Mark 4:35-41

31 Dec 2023

Mark 4:35-41

Passage Mark 4:25-41

Speaker Claire Rose


Transcript (Auto-generated)

This transcript has been automatically generated, and therefore may not be 100% accurate.

That day, when evening came, he said to his disciples, let us go over to the other side. Leaving the crowd behind. They took him along just as he was in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped.

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? He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, quiet. Be still. Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith? They were terrified and asked each other, who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.

Good morning. Lovely to see so many of you here. Now, I had a bit of a mishap this morning in that I arrived at church and realised I'd left one of my notes sheets at home. So do excuse me while I find this bit on my phone.

We'll just see if we can get on from here. Okay? So as Sam's mentioned, we're looking at Mark. Now, it might seem unusual that we're going straight from Christmas Day six days ago straight into a passage like Mark. So, as you may recall, we did look at Mark earlier.

A bit later on in the year, we'll be going back to Exodus as well. But perhaps it's a good thing. I think sometimes it is too easy to leave Jesus in the manger because he doesn't challenge anything there. He's safe. He's in the manger.

It doesn't confront the fact that he is the son of God with the power of God. And today's reading, we see that this man does have the power of God. But I've got a question for everybody. But before we do that, I need my glamorous assistant, Q. Mel.

So Mel. Mel, fortuitously has a balloon with her, okay? So she's going to gently blow it up. Now, is anybody here scared of balloons or scared there? Might go pop?

Right. Okay. We will do our utmost to ensure that that does not happen. Okay, but be in. But it is Mel so melancholy.

She's afraid of balloons.

That's enough. That's enough. That's enough. Okay. Apart from balloons, are there anything else that other people are scared of?

Anybody scared of the dark?

No. Wow, that's impressive. Anybody scared of snakes? Sam. There we go.

All right. What about thunderstorms? My dog doesn't like thunderstorms. Does that count? Okay.

Yeah. Now I have to admit that I am scared of heights. Anything above a step stool. There's a couple of other people, a couple of other step stools. I have to call on my husband or my son because I don't do anything above this height.

I just can't do it. What about things like being scared of illness, being unwell?

Or maybe we don't like it and we're scared of our friends rejecting us and not playing with us in the school ground? Yeah, that sometimes happens. Now, we read the story today when Jesus disciples were very, very frightened. They were scared. How we doing, Mel?

I don't want to burst it. That's enough. That's enough.

So they woke him up. They were very, very scared. They said they were terrified. Okay? So he got up and he commanded.

He commanded, be quiet, be still. And the waves, the wind dropped, and the waves died down immediately, which is actually quite unusual because usually in a storm and the wind drops, the waves are still churning, but they stopped immediately. It shows the incredible power that Jesus has. So if you had a particular fear, I'm not asking you to say it out loud, just think about that fear. And if you had a pen, think about what you would write on this balloon.

Okay, so what happens when we call on Jesus to take away our fears? What happens?

Thank you.

You may sit down. Thank you.

The balloon is still there. She's still got the balloon. But it doesn't hold the fear because it's not going to burst. And there'll be things in our lives that are still there, but we need to let go of the fear and let Jesus come in and calm our hearts and calm our minds. I'll be back in a bit with part two.

So, part two, I never know which pair of glasses to wear. Let's try these ones. So now this well known and well loved story is found not only in the gospel of Mark, but in Matthew and Luke as well. It was hugely significant in the life of Jesus and in the lives of disciples because they began to understand more about the man that they had pledged to follow. Now, as per many of the stories in the early part of Mark, it takes place, place by the Sea of Galilee.

It's the place where, as we know, he called his first disciples Simon, Andrew, James and John. It's where he went, as they say, out beside the sea and called Levi, also known as Matthew. It's where he had to go into the boat for fear of being by the crowds and where many of the first healings and teachings took place. I wonder, has anybody actually visited the Sea of Galilee. One, two, three and one behind me is behind me.

