July 16, 2000
Mark 4: 35-41
Robert W. Armao
With Pastor Dahling's vacation, today's sermon is presented by seminarian Robert W. Armao
It must have been a long, tough day. Jesus had spent the day teaching amid large crowds. So large that he had to stand in a boat offshore to be seen and heard. Now, as evening came, he said to his disciples, "Come, let us go across to the other side." So they left the crowd. They set out to cross the Sea of Galilee, Jesus and his disciples in one boat. As they got part way across, a great storm arose. The Sea of Galilee is below sea level, with mountains rising in the east. On the west, the Judean hills bend and twist, so that there are narrow corridors down which the winds could roar. The Sea, a large lake really, is subject to storms of a very violent nature still today. It had been a long, tough day, and Jesus was asleep in the stern of the boat, despite the storm. The disciples were panicked, since the waves were threatening to swamp the boat. In desperation, they woke Jesus. "Master, we're about to go under. Don't you even care?" Jesus spoke but three words" "Peace, be still." The wind immediately died down, and things became completely calm. The King James Version says "there came a great calm," and that description is even more vivid. In a storm at sea, even after the wind died, at least several minutes and maybe even a hour would pass before the waves calmed down. That's not what happened here. The picture is of a sea as smooth as glass, where no wind or wave gave disturbance.
This was not just a coincidental dying out of a storm, but a sudden and miraculous total cessation of the storm, and all its effects immediately. Jesus turned to the disciples, and asked them, "Why are you so afraid, Do you still have no faith?" Remember that question, we'll come back to it in a few moments.
If you look at verse 41 closely, it looks like the disciples were even more afraid when the storm miraculously ceased than they had been while it still raged: "They were terrified and asked each other, 'Who is this, even the wind and the waves obey him?" Perhaps even then in the back of their minds, they were remembering Psalm 89: 8-9: "O Lord God Almighty, who is like you? You are mighty, O Lord, and your faithlessness surrounds you. You rule over the surging sea; when its waves mount up, you still them." Or perhaps they thought of Psalm 93: 4: "Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea-the Lord on high is mighty." If the disciples were more afraid of the remedy than the storm, we shouldn't blame them too much. It is no small thing to be in the presence of one who exhibits the power of the most high, even if a few moments before that same one had been peacefully sleeping in their midst. The King James Version puts their question in a slightly different fashion: What manner of man is this?" That's a question all of us sooner or later must come to grips with.
But what is this to us, members of Zion, Friedheim? You might be thinking. 'You won't ever catch me in one of those small boats, and when it storms, I stay home.' That's true, except that we should remember that there are many kinds of storms, and they needn't necessarily be the storms of wind and wave. In one way, this is just one among many stories that are told in the gospels where Jesus exercises his miraculous powers. He exercised these powers as a means of demonstrating that he was truly the Son of God, the Word became flesh and was dwelling among them. We should not discount the importance of that interpretation.
When John wrote, as we saw last week, that we-himself and the other apostles-proclaim what we heard and touched, it is important to remember that John was there in the boat, he was as terrified as any of the other disciples. What he proclaimed was the power of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, over even the elements, the winds and the waves. John was an eyewitness to this and so much more, and we are linked to Jesus Christ through the generations by his testimony and that of the other disciples. Matthew was present too, and so was Peter, who told what he had witnessed to Mark as the basis for this particular gospel account. But even if you never get out in a boat in a storm, remember again that there are many types of storms one may encounter.
In John 10:10, Jesus said, "I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full." Again, the King James Version translates this as having life "more abundantly." Jesus is promising here that the sheep of his pasture, the people who love him and obey his commandments, will receive life, and receive it abundantly. We are part of the body of Christ and inheritors of that promise, only sometimes... sometimes it doesn't seem to work out that way for us. For all of us, as we travel life's journey, there are storms. Sometimes it seems almost as if storms are all that there is in life. Christians everywhere experience at least some stormy weather from time to time. In the middle of those storms, it is important to remember the words of Christ, "Peace, be still." More than that, we should remember that we serve a master who not only can say those words, but one who can actually bring a great calm, a great peace, both to the storms and to us.
