Blog / Book of the Month / “With Jesus in the Boat” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Season Of Pentecost Sunday Sermon June 23, 2024 – Mark 4:35–4

“With Jesus in the Boat” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Season Of Pentecost Sunday Sermon June 23, 2024 – Mark 4:35–4

“With Jesus in the Boat” Mount Olive Lutheran Church Season Of Pentecost Sunday Sermon June 23, 2024 – Mark 4:35–4

Mount Olive Lutheran Church / Pr. Ted A. Giese / Sunday June 23 2024: Season of Pentecost / Mark 4:35–4 “With Jesus in the Boat”

On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took Him with them in the boat, just as He was. And other boats were with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” And He awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”

Let us pray: May the words of my mouth and the meditations of all our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord. Amen. 

Grace peace and mercy to you from God our Father and from our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Good Christian Friends. There is a great desire in the hearts of men and women and children of all ages to be in control. There is wisdom in realising and accepting that we are not in control of all things. Yes God does give us certain things in life where we have the responsibility to exercise control but it’s not often in the areas we most what to have that control. Take for example a BBQ; let’s say you are planning to have one. You have control over what the menu might be, whether you’ll have hotdogs or hamburgers or both, what beverages you’ll enjoy and who you’ll invite but you don’t have control over the weather. Of course you have some advantages in your planning, an outdoor BBQ in February in Saskatchewan will certainly have less chance of good BBQ weather than one planned in July but pick the May long weekend and it could snow on your big day. God the Father gives you your reason and from that you can narrow down when a BBQ might best be enjoyed but then there is the unexpected and things that are outside of your control.    

The expectations of the disciples for a smooth boat ride across the Sea of Galilee were challenged when a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was filling with water and they feared that they would perish. It was a bad storm; they had no control over it, if you have been in a boat when an unexpected storm rolled in across the water you know a little bit about what they might have been feeling, especially if it was severe and you became afraid for your life.

It had been a long day and they were exhausted. Jesus too was exhausted so much so that He was asleep in the back of the boat. His head resting on the cushion. When Mark says that “they took Jesus with them in the boat, just as He was,” it means they took Jesus with them exhausted and tiered from a long day of preaching and teaching, of telling parables and healing the sick and casting out demons. That cushion in the back of the boat, in the stern of the boat, just so happened to be the one spot where the disciples who were awake and frightened for their lives could exert some kind of control in the face of the windstorm threatening to sink the boat. If eleven of them bailed out the water one of them could sit on that cushion and grab the rudder and rigging and steady the boat ... but not with Jesus’ head laid their on the cushion. Jesus would have to wake up and get out of the way so one of the fishermen among the disciples could get control of the boat and save their lives. Or at least that’s how they imagined they would be saved out of their trouble. They did not have it in their mind that they could personally demand the waves to cease by commanding them with words, they could not fathom that they could control the wind or the waves by their own power because that was the domain of God and not within their control, as much as they might have liked it to be. These men handpicked by Jesus to be His disciples would have been acquainted with the ancient book of Job and the words we heard in our Old Testament reading this morning when the LORD asks Job, 

“... who shut in the sea with doors

               when it burst out from the womb,

when I made clouds its garment

               and thick darkness its swaddling band,

        and prescribed limits for it

               and set bars and doors,

        and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther,

               and here shall your proud waves be stayed’”

And these disciples who cry out to Jesus to wake Him up pleading, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing” know that they were not the ones in control of the weather; they were certainly not the ones who prescribed limits for the weather or set limits for the waters and their waves. But maybe just maybe if one of them could get their hand on the rudder the riggings and their tuchus on that cushion at the stern of the boat they might make it out of that terrible storm alive and save Jesus and the rest of their fellow disciples from a watery grave: maybe just maybe!      

What about you? When the windstorms of life rise up and the waves were breaking into your boat filling it with water, threatening to sink it do you want to have all the control? Are you grasping for the rudder for the rigging for dear life? Do you expect help? Are you ready to push Jesus out of the way to deal with the problem yourself?[1] Are you of the ‘God helps those who help themselves’ school of thought? That last bit ‘God helps those who help themselves’ sounds like it’s from the Bible but it isn’t. It this you: is your first impulse to pray? Is your prayer “Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name, Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread ...” or is it “God, do You not care that we are perishing?” Are you jaded, is your heart full of trust in the good Lord or is it full of covetous desire for what others have, for what others have who have less trouble in their lives, who look to be sailing along with no problems in their lives? Are you paralysed by worry and anxiety, by fear and thoughts of failure and death?

Saint Mark tells us that when they set out across the Sea of Galilee before the windstorm arose against them that “other boats were with [Jesus].” We don’t hear what was going on with the other boats when the storm fell upon them. We don’t know whether or not they were able to be piloted to safety or not. They would not have had the same experience as the disciples because Jesus was not physically present in their boats as He was in their own. How tempting it may have been for them to look at the other boats steadying themselves sailing to safety, how tempting it is for us to look at how things are going for others, even when we are all going through a shared experience. How easy it is to compare our situations to theirs. Dear ones, for you it is more than enough to know that you have Jesus in your boat: to have your trust in Him.

