Few things strike more terror into the heart of a student than the announcement of a pop quiz! That's exactly what Jesus gives His disciples in Mark 4:35-41. He tests their faith by putting them in a boat in the middle of a raging storm . . . and they fail miserably! But in the process they learn something about Jesus that will literally revolutionize their lives. It can revolutionize yours too!
MARK - THE GOSPEL OF ACTION
“HUMAN IMPOSSIBILITY + URGENCY = A DIVINE MIRACLE”
(This part of the sermon not read by Pastor Davey) For this morning’s scripture reading, please turn with me in your Bibles to Mark, chapter 4. Mark, chapter 4, verses 35 through 41. And please follow along as I read. Mark, chapter 4, verses 35 through 41. “And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them, ‘Let us pass over unto the other side.’ And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow; and they awake Him, and say unto Him, ‘Master, carest thou not that we perish?’ And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, ‘Peace, be still.’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And He said unto them, ‘Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?’ And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, ‘What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”’
(This part of the sermon by Pastor Davey) There is almost nothing more capable of striking terror to the heart of any student, whether it’s junior or senior high or college age or graduate level, than the teacher announcing the date of some future exam, upon which the entire semester will ride. I say “almost” nothing more capable of striking terror because, I think, the greatest terror that’s given to the heart of a student is when the teacher stands behind the rostrum and says, “Now, pull out a half sheet of paper. I’m going to give you a pop quiz.” There’s no possibility of studying for that. There is no way. In fact, we, I think, did learn how to get at least 30 seconds in because, between the time that you took your books and you put them from your desk to the floor, you could open to that chapter. And, I think, that’s where I learned to speed read. I could skim an entire chapter. But you’re really not able to study. In fact, the grade is going to be based entirely upon whether or not you’ve been listening in class. We find Jesus Christ now taking the disciples and giving them, as it were, some kind of pop quiz. You see, the entire chapter, Mark, chapter 4, as we studied last Sunday, has been nothing more than the repetition of facts. He’s been giving parables and He says at the end of each one, “Have you been listening? If you have ears to hear, hear! Listen!” And now, He takes them out of that situation and He puts them on a little boat and they’re about to be given a quiz as to whether or not they have been listening. You’ll find that they fail, miserably, the quiz. And yet, in the process, learn some things that, literally, will revolutionize their lives.
Look with me again to Mark, chapter 4, in verse 35. We’ll take it one verse at a time. “And the same day, when the even was come, He saith unto them,” - or His disciples - “Let us pass over unto the other side.” You ought to underline that phrase because they didn’t even hear that. I think, what they thought they heard was, “Let’s go to the middle of this Sea of Galilee and drown.” No, He said, “Let’s go over to the other side.” You ought to note that because, later on in the story, it will have seemed that they had not heard Him. This is at the end of one of the busiest days in Christ’s ministry. He’s spoken time and time again. The crowds are pressing Him so much that He has been forced off that shore and into a little fishing boat. And He uses that boat as a rostrum. He is seated and He teaches the multitudes as they press Him. The diseased, the sick are there and He’s healing. He’s spent an incredibly busy day. And it’s as if He tells the disciples, “We’ve got to get away for just a little bit. So, let’s go to the other side. Let’s leave the busy side of Capernaum, this busy western shore and let’s go east and relax.”
But look at the next verse, it says, “And when they had sent away the multitude, they took Him even as He was in the ship. And there were also with Him other little ships.” These people, He could not get rid of them. He sends them away and they take off in their fishing boat and these people run for boats and they start after Him. So, what you have is a little cluster of boats heading across the Sea of Galilee. They won’t let Him go. I don’t think I would have either, if I had been in the crowd. Nor would you.