I said we would come back to the question the disciples asked-'Master, we are about to drown here, don't you care?" We shouldn't be too hard on the disciples. At least they did know whom to turn to. Sometimes we just think we can handle suffering on our own. "Oh, what peace we often forfeit" goes the grand old hymn, "Oh what needless pain we bear." Why? All because we do not carry everything to God in prayer."
Even when we turn to God when stormy weather comes, we usually run, as the disciples did in panic. All we can see is the immediate situation, the storm about to send us under. We expect God to be as panicked as we are, but we find out to our surprise that he is not. The response Jesus gave the disciples is one we need to hear. "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" After all that God has done with us, after all the ways that he has blessed us, why are we still so afraid to trust in him? Let's look at what this passage shows us, not just about a storm on the Sea of Galilee, but also about all the stormy weather we will encounter in our lives. We can learn from the story something about God's presence, his power, and his saving purpose, even when the storms seem at their height.
Jesus gives us life more abundantly, first of all by his presence. The disciples had his presence with them physically in the boat. You and I can experience that same presence every time we hear the word preached or partake of the sacrament of the altar, or are privileged to see the waters of holy baptism flow over the head of a child, or recall our own baptism(s). In Hebrews 4: 16 it says, "let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we might receive mercy and find grace to help us in times of need." The way we approach the throne of grace, the way that we find mercy and help, the way
that we enter into God's presence is by the way of the man in the boat. Being in relationship with Jesus Christ does not promise you perfect health, a satisfying marriage, a successful career, or anything else along that line. Even as Christians, we are still subject to all the same adversities of the human condition which others experience. The difference is that we have someone to help us carry the load, who is willing to take our burdens, who was willing to take them as far as Calvary's cross, and lay them to rest there. Jesus says, "Come to me, all of you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you peace. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light."
When I reflect back upon my life I can see past storms that have hit against my own boat. I can see times of great distress or difficulties-sickness, family struggles, career choices, loss of loved ones, the whole nine yards. Thank God that we have someone to turn to in times of trouble. The real presence of God. There have been times when I have asked God to take the storms out of my life. Some storms perhaps like chronic illness, just seem to beat incessantly at us. As the great song, 'Amazing Grace' so beautifully says, 'Tis grace that brought us safe thus far, and grace will lead us home.' God's grace, God's guidance, God's love, and God's sending of his son Jesus to die and rise for all of us, gives us the mercy that we all so desperately need to cling to.
Sin and guilt have a way of ridding us of the freedom we just spoke of, and we find ourselves back in despair, back in the boat, tossed by the storms of life. God reconciled each of us through his son, we were once enemies of God, but we have been made right through his son. But still the storm rage on. Jesus took those storms and put them to rest at Calvary, his death and glorious resurrection frees us from the sting of death, as Paul would write about. Thanks be to God for his saving purpose in our lives, we can face even the greatest of life's sufferings with confidence that we are in an eternal relationship with Jesus Christ.
"I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us." Those great words from Romans 8: 18 still speak to us today of the saving power of the cross. Yes, we are in a world where stormy weather seems to be a constant, but we do have the promise of the one called Faithful and True that he is preparing a place for us, a place where there will be no more suffering and death, no more pain and sorrow. Ultimately, we are citizens of the kingdom of God, and that's a glorious state to be in.
We're headed home, but it gets even better. Not only are we headed home, but also we know that the real presence of Jesus Christ will be there to aid us through every step we will take, Praise God from whom all blessings flow. Jesus paid the ultimate price to weather our storms, a price that we should have paid but couldn't. His love for us was clearly seen on Calvary and is visible every time we look to the empty tomb-we are set free from our storms through Christ, our redeemer. In whose name we pray, Amen