Good day, folks. I’m Jim Thomas and I’m so excited to welcome you to the Western Shore of the Sea of Galilee. And I’m just so excited to be able to open the Word a little bit together with you. I’m going to ask you to turn to Mark, chapter four. We’re going to take a look at verses 35 to 41 and they describe an event that happened right here on the Sea of Galilee. And you’ll be familiar with the story, but I want to read the text and I want to remind you as we begin to read it that Mark’s gospel is all about Jesus. He seems to be asking two questions, who is Jesus and how should we respond to Jesus? And so as we read this particular text, be thinking about that in the back of your mind and what does this passage tell us about Jesus and how we should respond to him?
It goes like this. “On that day…” What day? The day right after he finished teaching a bunch of parables …”On that day when evening had come, He, Jesus, said to them, his disciples, ‘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 when I’ve read this before, I had no idea there was a small armada of boats. I thought it was just Jesus and His boat with His disciples. But no, there were other boats, Mark’s gospel tells us. And so, that even fills the story in a little bit for me. Well, “a great windstorm arose and the waves were breaking into the boat so that the boat was already filling up.” And that can happen here on the Sea of Galilee. It’s 680 feet below sea level, and when the cold wind from Mount Hermann, which is 25 miles to the north … when that cold wind comes down and hits this warm water sitting so deep into the earth, it can create a sudden storm.
And while it looks really beautiful right now, I want you to know on that night it wasn’t like this at all, and I love that because I think that helps us understand, even maybe a living parable that we see here, because it’s the way life really is. Sometimes life is like this but sometimes it’s like what we’re going to read about right here. “The wind came up and the waves were breaking into the boat so that the boat was already filling up. But He was in the stern asleep on the cushion, and they woke Him and they said to Him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And He awoke and rebuked the wind, and He said to the sea, ‘Hush. 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?’” There’s just so much here. It’s quite a punchy little pericope, isn’t it? It’s a story that I think some of us can relate to, even though we may or may not spend much time in a boat but we may have been on an airplane and it got really turbulent. Or, we may just have storms in our life right now, or we might have storms coming up that we don’t know about. But, there are at least three things I learned right here and I want to share those with you real quick.
First, that following Jesus doesn’t mean we will always have smooth sailing. And that’s one the great things about the Christian faith, I think, that it’s honest. It’s upfront about all of that. In the Christian life, in my life and probably in your life as well, you’ve experienced this. There are
storms of correction, sometimes, and storms of perfection. Now you all know the story of Jonah in the Old Testament. You know that the Lord called him to go preach in Nineveh. He didn’t want to do it. He went the other way, and the Lord caused a storm to rise up that corrected his course
and got him back headed toward Nineveh where he preached and where there was a great repentance, and even though Jonah didn’t like those people, the Lord loved those people and wanted those people to hear the message of hope. So, he sent this reluctant prophet up there.
So, a storm of correction came into Jonah’s life to correct his course. This one that we just read about in Mark’s gospel with the disciples, I think that’s a storm of perfection. And perhaps, you’ve experienced some of those as well, where the Lord is growing us up in the faith, where we’re learning a little bit more about Him, who He is, what His character is like and his nature and what He wants from us and for us. I think that’s really important. C.S. Lewis in The Problem of Pain said
“God whispers to us in our pleasures, speaks in our conscience but shouts in our pains. And, I’ll put storms in there as well. It is His, God’s, megaphone to rouse a deaf world.”–C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
And, I can’t tell you how many times in my own life I just haven’t been listening. I’ve becoming dull to hearing from the Lord.
So, the first thing that we learn, of course, is that following Jesus doesn’t always mean we’ll have smooth sailing. The second thing we learn here is that following Jesus does mean we will always have a Savior to turn to. Imagine that night if they did not have Jesus in their boat. What would they have done and that storm came up? The armada of boats, all following along with the disciples, trying to get to the other side. Some people from one of the other boat’s doing a little morse code thing on a candle box, “Hey, wake up the Messiah. We need some help.” What was that like? How much chaos was going on? I don’t know, but I know I’ve had some chaos in my life. Probably you have, as well. And we really need a Savior, and we need Him to be in our boat with us.
In other words, we need to be in close proximity to Jesus and have Him be a part of our everyday life. The Lord took these men who were professional fishermen, who thought they knew everything there was to know about navigating the Sea of Galilee, He took them to that place that was most familiar to them, where they’ve had the most control and the most experience and He shook that place up because He wanted them to learn something. He wanted to perfect their faith. He wanted to grow them up in the faith. John Stott says it so beautifully when he says,
“Thinking people know that the problems facing us, bewildering in their number, magnitude and complexity, are beyond us. Only a return to the living God who created us, sustains us and can remake us through Christ, and a recovery of the authentic Christian faith in its biblical fullness and contemporary relevance can enable us with confidence and without fear to look forward to the year 2000 …”–John Stott
That’s when John Stott wrote this, before the year 2000.
So, I love it because it still applies now. Exactly what he just said still applies right now. I need to return to the living God. I need to return and trust Him. I need to see Him as He is. And as Mark is saying to me, asking me that question, “Who is Jesus, Jim?” He’s asking you that question, too. How should you respond to Jesus, Jim? How should you respond to Jesus is a great
question, as well. Even back in the Old Testament, we have the prophet Isaiah saying, “Do not fear, for I am with you.” You see, it’s the presence of the Lord with us that brings us peace. We want Him in our boat. We want a Savior in our boat. Isaiah said,
“Do not anxiously look about you, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, surely I will help you; surely I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.”Isaiah 41:10
And Isaiah goes on in chapter 43 to say,
“Do not fear, for I have redeemed you; I have called you by name. You are mine. When you pass through the waters, I will be with you; and through the rivers, they will not overflow you.”Isaiah 43:1-2
I love the hope and the promise of the Word the Lord spoke through Isaiah the prophet to His people.
