Seminary Student: Eric Zabell       Saturday Evening, April 27, 2019

Text: Mark 4:35-41

 “Yeah, I’d consider myself a pretty decent driver.”  A lot of us would respond this way if someone asked us how we drive: “I’d say I’m good.”  After all, driving a car’s not exactly rocket science – you push some foot pedals and you steer around.  On our own, many of us like to think we’re good drivers. We know the rules of the road and can even carry maps in our heads.

Sometimes when we’re driving though, we go just a little too fast or we make a wrong turn without realizing it.  Before we know it, we wind up with a ticket or lost.

So too in life, we fail to recognize our weakness.  We skip devotion time because there are other “more urgent” matters to attend. We don’t pray as often as we should, just because it isn’t at the top of our priority list. Rather than relying on God, we take matters into our own hands. That gets us into trouble - trouble that puts us in very real spiritual danger. The Gospel for today, from Mark chapter 4 is comforting to sinners like us, because it reminds us that

Jesus Is in Control.

1. He sends storms our way to test our faith.

2. He leads us to lean on him when times are tough.

In the early chapters of Mark’s Gospel, we get a look at Jesus in his first year of ministry.  He had already been baptized, performed miracles and healings, and had just gathered his twelve disciples. Jesus’ disciples already witnessed him perform miracles and had listened to him preach, but he sensed that their faith was still lacking. The disciples just didn’t understand who it was they were following. In this account, Jesus performed a miracle for the sake of his disciples – a miracle that only the true God could perform.

Jesus had been preaching all day long to massive crowds by the sea.  Even though he was probably exhausted, he wanted to cross over to the other side to teach his disciples a lesson.  He saw the confidence the disciples had in themselves. Now it was time to put their new faith to the test. It was time for Jesus to send a storm.

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.

The disciples were pretty decent at handling boats.  Peter, Andrew, James, and John were all fishing when Jesus called them.  Most of the disciples probably had some sailing experience. The Sea of Galilee was a prime spot for fishermen and sailors to gather.

The disciples were also pretty decent followers.  They had all left their old lives behind to accompany Jesus during his ministry.  They even got to see the man perform miracles on a regular basis!

On both counts, they had every reason to think they knew what they were doing.  However, Jesus saw what was in their hearts. They didn’t realize that they were too self-assured.  Their faith needed strengthening.  Then came the storm, which proved to be more than the disciples could handle.

We can imagine what it must have been like on that boat: The bright blue sky begins to darken.  Angry clouds gather and start to rumble. Rain begins to fall, and then to pour out of the darkening clouds.  Every raindrop falls with weight and force. Then the winds begin to rise. Waves churn. Soon the boat loses all control.  It is at the mercy of the winds and the waves.

It didn’t take long for their self-reliance to turn into panic. They had never been in a storm like this. They saw themselves as dead men.  The disciples woke Jesus up and rebuked him for sleeping: “Don’t you care if we drown?” They realized just how helpless they were against the might of the storm. However, instead of trusting that God would save them, they let their fear take over. They forgot just how powerful a passenger they had. If they couldn’t save themselves, who could? Rather than trust in God, they gave up hope.

When the time came to test the disciples’ faith, they came up short. The winds blew, and the tempests raged, and they became afraid for their lives. Imagine you are one of the disciples. You have had plenty of storms under your belt. This storm blows them all out of the water. Waves are battering your tiny boat and smashing against the side sending you flying from port to starboard.  You are frantically bailing water out of the boat, but you’re fighting a losing battle. For all your skill, you are all about to capsize and drown. And your passenger is unfazed. The man for whom you’ve set aside your livelihood is fast asleep. Resentment and doubt begin to bubble up inside of you. “Are we really being left to pick up the pieces?”

The disciples were surely doing all they could to survive, but Jesus was apparently doing nothing. Of course, Jesus was doing nothing on purpose. He had sent the storm to test their faith.

Jesus knows when our faith is lacking too, so he sends storms our way to expose our weakness.

Many of us would consider ourselves pretty decent Christians, but we don’t always act like Jesus is in control. We may think we’re going it alone, but Jesus rides with us everywhere we go. He’s always with us. He notices each slip-up and every wrong turn we make. So, the storms he sends our way make us notice what he’s seen the whole time.

