35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." 36Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
38Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.
The disciples woke him and said to him, "Teacher, don't you care if we drown?"
39He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" 41They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
The other Jesus is much easier to understand than this Jesus. I can put my mind around a human Jesus. A sweet “let the little children come to me” Jesus. A Sermon on the Mount Jesus. A rabbi Jesus with good sermons makes sense. But this Jesus does not. I guess I’m a lot like the disciples. Not all miracles are the same. Maybe up to this point Peter and the gang thought Jesus was doing magic tricks. Miracles for sure - it’s not like I’m trying to say curing leprosy in Mark 1 or healing a paralytic in Mark 2 aren’t worth noting – they are miracles for sure. But we can envision a doctor doing the same types of things. Jesus helps people and preaches good sermons. So maybe in the back of a disciple’s mind you can view those events like a neat magic trick. But this storm thing is something else.
But how do you get your mind around this? Verse 41 says it well, “Who is this? Who is this? Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” The key word in the text is “even”. Even the wind, even the waves. This Messiah is too much. His power is terrifying. It is easier to keep the image of God in the back of the temple, back in the Holy of Holies, veiled. It’s easier to offer sacrifices. It’s easier to be ceremonial. But not “God standing right in front of me”. Now he’s in the boat with us. Now he’s telling all of creation what to do, and it listens. It’s one thing to preach to a thousand people, even I’ve done that, but it’s quite another to preach to the sea and have it obey.
In many ways the lectionary serves us well this week. The passages from Job, Psalms, and II Corinthians do a good job of setting the context of Jesus’ miracle. In Job 38:1-11, we are invited into an interesting place. For 35 chapters God stays quiet. He doesn’t defend himself. Job’s suffering includes disease, pain, even the loss of his children. His own wife is begging him to blaspheme God so that he can just die and get this over with. His friends are trying to figure it out too. Perhaps Job sinned in a big way. Perhaps God has abandoned them. Nobody seems to understand the suffering going on in life and so they just point the finger at Job, at circumstances, at God himself. Just like in Mark 4, the question is “Don’t you care that if we drown, if we die”? Does God care? Does Jesus care? This is quite an emotional and physical storm wrecking Job’s faith and life.
God takes all this finger pointing from Job and his friends for 35 chapters and waits till the end to finally speak. Job 38 – “Who are you to finger point at me without full knowledge? Where were you when I measured out the whole earth, the seas, all creation with a heavenly ruler?” I’ve been building a deck in my back yard, measuring it out with a tape measure with a CD player playing in the background. Look at verse 7 – God had “the stars and angels singing in the background”. Perhaps they were singing a little country music while God was hammering away at creation.
Verse 8 – “Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb?” That’s the point. For God in Genesis and in Job, the sea is his child. He created it and he tells it what to do. Jesus’ power of the sea and waves in Mark 4 are a statement about who he is. The disciples want to know who Jesus is in verse 41, but isn’t it obvious? He’s the same one who measured out all creation and birthed the sea. Of course the sea listens to him because it’s his baby. God finishes the book of Job by letting him know that he does care just like Jesus cares for his disciples. He heals him, he rebuilds his life, and he even gives him new children. Sin, death, and Satan himself brought a terrible storm into Job’s life. Profound suffering. But the second half of Job’s life was twice as good as the first (Job 42:12). Wealth beyond belief. 7 new sons. 3 new daughters more beautiful than any others. And Job lived another 140 years spending his life with his children and their children to the 4 th generation. Does God care? Of course he cares. Job testifies that the grace and love of God are so big that the swallow up his suffering. They swallow up the sin, death, and Satanic curse that tried to ruin him. God cares.
In Psalm 107 we see another picture of God and the sea. His people were crying out, looking for help, and in verse 29 God is able again to calm the seas and deliver his people. And finally in 2 Corinthians 6:2, Paul writes, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you. I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor, now is the day of salvation.” Perhaps the disciples didn’t really understand what this was all about. The day of salvation is here! And it’s here with us today! The Messiah has come to rescue, to redeem, to forgive! Salvation is here. Jesus is in control.
Like in Job, the easy thing to do is point the finger at God and ask “don’t you care?” But all we have to do is look at the reason for being in the boat. Look at what’s on the other side of the water in Mark 5. The were heading to the region of the Gerasenes to meet a man so demon-possessed that he tore chains with his bare hands and was living in a cemetery. His suffering, his possession was so profound that hundreds, thousands of demons were living inside of him. That storm at the sea was an indicator of the type of battle they were about to enter. This is a spiritual battle ground. There’s nothing easy about doing battle with the powers of evil. Perhaps Satan was trying one last time to prevent Jesus from rescuing a slave. Perhaps the biggest problem was that the disciples didn’t understand the forces at work. Sin and death have found a way to ruin life. They take people from families and destroy. They rip Adam from Eve and make them shameful. They turn Cain against Abel. They create golden calves of false worship, they create poverty and injustice and prejudice, they create diseases like leprosy and cancer. The suffering of humanity is hard to understand. We try to describe divorce as an irreconcilable difference when the truth is it’s a destruction of love, trust, and family. It always causes suffering and hurt. We try to talk about money as a means to an end when the love of it always turns us to greed and away from helping the widow and orphan.
Jesus cares about his disciples but he’s not about to sail away from the storm. He wants to sail directly into it and to rescue mankind from sin, death, and the Devil. That’s our calling as his followers. It’s ugly to get knee deep in the sins of this world. It’s messy helping sinners. Walking through abuse, cancer, and divorce with people is hard. But it’s the calling of every pastor and it’s the commission to every Christian. We are called to bring the forgiveness and redemptive work of the cross to every person on earth. To love them, to remind them of God’s forgiveness, and to help restore them into Christian community. The day of salvation is here.
Maybe it seems insensitive for Jesus to take a nap. Maybe it seems harsh for him to ask why they were afraid and why they had such little faith. But he’s trying to get them to grasp something greater than this life. He’s trying to help them see the Kingdom of Heaven entering into our world and crushing the head of evil. Let’s be honest, we will feel like Job sometimes. We will be afraid in the boat like the disciples. We will lose those we love and we will even watch despair ruin people. But Jesus says there’s a difference with us. The difference with us is that when we experience it we will fight to rid our world of that. The idea that someone is too ugly, too broken, too lost to go on. Jesus calls us to expose that as a lie. When we are touched by Christ he gives us the energy to fight for life.
Tell people they are beautiful even if they don’t feel it and that Jesus Christ paid for their brokenness. Throw yourselves in love and embrace on those whose hearts are hurting so much that they’re not sure they can live because their child is not living. Surely Jesus’ mother did not want to see him die. Why was he willing to die for the sins of the world? But if Mary had thought about the family business, and growing old with her son she would have missed the point. Jesus chose the cross because he loved people. He chose to go directly into the storm.
What more does God need to say to us? He has an answer for sin. Look at baptism, look at faith, look at his power. Mark 4:39 - Jesus got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Completely calm. Jesus’ love is bigger than the storm. Quiet, be still, and know that I am God. God is with us, he has come to the rescue. What more does God need to say?
Father, speak and let us listen. You who measured out all creation, even the sea, even me. You speak your peace into this place, into our lives. Help us follow you into the storm. Help us bring your Spirit of Truth into places where people need your rescue. We pray this as redeemed people of the cross, and in the name of Christ the crucified, Amen.
The Rev. Jim Mueller, Pastor
Austin City Church