This picture is a picture of the Sea of Galilee. It's rather beautiful, isn't it? For those of you who haven't been, it's generally quite calm, but it's also renowned for its sudden and its violent storms as a result of its geography. So we have a very short geography lesson to help you understand today's passage. Okay?

The Sea of Galilee is the lowest freshwater lake in the world. It's about 210 metres or for those of us who are slightly older, 690ft below sea level. That is nearly 700ft lower than the Mediterranean. It's located in the trench of the Jordan valley. It's starting at the north in Lebanon and carrying south all the way down to the earth's lowest point.

Anybody know what the earth's lowest point is? The Dead Sea. Yeah, the hills surrounding it. And I've chosen this one because you can see some of the topography here can be up to 2000ft high and it's where the cool, dry air is found. In contrast, directly around the sea it can be semi tropical with warm, moist air.

Now, those of you who know your geography know that when the difference in height between land and sea causes huge temperature and pressure changes and that results in the strong winds dropping to the sea and funnelling through valleys of the hills. So when those contrasting air masses meet, a storm can quickly arise and without warning and small boats are in imminent danger. It still happens. Only 18 months ago there was a violent storm on the sea that caused huge damage to the city of Tiberias, which is the biggest settlement. You can see the damage in this picture here.

Even our modern day technology and our ability to forecast the weather can't stop the force of nature. So back to our story in chapter three. The previous chapter, we'd read that he appointed his twelve disciples to be with him, to be sent out as heralds and to cast out demons. These are his trusted followers who've left everything behind because there's something about him and they want to be with him. At the start of this chapter, chapter four, we read that once again he began to teach beside the sea.

And once again he had to get into a boat to escape the crowds. He had been teaching all day. He was probably shattered and then suggested they go over to the other side. I think it's worth noting here that going across the Galilee sea meant going into non jewish, that is, gentile territory, into the area what was known as Decapolis. It's the first mention in Mark's gospel of Jesus reaching out, going to the Gentiles, and it's where he drove the spirits into the Garradine pigs.

That's one of the areas, Gerard is one of the areas of the Decapolis. But later on, Jesus will send the disciples into this same area to spread the good news.

They're there in the boat, possibly accompanied by the other boats. He doesn't actually say that they had been with him all day, and they set off to travel 7 miles across the sea. Well, bear in mind it's 5 miles to the city centre. It's quite a journey. Okay, now bear in mind he had seasoned fishermen with him.

They knew only too well the power of the sea. After all, this was their fishing grounds. And whilst it would have been much safer to travel during the day, I think we can safely assume there was nothing to indicate that there was any danger when they set off. But that soon changed. As we know, the situation can change very quickly.

The NIV, which you read today, says a furious school came up. The NRSV says it was a great or mega. That's where the stem comes from, a mega Gael. And the disciples were absolutely terrified, not only because they knew only too well what the storm of that magnitude could do, and that their lives were in imminent danger, but also because for the jews, the sea symbolised the evil that stands to undo creation. In Genesis one, the Bible begins by telling us there was nothing but darkness over the surface of deep waters.

It was a symbol of unorganised, uninhabitable, chaotic forces. The whole point of Genesis one is that God overcame these forces and created out of them. In the book of Daniel, he has a dream where four destructive beasts rise up out of the sea. The churning sea symbolises the forces of evil bent on destroying God's creation. And that's why in Revelation 21, when he talks about the new heavens and the new earth, it says, and there was no longer any sea.

The sea symbolised chaos, evil and destruction. So in the midst of all these fears, the man that had told them to go to the other side of the lake was sound asleep, completely unperturbed by what was going on. So I don't think it's any wonder that they woke him and challenged him as to whether they did. He cared. Do you not care if we live or die now?

