Shortly after we moved to our house in Nolensville 24 years ago we happened to look out toward the north one night and saw something odd. There were several bright lights just above the horizon that appeared to be stationary. Claire and I joked about being invaded by aliens, but we really weren’t sure what those lights were. Eventually we realized that they were the landing lights of airliners that were making their approach to the airport. While they appeared to be stationary, they were actually moving toward us. But until we realized it, we were asking ourselves, “What is it?” When we are unfamiliar with things, we tend to ask, “What is it?”
None of us, however, do this when it comes to familiar things or people. We don’t go home to our spouse or child and say, “Who are you anyway?” We don’t go to our home and say, “I wonder who lives here?” Why? Because we know these things and these people. Yet in Mark 4, we read that the disciples ask this very question, “Who is this?” about Jesus. They thought they knew who he was until something happened that caused them to wonder, “Who is this anyway?” Let’s read Mark 4:30-41.
I. The setting of the storm is described in verses 35-37.
Jesus had been very busy teaching the people about the Kingdom of God. Now it is at the end of the day and Jesus quite simply needs a break. The pressure of the crowds had become so great that he wanted to get away. He tells the disciples to sail to the east side of the Sea of Galilee, leaving the crowds behind. As soon as they were away from shore, Jesus fell sound asleep in the stern of the boat. How good to know that Jesus, the Lord of wind and waves, was also a human being who grew tired and weary and needed sleep as we do. But Jesus’ sleep is also the sleep of trust and the restful sleep of those who have full faith in God.
Is there a deeper significance to this storm? Historically this storm was viewed by early Christians as a symbol of persecution in the early church. Christians in Mark’s day were facing death and severe hardships for their faith. And so historically, this storm has been used to describe the threats of various kinds that Christians must face in their lives. Today we too face many different storms in our lives that come unexpectedly. There is an accident or a doctor says that we have a disease that threatens us. Or there is a lost job or a salary cut or large unexpected expenses.
The disciples respond, understandably, by being terrified! These seasoned fishermen had likely weathered many storms on this lake before. But this one was so severe that even these seasoned sailors were terrified. Waves were crashing over the boat and it was filling up with water. And in the midst of all this, there is Jesus – sleeping in the boat. And so the disciples cry, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” This is a cry of anger and rebuke against Jesus. They believed that Jesus obviously didn’t care if they lived or died! While they did go to Jesus for help, this shows that they are really not trusting in him. They didn’t expect Jesus to do anything expect perhaps share their fear. He could at least wake up and wring his hands with them.
III. Jesus’ tender rebuke is given in verses 40-41.
Notice that Jesus doesn’t rebuke them for being afraid during the storm. That is important for us to realize as we face storms in our lives. We serve a great God, but a God who also understands our fears. He doesn’t rebuke us either for being afraid of life’s storms. We need not be afraid of expressing our fear when we face hard times. It is okay for us to say, “I’m afraid of my illness or injury.” It is okay for us to say, “I’m lonely or struggling with something.” It is okay for us to say, “I’m sad or grieving a loss in my life. Jesus understands when the storms of life make us afraid of what is going to happen. But while we may express our fears, we must also trust God in them.
For Jesus does rebuke them for still being afraid after he had removed the threat. Jesus says, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” He had saved them from drowning and they are still afraid. Why were they still so terrified after the storm was calmed? Well, they were beginning to realize who it was that they were following. They were given in this event a deeper understanding of who Jesus was and that was deeply disturbing to them. These disciples were schooled in the Old Testament. The Old Testament clearly teaches that God is the Creator of all. But the Old Testament also makes it very clear that the Creator God is also One who controls the earth. God pushed back the waters of the Red Sea and the Jordan River to let the Israelites pass. God can change things in nature; there was no question about that. Now Jesus had done something that they knew only God could do.
So, filled with awe, they ask: “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” I imagine the question, “Who is this?” is a question they kept on asking themselves. They probably asked it when Jesus was being tried and beaten. They must have asked it when Jesus rose again. They must have wondered it when Jesus returned to heaven again. Who is this who does the things of God and yet is one of us? Only after the Spirit was given, would they realize that Jesus was God’s Son who not only saved them from physical harm, he also had saved them for eternal life. Jesus is the One who saves people from destruction, both physical and spiritual.
Our Lord is far more amazing and greater than what we can imagine. Karl Barth confessed to a recurring dream of himself arriving at heaven’s gates pulling a child’s red wagon, in which were neatly stacked all his writings. As he interpreted the dream, all of his knowledge and theologizing was but child’s play when compared to God’s greatness and grace. We think we have God figured out and then he does something that causes us to wonder and marvel at his greatness. The passage ends with the question ringing in our ears, “Who is this?”
IV. And so what is our response to the God of wind and waves?
Our response is to be filled with awe but not the terror as the disciples felt. We should not cringe in fear because if we believe that Jesus is our Savior, then we know that the great God is also our Father. We are not to be afraid of God, but we must be in awe of who God is. We must have a sense of awe as we think of God’s grace has shown to us in Jesus. It should be truly amazing to us that God should send his only Son to die for us. That amazing act of salvation goes far beyond quieting the wind and waves. And we must have a sense of awe of what God continues to do for his people. God is still the God of the wind and waves. Our great God and loving Father can do all things, no matter what we may face.
Often we believe that God can do many great things, but we don’t really expect him to do so for us. “God, you can raise Jesus from the dead, but you can’t help me with this issue.” “God, you created the world and control everything in it, but this problem is too big for you.” We must continue to learn that God can help us and desires to help us. In fact, God will do what is truly best for us. God will act in mercy and compassion and help those who ask for help. Now that doesn’t mean that God will always give us just what we want. God doesn’t always heal the disease or restore the wounds or remove the pain. But God will do what is truly best for us because he loves us. We must have the faith that no matter what storms we may encounter in life, Jesus, who calmed the wind and waves, will calm us and give us peace. God is with us and he can certainly make the storms go away. And even if the storms don’t go away, he will give us the grace and peace to endure them.
We may wonder where the love of God goes when we are in the midst of life’s storms. Martin Luther was once asked, “Where will you be, Brother Martin, when church, state, princes and people turn against you?” Luther answered: “Why, then as now, in the hands of Almighty God.” The question is will we look to him to help us in the storms we face?