No amount of skill we possess prepares us to stand alone. Yet when God exposes our incompetence by sending a storm, we start to wake up. Suddenly we become self-aware. We hit an icy road, which makes us watch our speed. And when we get lost, God is there with us. By his power he guides us back to the main road. His strength becomes ours and our faith grows as a result.

God knows we can’t drive on our own.  He wants us to remember that. So, he allows us to make mistakes.  He lets us take detours in the wrong direction. Then he sends a storm our way so that we notice.  He does that because he loves us.

So, the wind is blowing, and the waves are crashing, and their efforts have failed, and the disciples are in full panic mode, blaming everything on Jesus.

Jesus immediately responds to his disciples’ unbelief with two rebukes:  First, he rebukes the winds and the waves with an authority only God could possess. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” The winds and waves die down. Jesus muzzles the storm with a word. And suddenly all is quiet and still. He had been in control the whole time – even while he was sleeping!

Then, the second rebuke. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” His words cut his disciples to their core. Hadn’t they seen Jesus heal the leper, or the paralytic, or the man with the withered hand? Hadn’t they listened to his parables and taken them to heart? What gives? How exasperated Jesus must have been! He had been teaching them well before the storm, but their faith was still weak!

Yet Jesus wasn’t about to give up on them either. With the same words, he was inviting his disciples to lean on him, because he is in control over every storm. He was encouraging them to trust in him completely.

Mark tells us about the disciples: They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Extreme violence followed by a sudden stillness: the disciples could barely register such a staggering contrast. Their fear over the storm shifted into a different kind of fear. All at once it dawned on them: They were in the presence of God himself!

They shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s not like Jesus had been keeping his true nature a secret from them. They were just too blind to see it. There was no mistaking it. This miracle was clearly an act of God. It wasn’t anything new. A similar act of God is recorded in the book of Psalms: “For he spoke and stirred up a tempest that lifted high the waves. They mounted up to the heavens and went down to the depths; in their peril their courage melted away. They reeled and staggered like drunkards; they were at their wits’ end. Then they cried out to the Lord in their trouble, and he brought them out of their distress. He stilled the storm to a whisper; the waves of the sea were hushed.”

We often forget that God is in control. But he is. In the middle of the storm, he leads us to lean on him.

Take a moment once again to put yourself in the disciples’ shoes: you’ve witnessed a miracle of epic proportions. You look and standing only a few feet away you see the man you’ve followed around for months as if for the first time. You see him and you think: “Wait a minute, is this God?” And you suddenly experience a new sensation that replaces your fear of the storm. You are in the presence of God! Every day you’ve been walking in Christ’s footsteps. Every day you’ve stood on holy ground. And this Jesus loves you!

That’s what it’s like when believers take to heart the promises Jesus speaks to us in his Word. Remember God’s promise: “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you!” Jesus wants us to lean on him not only because he can still the storms of life, but also because he has stilled the greatest storm of all. Because of our sin, death and hell threatened to overcome us. But Jesus stood between us and that storm, died in our place, and rose again victorious!  So, what can any other storm do to us? As the apostle Paul said: if God is for us, who can be against us?  He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all—how will he not also, along with him, graciously give us all things?

What is true for all believers is also true for you. Jesus loves you. Jesus has paid for you with his own blood.  Your sins of doubt and fear and every other sin too are completely forgiven in him. You have been rescued from death and hell. And now this Savior who has paid so dearly for your sins, who loved you so much that he couldn’t bear to see you get the eternal punishment you deserve, won’t he also take care of any storms you encounter in this life? I’ll answer that rhetorical question: He will!  No storm has any power over you. Jesus your Savior is on your side. He is in control.

It’s true for every believer. Our Savior Jesus sometimes lets storms rage on for a while, sure. But that does not imply that God’s power is diminished. Rather, just as Jesus did on the Sea of Galilee, he demonstrates his sense of perfect timing. And once we finally catch on, he is there ready to hear our cry and to act for our sake.

Just as Jesus has power over wind and waves, he also has power over sin, death, and the forces of hell. We run into evil every single day. But even when the storms of life threaten to overtake us, Jesus is in control. He will guide us through this life until the end when our ship docks at the gates of heaven. Amen.

The peace of God which transcends all understanding will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. Amen