So we already know, first of all, that following Jesus doesn’t mean we’ll always have smooth sailing but we have this great promise that following Jesus does mean we’ll always have a Savior to turn to. The third thing I take from this story is that when you have a healthy fear of God, you don’t need to have an unhealthy fear of anything else. Let me read verse 41. I want you to look at it again yourself. After all of this happened and Jesus calmed the wind, He calmed the waters, the winds ceased and there was a great calm, it says. In verse 40, Jesus says to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you no faith?” He asks that question over and over again to His disciples, the ones that become the apostles, that lead the first century church.
And then verse 41 is just so brilliant. Mark summarizes it writing it this way: “and they were filled with great fear.” Another way to say that is and they even had a greater fear, in other words, their fear increased. Why? Well, because they said to one another, “Who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him?” In other words, they were starting to see who Jesus is. They were starting to see how they ought to respond to Jesus, and it’s a process as we read through Mark’s gospel, and any of the gospels. We see at the beginning, these guys, by the time we get to the end, it’s amazing the transformation of these men.
Perhaps they thought back to how important the fear of the Lord is in their lives, because many of them knew their Old Testament quite well. Proverbs 1:7,
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”Proverbs 1:7
“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding.”Proverbs 9:10
The fear of the Lord is something we’ve forgotten, I think, in our own day and time.
We tend to think of God as a cosmic concierge who’s going to give us a bunch of stuff instead of coming to Him and understanding He’s a transcendent, holy, almighty, righteous God. And the most amazing thing is that even in view of who He is, He loves us so much.
“The fear of the Lord prolongs life, but the years of the wicked will be shortened.”–Proverbs 10:27
“In the fear of the Lord there is strong confidence, and His children will have refuge.”
And our confidence is not in ourselves. This isn’t about you or me pulling up our bootstraps and toughing it out. No, it’s simply resting with a strong confidence in who He is.
“The fear of the Lord, it’s a fountain of life that one may avoid the snares of death.”Proverbs 14:27
Proverbs 19:23, one of my favorites,
“The fear of the Lord leads to life so that one may sleep satisfied, untouched by evil.”Proverbs 19:23
That’s a great verse to memorize, especially if you have trouble sleeping. And occasionally, all of us do. You get that big eye and you’re awake all night long and you keep looking at the clock and it’s only gone one or two minutes down, and you need to get to sleep. Turn your heart, turn your mind to the Lord and focus in on Him.
C.S. Lewis, again,
“When pain is to be born, a little courage helps more than much knowledge, a little human sympathy more than much courage and the least tincture of the love of God more than all.”–C.S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain
I like the way he said that. The least tincture of the love of God. Friends, I just want to remind you, who is Jesus? He’s the son of God. He’s the one that loved you so much that He came to earth to lay down His life for you and for me to pay the price for our sins. Motivated by His great love, not motivated because I had some claim on Him, or He owed me something. No, he loved me. The sinner that I am, He loved me before I even acknowledged Him or turned to Him. He came for me. He came for you. He knows you fully. He knows me fully, and He loves us completely.
And that’s one of the beautiful things about the Gospel of Jesus. As we come to a close of our study time together, I love that last question, who then is this that even the wind and the sea obey him? I’ll tell you who He is, and these guys, these disciples learned it themselves, didn’t they? His name is Jesus. He’s the son of God, and He walked this earth and He roamed these hills all around me here, and He taught in synagogues and He healed people. And, His miracles are just manifest evidence. Not only do the arouse our curiosity and people back then, they came running because of Jesus’s miracles and because of his teaching, but not only that, but they display His power. He really is a savior that can save. He really can calm the storm and the winds.
And even if He doesn’t, even when He doesn’t, we still belong to Him. We learn that right here and we learned that from the Old Testament passages as well. And what a great freedom it is to know that I don’t belong to myself, I belong to Him. That’s a wonderful thing about Jesus. It makes Him so trustworthy because He indeed is the Son of God. His miracles arouse curiosity, display His power, reveal His compassion. They affirm that He loves you, He loves me. He often would just interrupt people who were weeping. The widow of Nain was about to bury her son. He literally interrupted the procession to raise that boy from the dead. And, that’s the kind of Savior Jesus is.
And all of that affirms His identity as the son of God. You would think if somebody claimed to be the son of God, and if His followers said He is the son of God, you would think He could do some things like that. You would think that it would be nothing for Him to walk on water. And indeed, you can read about Him doing that in the New Testament. So, why not turn to him? Who is Jesus to you today? Who is Jesus and how should you respond to Jesus today?
I say we respond like these guys right here with wide-eyed wonder. And this ultimately will lead to worship of Jesus, as well. Let’s close in prayer. Lord, thank you so much for this text, the great hope that’s there, the reality that there are some really great things that can come out of
even the dark storms that we have to face. And Lord, for some of us, the storms are in the rear-view mirror. For some of us, we’re in one now. For some of us, we’re about to face one. I pray, Holy Spirit, that You’ll quicken us as we read a text like this and just think about it, and think about who You are. That you’ll quicken us and we’ll turn to You in faith, believing even now. In Jesus’ name, I pray. Amen and amen.
(Edited for reading)