Now, what happens next is something that you would think that they would be very familiar with. Look at the next verse, verse 37, “And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now” - filling up, or - “full.” The word translated “storm” here is “lailaps,” which is a word that could be translated “cyclone” or “hurricane.” This was not just a little pitter-patter of water, you know, on the waves. This was serious. This was a storm that could take all of their lives. It was a cyclone. It may be helpful to understand that the Sea of Galilee was 680 feet below sea level and it was surrounded by little hills. And you would have Mount Hermon, off in the distance, rising above the horizon. And wind would rush down from that cold mountain peak, in this almost natural funnel, and it would empty over the Sea of Galilee, causing incredible furry. And a storm like this could come from anywhere from one to fifteen minutes. It just could happen like that. And if you were on the Sea of Galilee, as a fisherman, you were aware that impending danger was there every time you got into your boat. And that’s exactly what happened. That cold air came rushing down into that little valley, met by the warm air rising above the sea, and it’s almost as if the wind collided and it whipped up the water into a furry. And they were afraid. The boat was filling up. And I don’t know about the other boats, they, perhaps, were even smaller. We get the idea, in fact, I’ve often thought, and you get this I think from perhaps the Sunday school teaching as you see the pictures, that you think that the disciples are on something that looks a little bit like the Mayflower. It’s this huge ship. It wasn’t. It was a little fishing craft. And, it was tossing back and forth.
Notice what happens next. It says that Jesus was “in the hinder” - or stern - “part of the ship, asleep on a pillow”. Now, in the back, there would be a little seat. And they would give that to, perhaps, a guest or maybe a female person that’s riding along and on that seat was a little leather cushion. And Jesus had, evidently, gotten on that boat and headed straight back to the back. In fact, Luke adds, it’s as if Jesus’ head hit the pillow and He was asleep. Well, He heads to the back, finds that little cushion, curls up on that bench, and rests His head on that leather pillow. I want you to visualize it with me. And the storm comes and the waves begin to beat that little craft as it’s rocking to and fro. And Jesus is so exhausted that, I don’t think He was playing, you know, kind of watching to see what His disciples were doing, He was fast asleep. He was human! He was all man, though He was all God. And He was completely asleep.
So, they come to Him and they say in verse 38, “Master, carest thou not that we perish?” You ought to underline or circle the little word “we.” You know, the fascinating thing, in their frantic outcry, is that they had waited until the last possible moment to come to Jesus Christ. In fact, you remember in verse 37, the last phrase, it says that the boat “was now full.” You think, “Why, in the world, didn’t they go to Him when the waves started?” They waited right up until the last moment. The boat was full and then they go to Him and they say, “Teacher, don’t you care that we perish?” Now, I want you to understand that they are including, not just the disciples, but Jesus in this. They’re saying, “Lord, don’t you understand that we’re all going for a swim, including Yourself? Don’t you care that You’re about to die?” You see the problem? They have been listening to all of the stories in chapter 4. They’ve been in the classroom. And yet, they had not been really listening. Here is the King, presenting Himself as the One who would bring in this future kingdom. He’s the Christ. And they’ve accepted it. “Sure, He’s Lord. But, He is about to die.” You know, I think, we’re exactly like the disciples. And we sing the chorus, almost glibly, “He is Lord, He is Lord, Oh, He is Lord.” But He can’t handle my situation. “Master, don’t you care that all of us are about to go to the bottom of this sea?”