We're fortunate we've got hindsight. We know the end of the story. The disciples were only at this point beginning to understand Jesus and his power. Their fears were understandable and to be honest, we would probably have felt the same. Interestingly, of course, Jesus, the man was faced exactly the same danger, but he knew who was in charge.

Now, this picture by Rembrandt, very famous picture, is an interpretation of what the disciples were facing in the second picture. It's a close up of one of it. You can see the group of disciples around the reclining Jesus were remonstrating with him. Okay. At this point, the disciples have lost hope and genuinely are fearful of the outcome.

Now, as we've read this morning, Jesus acted. He got up, rebuked the waves, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, quiet, be still. Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. Now, the word used here for rebuke is exactly the same word. When Jesus rebukes the unclean spirit in mark one, so he commands the wind and the waves to be quiet, and they are immediately quiet.

And then he turns to the disciples, why were you afraid? Well, I think we know why they were afraid. Do you still have no faith? In spite of all they'd seen or they had heard? And in spite of seeing Jesus sleeping peacefully, they were panicked.

As we've sung and we've heard this morning, the disciples response was, who is this man? Even the wind and waves obey him. It's the right question.

No wonder they were fearful. Not now of the storm. They were fearful now. Or the other word that is used is probably more apt, was in awe. We talk of being in fear and awe of the Lord, who, after all, is the man who controls the elements, because only God can do that.

There are many references to God's power in the Old Testament. I mean, I'll just read one. Psalm 89. Who is like you, Lord God Almighty, you rule over the surging sea. When its ways mount up, you still them.

They would have had that. They would have known that. So what lessons can we take from this passage? And I was studying it, I realised there are an awful lot, but I will switch myself to four. First of all, and very importantly, the Bible never promises that we won't go through storms in life.

In fact, it tells us we will indeed encounter loss, heartache, suffering and tragedy, because we live in a broken world. And while God promises he will be with us in the storms of life and that one day he'll make it right, he never promised that we won't encounter them. The point of today's story is not that Jesus will stop the storms of our lives happening. And there are times when we are at the mercy of the storm, where we feel as if our lives are chaotic. It could be a financial crisis, an illness, a bereavement, a breakdown of relationship.

And in spite of our prayers, sometimes it can feel like Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat. But what we do know. Yes, we do. We do know as christians, that when our life seems tough or when we see the sufferings of others, we need to keep calling on the Lord, don't we? Yes, because in our perseverance, we believe the Lord will hear us and rebuke and calm our storms.

The chaos of our lives will be stilled, and we will know his peace. Secondly, in a moment of crisis and stress, the disciples suddenly see a different view of Jesus. It's a transformative moment for them. They are confronted with the divine power of God. They've been used to seeing strange things, to hearing someone whose words changed lives, who healed people, whose actions challenge society.

But this event provides him with a different dimension. This was someone who had power over nature. So the question I have is, how do we see Jesus? Do we see him as a plaster cast figure or still as the baby in the manger? Or do we see him as God made man?

And thirdly, whether we are facing a crisis or not, this reading should challenge us. What new aspects of God could we miss if we are not willing to journey with him? As disciples journeyed across the sea to journey with God and with each other, to places that we've never been before, to scary places, to the unknown and the untested, as people who have met God and who transforms us in moments of crisis and in moments of good, how do we reveal in our own lives and in the life of this church, the son of God who stills the wind and the waves? And my fourth point. And finally, the question the disciples asked, the right question.

Who is this man? It's the same question people have been asking for centuries. Is he more than just a good man, or is he God made man? Now, only four chapters further on, Mark turns to his disciples and asks, but what about you? Who do you say that I am?

And it's at this point that Peter turns and says, you are the messiah or the Christ. He no longer wondered. He no longer questioned, who is this man? He now knew who Jesus was and who Jesus claimed to be. So if you're still asking that question, who is this man?

And searching for answers, then please do take the time to speak to someone after the service, or perhaps attend the course that Ben's planning hope explored. Because each and every one of us need to decide for ourselves who this man is it?