace that passes understanding," (Philippians 4:7) that peace which comes only from God.
In this morning’s sermon text from the Book of Mark, we see Jesus' human and divine natures, set side by side. His divine nature had been the very agent of this world’s creation; as John’s Gospel says, (John 1:10) "…the world was made through him." On the other hand, his human nature was subject to the same constraints we face. What do I mean by that? Just this: After a long day's work, Jesus was tired and needed rest. So it was Jesus the son of God who stood up and quieted the storm. And it was Jesus the son of man, who grew tired and slept. The same Divine Word that had created the world out of nothing, now brought order out of chaos. The disciples watched the storm subside in absolute amazement, as I'm sure we would, if we were there. They experienced awe and amazement at that display of Jesus’ power. That’s when they quickly came to the realization that they didn't know him as well as they thought they did. That day they saw an aspect of Jesus they had never seen before. They had obviously seen His miracles and signs previous to this, but they had never seen his awesome power displayed on this vast scale. If they had doubts as to the real magnitude of his power before this, those doubts were dispelled that night, in the midst of that Galilean storm.
So what do you think? What do we learn from this story? What’s important here? Why is this account recorded for us in the Gospel of Mark? Consider this: The closer we get to Jesus, the more we think we know of him, the more we realize we don’t know. What we do know, and what we can depend on, is that Jesus’ promise of assistance is just as valid for us today as it has always been. What we do know, and what we can depend on, is that he died for us on the cross. We know that he has forgiven our sins. We know that he travels with us through this life. And we know that he has prepared a place for us in heaven, and will be there to meet us when we arrive. And we know that we have a foretaste of heaven’s banquet when we attend the Lord’s supper together.
Our Lord Jesus hasn’t promised us a life free from "storms" and trouble. Christians and non-Christians alike are subject to similar problems in this life. It seems to me that tribulations in this life can do one of two things. They can weaken us, and possibly destroy us, or they can be part of a strengthening and a refining process in our lives. Tribulations can prompt us to trust the Lord more fully. In the midst of life’s storms, you and I are commanded to trust in God's care. When you think about it, faith that’s never tested is faith that doesn’t grow stronger. Without an enemy outside the gate, the night watchman is much more liable to fall asleep at his post. God's Providence allows us to be tested as Jesus’ disciples were that stormy night on the Lake of Galilee, but his GRACE will always provide a way of escape.
Many of us have a faith that’s based on calm waters and beautiful blue skies - a faith based on what we can see and sense physically. In our text this morning, Jesus is calling us to a faith based on His unchanging, gracious promises. He’s calling us to a faith that’s able to withstand all kinds of buffeting, including the ultimate test which is DEATH. We believe, teach, and confess that Jesus overcame death for us, at the cross and the empty tomb, so that our sins might be forgiven, so that we would have the promise of eternal life. In our baptism, those amazing blessings have been delivered to our address. Jesus’ unconditional trust in His Heavenly Father is a model for us in our own faith. I close with these words from the Apostle Paul, found in Philippians, chapter 4, where he says:
6 Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. 7 And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
May God grant it. In the name of Jesus. AMEN
Let’s Pray – Dear Heavenly Father – When the storms of life come our way, enable us to trust you – absolutely and unconditionally. Calm those storms for us, especially the storm caused by our sin, by Your almighty power displayed at the cross and the empty tomb. And enable us to share this hope we have with fellow travelers on the journey. In Jesus our Savior’s name we pray. Amen.