Look at the next verse, verse 39, “And He arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, ‘Peace, be still.’” - or literally, “be muzzled.” He would say the same thing to the individual, earlier in the book, as we studied, who was taken by a demon, he was possessed by a demon. And, you remember, the demon says, “Oh, Thou art the Christ, the Son of God.” And Jesus does not want this demon introducing His character to the crowd and so, He says to the demon, “Be muzzled.” It’s fascinating because the Rabbis taught, back in the time of Christ, that any storm or any natural element that seems out of control, behind that is the satanic force of the demon world. They were very superstitious. And, it’s interesting that these men studied the Bible, day after day, and yet, they came to the conclusion that, if there were a storm, the process was being energized by a group of demons. And Jesus stands up, addresses the storm, using terminology that they would understand, “Be muzzled,” as if He is speaking to a person. “‘Be still.’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” You see, the story began with a great storm and it ends with a great calm. Now, if you had a bucket of water or if I had a bucket of water up here, and I wanted to create a little miniature storm in that bucket, I’d start sloshing that bucket around and moving it, maybe, stick my hand and stir it around and get that water all rushing about. And, let’s just say, I stopped and held the bucket. It would take, perhaps, 30 seconds, maybe less, for the water to cease moving, wouldn’t it? But, Luke adds the thought, that when Jesus Christ stood and said, “Be muzzled,” (snap fingers) instantly calm. That was even just as much a miracle as the fact that He had stopped the storm. I can picture, in my mind, those disciples in that boat, in that little craft, and the waves are, literally, washing over the top of that little craft and they’re afraid, they’re terrified. It’s at night, as well, that makes it even a little more frightening. Jesus is asleep and they’re trying to dip water out of that boat, they’re trying to keep themselves afloat and here comes a huge wave. And I can just see Peter, you know, he raises his arm to shield his eyes from the spray . . . and there’s nothing. And he kind of looks around and, maybe, over the edge of the boat and the water is as calm as a mirror. I wish I’d been there to see that happen.
Now, notice the Savior’s loving reproach. Verse 40, “And He said unto them, ‘Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?” Now look, let’s face it, if you happen to be Jesus, at that moment in time, and these disciples, you’ve been wiping their noses, you’ve been making sure they had something to eat, you’ve been taking care of them all of these days, day in and day out, and a problem hits and the first thing they say is, “You don’t care about us.” I think, if I had been Jesus, I’d have stopped the storm and said, “Sit down, men, you’re all fired.” You know, one at a time. “What do you mean, don’t I care?” But He never does that. He never reproves their fact of fear. But He says, “Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?”
Now, I misunderstood this passage until I had the privilege, thanks to you, of studying it for an entire week. I used to think that in verse 40, they were still fearful of the storm. No, the storm is over with. They are now fearful because of the calm. The storm had introduced the fear. Jesus solved that problem. In fact, if you don’t believe me, look at verse 41, “And they feared exceedingly”. You see, they still have fear. Fearing the storm, now they’re fearing the calm. Why? Because their eyes had been opened that Jesus Christ might be who He really says He is. “I believe He’s Lord. I say He’s Lord. He is the Christ but, this is serious, He really is!” It’s like Jesus Christ pulled back the curtain on His character. And He revealed His sovereignty over the natural element. Now, you’re just like me, you complain about a lot of things. And we can fix a lot of things. A mother can dry some tears. A repairman can fix some broken down equipment. Perhaps you can fix your car if it’s broken down. But the weather, you can’t fix it. When it rains, you live with it. When it’s cold, you bundle up. You can’t change it. And that’s the way these men observed nature. Nobody could intervene. And yet, Jesus Christ reveals His sovereignty by the ability to intervene in the natural world. He is saying, listen, He is stating, “I am Christ, the sovereign over planet earth.” And they begin to wake up. They realized, I think maybe even for the first time, that Jesus Christ was REALLY the Christ. And the Lord was teaching them through a storm.
He doesn’t say, “I don’t believe that you would even suggest that I don’t care about you.” He’s really saying, and I think, in love, “How is it that you have no faith. Don’t you still understand who I am?” You see, the problem was not necessarily the circumstances without the boat - the waves and the storm and the wind. The problem was within. The object of their faith was so weak. They had traveled with Christ. They knew Him, or at least they thought they did. And yet, when the storm came, they had no comprehension of His character. You see, it was not the amount of faith, necessarily, that was the problem. It was the object of their faith. If I invited you into my living room and I said, “Have a seat here.” And I pointed you to a chair that was made out of toothpicks and strung together by string and a little glue and, perhaps, a rubber band or two. You’d look at me and say, “Mind if I stand?” “Well, don’t you have any faith? Well, then sit over here on the sofa. The big sofa.” “Oh, no problem.” You see, it isn’t that you had little faith and you had great faith, it was the object of your faith. This was weak. This is strong. The disciples proved that the object of their faith, in their mind, was a weak man. Just a mere human. “Yea, Jesus, we believe that you are the King of the coming kingdom. But you’re still just like us.” The object of their faith was weak. And Jesus Christ pulls back the curtain so that they can see that the object of their faith is, not a mere man but, the Christ of planet earth.
