What do you do when you are faced with difficult circumstances? We all like it when things are going smoothly - by that I mean going the way we want them to go. But what happens when your world is rocked? You lose your job, you suffer a financial loss, you get news of a physical problem - how do you handle the storms of life? When you encounter an obstacle or face some difficulty in life, do you exhaust all of your power and skills and resources attempting to fix the problem before turning to the Lord? Usually we only succeed in making matters worse. And then, when we reach the end of our rope-when we are undeniably in over our heads - we turn to Him to bail us out. He becomes our last resort rather than our first resort. If you can relate to this, you are not alone. We see this same attitude in Jesus' disciples in our text this morning.
Mark 4:35-41 (NASB) And on that day, when evening had come, He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side." 36 And leaving the multitude, they took^ Him along with them, just as He was, in the boat; and other boats were with Him. 37 And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. 38 And He Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they awoke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" 39 And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. 40 And He said to them, "Why are you so timid? How is it that you have no faith?" 41 And they became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"
The vivid details in this text suggest an eye witness account. Do you remember who that eyewitness was? Peter (remember that we said that Mark got his information from Peter).
What we see in this text is a miracle. But, sad to say, many theologians throughout the history of the church have not taken any of the miracles of our Lord seriously. The Jews of our Lord's day did not challenge the actual events, but rather the power by which these miracles were performed (cf. Mark 3:22ff.)
The skeptics and critics of God's Word can't believe in the miraculous. But for the sincere student of Scripture, there is no doubt that Jesus performed many miracles. The miracles of our Lord authenticate His claim as Messiah.
The miraculous works of our Lord Jesus were communicated by the use of three primary terms, each of which accentuated one particular facet of the supernatural activity of Christ. These three terms are found together in several passages.
Acts 2:22 (NASB) "Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know
2 Corinthians 12:12 (NASB) The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with all perseverance, by signs and wonders and miracles.
The term "miracle" is the Greek word dunamis, which means: "power, might, strength, force." Our word dynamite comes from this word, but dunamis is not an explosive kind of power like dynamite. It speaks of inherent ability that carries the potential to perform or accomplish a task. Dunamis emphasizes the mighty work that has been done, and, in particular, the power by which it was accomplished. The event is described in terms of the power of God in action.
If "miracle" emphasizes the cause of the miraculous event, "wonder," which is from the Greek word teras, underscores its effect on those who are witnesses. On many occasions, the crowds (even the disciples) were amazed and astonished by the works of our Lord. We see this in our text.
The most pregnant term used with reference to the miracles of our Lord is "sign," from the Greek word semeion, which focuses upon the deeper meaning of the miracle. A sign is a miracle that conveys a truth about our Lord Jesus. A miracle is usually a sign, but a sign need not always be a miracle (cf. Luke 2:12).
The miracles of our Lord are a visible manifestation of divine power (miracle), an awe-inspiring spectacle (wonder), and an instructive revelation about God (sign).
Several purposes emerge from the Scriptures for the exercise of miracles by our Lord. I want to focus on just a couple of them.
1. They accredited Jesus. It was expected that when Messiah, came He would be accredited by miracles. When our Lord presented Himself at the synagogue in Nazareth, He quoted a passage from Isaiah, chapter 61:
Luke 4:17-19 (NASB) And the book of the prophet Isaiah was handed to Him. And He opened the book, and found the place where it was written, 18 "THE SPIRIT OF THE LORD IS UPON ME, BECAUSE HE ANOINTED ME TO PREACH THE GOSPEL TO THE POOR. HE HAS SENT ME TO PROCLAIM RELEASE TO THE CAPTIVES, AND RECOVERY OF SIGHT TO THE BLIND, TO SET FREE THOSE WHO ARE DOWNTRODDEN, 19 TO PROCLAIM THE FAVORABLE YEAR OF THE LORD."
The people expected Messiah to present Himself by signs:
John 7:31 (NASB) But many of the multitude believed in Him; and they were saying, "When the Christ shall come, He will not perform more signs than those which this man has, will He?"
By reason of His work alone, men should receive Him as Messiah.
2. They reveal God. The miracles of Jesus were not merely deeds to authenticate the message of Messiah, but a vital part of that message. The miracles not only revealed the power of God, but His person. In the miracles of Jesus, we see the sympathy and compassion of God. Jesus was deeply moved by human suffering and need:
Luke 7:12-15 (NASB) Now as He approached the gate of the city, behold, a dead man was being carried out, the only son of his mother, and she was a widow; and a sizeable crowd from the city was with her. 13 And when the Lord saw her, He felt compassion for her, and said to her, "Do not weep." 14 And He came up and touched the coffin; and the bearers came to a halt. And He said, "Young man, I say to you, arise!" 15 And the dead man sat up, and began to speak. And Jesus gave him back to his mother.
