Several years ago, Gene Bratt and I were returning from a meeting in the Chicago area and, while walking through Chicago’s Midway airport, we saw something rather odd. We saw Forrest Gump, or at least, someone who looked exactly like Forrest Gump, complete with suitcase. As you can imagine, it was a bit odd since we were pretty sure that Tom Hanks wasn’t walking around Midway Airport dressed as Forrest Gump. But it started to make us wonder: is this guy a bit off or confused? Does he really think he is Forrest Gump? Krissie Rigsby happened to be flying back that evening as well and also saw him. Finally, she went up to him and asked him what he was doing. She found out that he was a Forrest Gump impersonator and he was trying to drum up business. For a fee, he would come to your party or business meeting and be Forrest Gump for you. But for a while we were asking ourselves, “Who is this guy?”
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?” I doubt that anyone here this morning will go out to the parking lot and walk up to your vehicle and say, “I wonder whose car this is?” 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?” What Jesus had done during a storm caused them to ask this. The result was that they learned something about Jesus that they never realized before: Jesus would be the one who would calm all the storms of their lives. 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 and the disciples as well 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 simply wanted to get away. And so he urges the disciples to set 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 trusting and restful sleep of those who have full faith in God.
Is there a deeper significance to this storm? 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.
II. In verses 38-39, we see how the cause of fear is removed for the disciples.
The disciples respond to the storm, 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.to edit.
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 are such that we are 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? 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 also controls the earth. God pushed back the waters of the Red Sea to let the Israelites pass through. God can change things in nature; there was no question about that. Now Jesus had done something that they knew only God could do.
And so filled with awe, they ask each other: “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” I imagine that the question, “Who is this?” is a question they kept on asking themselves. They asked it when Jesus was being tried, beaten and then crucified. They must have asked it when He rose again. They must have wondered it when Jesus returned to heaven again. Who is this who does the things of God, yet is one of us? Only after the Spirit was given, would they be able to fully answer the question of who Jesus was. Only then would they realize that Jesus was the Son of Man who not only saved them from physical harm, He was the Son of God who saved them for eternal life as well. 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.
Theologian Karl Barth confessed to a recurring dream of himself arriving at heaven 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?”
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 the grace that God has shown to us in Jesus. It should be truly amazing to us that God should send His only Son to die for me and for you. What an amazing act of salvation that 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 and all things are still held in His powerful hands. Our great God and loving Father can do all things.
But that means that we must also learn to trust Him more and more. The problem is that we tend to be limited in what we think God can do. We tend to think that God will do only certain things that we can grasp and comprehend. But God can do far greater things than what we can imagine. Let me illustrate this by using some Lego blocks. These blocks have eight studs on each block. How many different combinations can we make with two blocks? 24 different combinations. However, if you take 6 eight-studded Lego blocks, you can put them together in 102,981,500 different combinations. Many Christians would never guess that God is able to do such great things as He can do. God’s ability to do things is limitless.
Many times we believe that God can do many great things, but we don’t really expect Him to do so for us. We say: “God, you can raise Jesus from the dead, but you can’t help me.” Or “God, you created the world and control everything in it, but my 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 we have to be careful here. That doesn’t mean that God will always give us just what we want. God doesn’t always heal the disease or restore the marriage or remove the pain. But God will do what is truly best for us because He loves us.