Now, there are lessons in here, I think, for you and me to learn. Lessons that, I think, you and I will learn only in the storm. Are you facing one today, perhaps? It’s been divinely engineered so that you might learn more of the character of Jesus Christ. But, I think, that there is more that we can learn in storms. And I’m going to give you just three, perhaps jot them down, lessons that the disciples learned and, I think, that He wants us to learn, as well, in the 20th century. Number one, Jesus Christ desires, not only to impart faith, but develop faith. Not only to impart faith, but to develop faith. He wants to take the mush of your faith and turn it into muscle. And He will do it by adversity. He will do it through a storm. He will take wind and waves. He’ll take situations that seem so out of control so that you might strengthen the object of your faith. You know, He could have left us alone once we were saved, couldn’t He? “Well, you’re now on your way to heaven. That’s good enough for Me.” Absolutely not. He wants to develop the sinew of your faith so that you can have a strong relationship with Him in adversity.
Number two, Jesus Christ wants to shatter our competency to develop trust in His sufficiency. He wants to shatter our sense of competency to develop trust in His sufficiency. You know, one of the things that I love about this entire episode is that Jesus Christ takes them to their backyard. He takes them to their turf. If anybody knew the Sea of Galilee, the disciples knew it. They knew every inch of shoreline. They knew the wind. They knew the waves. They had roughed through many storms. And Jesus Christ is going to teach them something of Himself. He takes them to the place where they consider themselves the strongest. They’re competent fishermen. They’ve been doing it all their lives. You know, I think, you and I have areas in our lives where we think we’ve got it all together. “I know I have problems over here but, look, my financial situation is strong. I’ve got that under control.” Bang! A tree falls through your garage. “I’ve got some problems but, listen, I want you to understand that my marriage is impenetrable.” And a difficulty comes. “You know I have a lot of problems with lack of discipline but every morning at 6:00, I’m up reading.” You know, we have all of these different areas where we think we are totally competent. “Lord, you can relax in this area, I’ve got it under control.” And yet, Jesus Christ will sometimes take us to that very area and shatter our competency to teach us to be sufficient in His strength.
Number three, Jesus Christ does not promise the absence of storms but He guarantees His presence in the storm. He does not promise you exemptions from pop quizzes but He promises enablement. You see, the fascinating thing is that Jesus Christ is in the boat, and they’re frantic. And they’re thinking they’re about to die and all the time the Lord of the universe is sleeping on a cushion. I really wonder, what would have happened if they had gone to Him about ten minutes earlier. You know, before they ran out of air. What would have happened if the rain had just started and they saw this “lailaps” coming and said, “Lord, we’re in trouble, can you solve it?” Oh no, “We’re going to take care of this problem. We’re going to bail out the water. Just leave Him sleeping.” But, I love the fact that, Jesus Christ was there all the time. And, you know, ladies and gentlemen, I’m not sure what storm you might be facing but I’ll bet you’re facing something. Maybe, it’s a difficulty. Maybe, trial. Maybe some area, in your life, where you cannot believe you’re having difficulty because you thought you had it all mapped out. And bang! I think Jesus Christ is trying to teach us, through the inadequacy of the disciples, that He is sufficient. If we will only recognize that we are incompetent and then learn to rely on Him and the fact that Jesus Christ is the sovereign Christ over the natural elements of this world.