People's needs prompted Jesus to action. The miracles reveal Jesus to be the Redeemer and Restorer of a fallen universe. He came to save.
With this in mind, let's break down this passage and view its parts:
Mark 4:35-36 (NASB) And on that day, when evening had come, He said to them, "Let us go over to the other side." And leaving the multitude, they took Him along with them, just as He was, in the boat; and other boats were with Him.
Jesus had spent the entire day teaching by the use of parables. No doubt, He was completely exhausted, as any preacher could testify. The external narrative resumes in the context indicated in 4:1 with Jesus in the boat talking to the crowd on the lakeshore. Apparently without even getting out of the boat, they pushed away from shore and set out for the other side of the lake, leaving the multitudes behind.
Mark makes clear that this was unpremeditated on Jesus' part: "They took Him along with them, just as He was." He made no preparation for this journey. Mark alone tells us that there were other disciples in other boats that accompanied Him.
Mark 4:37 (NASB) And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.
The words describing the "fierce gale of wind" are the Greek words seismos megas from which we get the word seismic, which is used to describe the tumultuous upheaval of the plates of the earth causing earthquakes.
The Sea of Galilee, also known as Lake Gennesaret, was nearly 700 feet below the level of the Mediterranean Sea. It was surrounded by rugged terrain that slopped to the Sea creating something of a vacuum effect. It was only about 13 miles long and 7 miles wide, so it was not a large body of water. But when the winds swooped down from the mountains and across the plains upon the Sea, it could churn with great agitation. The interesting thing about this particular storm of seismic proportions was that it scared even the experienced fishermen in the boat. This was no ordinary storm!
Matthew 8:24 speaks of the boat being "covered with the waves," while Luke 8:23 tells us that "they began to be swamped and to be in danger."
In such a situation, the disciples, no doubt, were trying to bail the craft out with whatever implements they had available to them. They would also have been fighting to keep the boat afloat, attempting to keep it on as even a keel as possible. These were not ignorant men who knew nothing about the Sea of Galilee and of how to man and sail a vessel such as this. Four of them, at least, were fishermen. Peter, Andrew, James, and John had probably known the sea of Galilee and its storms from their youth. They were skilled fishermen who made their livelihood on the Lake and who knew, if anyone did, how to combat the forces of nature when such storms as this descended on them.
The waves were lashing at the ship, filling it faster than the men could bail it out. Even these seasoned sailors were terrified. Higher and higher the water rose within the ship as well as without. How incongruous it must have seemed to the disciples for Jesus to be resting peacefully while they were floundering helplessly.
Where did this storm come from? Was it just some indiscriminate force of nature? Was it the work of Satan? According to Scripture, it is God who controls the weather.
Job 37:6 (NASB) "For to the snow He says, 'Fall on the earth,' And to the downpour and the rain, 'Be strong.'
Job 37:10-13 (NASB) "From the breath of God ice is made, And the expanse of the waters is frozen. 11 "Also with moisture He loads the thick cloud; He disperses the cloud of His lightning. 12 "And it changes direction, turning around by His guidance, That it may do whatever He commands it On the face of the inhabited earth. 13 "Whether for correction, or for His world, Or for lovingkindness, He causes it to happen.
Please note here that God uses the weather for correction or for blessing. The weather brings judgment on some people by ruining their crops, flooding their possessions, and drowning them. Other times the storm clouds water the soil and thus demonstrate His love:
Psalms 147:16-18 (NASB) He gives snow like wool; He scatters the frost like ashes. 17 He casts forth His ice as fragments; Who can stand before His cold? 18 He sends forth His word and melts them; He causes His wind to blow and the waters to flow.
The Scriptures teach us that all weather-- good and bad-- is under the direct control of God. Whether it be a devastating hurricane that kills hundreds or a gentle spring rain, it is an act of God. The Bible teaches us that God controls all the forces of nature, both destructive and productive, on a continuous, moment-by-moment basis.
That should answer our question: Where did this storm come from? It came from God; it was under His control and for His purpose.
Mark 4:38 (NASB) And He Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they awoke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?"
During this storm, Jesus is "asleep on the cushion." This is the only reference in the Gospels to our Lord sleeping. Jesus had a busy day of ministry, and He was tired; this was the slumber of fatigue. Here we see the humanity of our Lord Jesus. This is a good picture of the theanthropic man. Theanthropic comes from theos, which means: "God," and anthropos, which means: "man." Jesus Christ is the God-Man. He is One person with two natures.
Jesus Christ, the second person of the trinity, became a man at the incarnation. Incarnation comes from two Latin words "in" plus "cargo," meaning: "infleshment, the act of assuming flesh." God chose to become united to true humanity. The incarnation came about through the miracle of the virgin birth:
Matthew 1:23 (NASB) "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US."