Last week I talked about Jesus being Omnipresent, that is all present everywhere all at once. Another aspect of Jesus’ divinity is His Omniscience that is His all knowing nature. If Jesus looks to you to be asleep, in your estimation, and you imagine that like you, when you are asleep, He is unaware of what is going on, this account from the Gospel of Saint Mark should disavow you of such thoughts. It should help you give up on such ideas. Even asleep in the back of the boat Jesus is both aware of what is going on and because of His all powerful nature, His Omnipotence, He is likewise in control of the situation. This is why, after He calms the storm, Jesus says to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” ... which is to say, ‘don’t you trust that I’m in control?’

Keeping this in mind later when Jesus is out of the wooden boat swamped by the waves and is rather nailed to the wooden beams of the cross of His crucifixion He is likewise still Omniscient (all knowing), Omnipresent (all present) and Omnipotent (all powerful) yet He sets it all aside so that He would parish as a man in your place and so that you would not taste eternal death. At the cross Jesus, our Great Captain, goes down with the ship so that you will arrive safely on the shore of eternal life. He takes the waters of your sins deep into His lungs and dies the death that was yours. Jesus does this trusting the promise of eternal life and the promise of the resurrection of the dead, trusting His heavenly Father will rescue Him from death that no matter what’s inflicted upon Him, no matter what god forsaken path lay ahead of Him that He would, with certainty, be raised from the dead to new life.[2]

That day on the Sea of Galilee was not His day to die, and it was not their day to die either. When the windstorms of troubles threaten to swamp your boat with waves and sink your ship remember whose hands you are in. You are in the hands of Jesus who that day “awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And with those words the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. This Jesus is the same one who says “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your hearts be troubled, neither let them be afraid.”[3] When you have no peace don’t try and make peace for yourself, when you’re in trouble don’t look to the solutions provided by the World instead turn to Jesus and do not be surprised “that even the wind and the sea obey Him” for He is God Almighty and He has you in the Palm of His Hand.[4] 

Today in the 11am Service we will celebrate the Confirmation of Baptism of Teal McCauley and Mason Rabbetz. They will make for themselves their public confession of faith acknowledging that Jesus is God, acknowledging that God is in control of all things and that they, and we, are not God and that as such we all live within limitations. That these limitations extend beyond the weather into our daily lives and that we are in peril of drowning in our sin if we think that we can save ourselves from it; if we think that we can pilot ourselves to safety without the good LORD. In Baptism the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit was place upon them and they belong to Him and they are in His care. This is a lifelong lesson, we all must learn to resist the urge to shove Jesus off the cushion and reach for the rudder for the rigging of the boat. And dear ones when you find yourselves crying out do to God in your prayers, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” remember that He does, and He forgives you.    

Dear ones, when you are gripped by fear, when it rises against you like a demonic windstorm blowing ice cold air through your heart and slopping frosty waves into your boat remember what Saint Paul teaches us, “God gave us [as Christians] a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.” This is a reminder, no matter your age, “to fan into flame the gift of God, which was given to you in your baptism:[5] this is also a reminder for all of you who have faith in Christ Jesus, for all of you who have been baptised into His name, for all of you who have had your baptism confirmed no matter how long it has been. I’d said at the beginning of our Sermon today that God does give us certain things in life where we have the responsibility to exercise control but it’s not often in the areas we most what to have that control. The central area that He gives us responsibility to exercise control is in the area of self-control. Saint Paul put’s it like this, “Do you not know that in a race all the runners run, but only one receives the prize? So run that you may obtain it. Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable. So I do not run aimlessly;” Saint Paul says, “I do not box as one beating the air. But I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.”[6] Was Paul perfect in exercising self control? Had he been in the boat with the rest of the disciples the day of the storm we hear about in our Gospel reading might Paul have been one who wanted to wake Jesus up and get Jesus out of the way to save the day? Maybe? Saint Paul also asks in His letter to the Christians of Rome, “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?”[7] The answer is Jesus, therefore our fight to exercise self-control as Christians, our efforts to be honest about what we can and can’t control in life must be housed within our trust in Christ Jesus; remembering always that He is the one who had perfect self-control in the face of death, that He had faultless faith with no fear in His heart. Dear ones, rest in Him and do not go it alone. Amen.  

Let us pray:

Lord have mercy on us, Christ have mercy on us, Lord have mercy on us, “take our minds and think through them, take our lips and speak through them, take our hearts and set them on fire; for the sake of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, Amen.

[1] This axiom is often attributed to Ben Franklin, and is found in his “Poor Richard’s Almanac” from 1757; however it’s a bit older than Franklin and can be found earlier in Algernon Sydney’s 1698 article titled “Discourses Concerning Government.”
[2] Psalm 22:19-24
[3] John 14:27
[4] John 10:28
[5] 2 Timothy 1:6-7
[6] 1 Corinthians 9:24–27
[7] Romans 7:24

Photo Credit: Main Photo detail of waves from pixabay.