At the incarnation, God the Son, the Second person of the one triune God, was forever joined to true humanity. This joining together has been designated as the hypostatic union. Hypostatic is from the Greek word hupostasis, which means: "substance or essence." In theological language, it means: "person." So the doctrine of the hypostatic union is the doctrine of the personal union of the two natures, the divine and the human, of the Lord Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is 100% God and 100% man.
So the storm is raging, the ship is taking on water, the disciples are afraid, and so:
Mark 4:38 (NASB) And He Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they awoke Him and said to Him, "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?"
Now many of the disciples were experienced sailors, and they had tried everything their profession had taught them to bring the ship under control, but nothing had worked - so they turned to Jesus. But notice what they said to Him: "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?"
Matthew recorded them as saying:
Matthew 8:25 (NASB) And they came to Him, and awoke Him, saying, "Save us, Lord; we are perishing!"
The asked the Lord to save them, because they knew He could. They knew that Jesus Christ had power! They had seen Him heal the sick, deliver the demon possessed, and raise the dead. The real problem of the disciples is precisely that of Christians today; they did not rebuke Jesus for His inability, but rather for His indifference. "Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?" What irked these men was not that Jesus was helpless in the face of the storm, but heedless of it. They were sinking, and He was sleeping! Didn't He care that they were all about to drown? Didn't He care?
Have you ever felt like that? These incidents in Scripture are not merely to tell us what happened two thousand years ago; they are parables for us, designed to illustrate exactly what happens to us in the spiritual realm of our lives. Who of us has not felt this way at times? Here we are in trouble, and God does not seem to care. There is no answer to our prayers. He seems indifferent. Nothing seems to happen when we go to Him troubled and distraught and panicky. We cry out, and there is no answer. This was the trouble with these disciples.
"Do you not care that we are perishing?" It makes me wonder if this is perhaps Peter asking the question (after all, he was the more bold and vocal). If this was Peter, perhaps he has this in mind when he later writes, "Cast all your cares upon Him, for He cares for you." Peter had learned from this incident that our Lord does care.
Mark 4:39 (NASB) And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.
Now, the miracle lies not in the stilling of the storm, for even nature would do that eventually, but in the suddenness with which it happened. All of a sudden the wind, which had been roaring and beating about their ears, stopped, and there was absolute stillness. And the waves, which had been dashing over the bow, filling the boat, threatening them, mounting up higher on every side, were suddenly stilled, as though a giant hand pressed them down, and there was a great calm.
Today we can miss the significance of this, but the Jews of Jesus' day understood from the Old Testament Scriptures that it is God who controls the sea.
Psalms 89:9 (NASB) Thou dost rule the swelling of the sea; When its waves rise, Thou dost still them.
Psalms 107:29 (NASB) He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed.
Isaiah 50:2 (NASB) "Why was there no man when I came? When I called, why was there none to answer? Is My hand so short that it cannot ransom? Or have I no power to deliver? Behold, I dry up the sea with My rebuke, I make the rivers a wilderness; Their fish stink for lack of water, And die of thirst.
Mark is showing these Jews who Jesus is He is God! Jesus speaks and the storm is gone! Wouldn't it be nice to have this power? To say to your problems, "Be still," and they're gone. It is not the intention of the kingdom of God to remove material difficulties, but to learn to trust God in them. If you had the power to remove all difficulties, would you need faith? No! But the writer of Hebrews tells us that faith pleases God:
Hebrews 11:6 (NASB) And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.
This is an axiomatic truth. The writer uses the aorist tense in the infinitive "to please." The idea is: "Without faith it is impossible to please Him at all." The statement is universal in its application, and it is timeless. There is no way our relationship to God can be pleasing to Him unless we trust Him.
Mark 4:40 (NASB) And He said to them, "Why are you so timid? How is it that you have no faith?"
Not only did the wind and the waves need a word of rebuke, so did the faithless disciples. "Why are you so timid?" Luke puts is this way; "Where is your faith?" You see, the lack of faith for which Jesus rebuked His disciples was not a lack of faith in His ability to save, but a lack of faith in His attentiveness to our needs. Their God was able to save, but was insensitive to their need.
The word "timid" is from the Greek word deilos, which means: "timid fearful, faithless." It implies cowardice as opposed to bravery, and hence it is a shrinking back due to fear of harm or hurt. It is a lack of faith.
Faith is always the answer to our fears, regardless of what they are. Jesus put His finger right on it: "How is it that you have no faith?" They had forgotten the things He said to them in the "Sermon on the Mount" about the extent of God's care for them:
Matthew 6:30 (NASB) "But if God so arrays the grass of the field, which is alive today and tomorrow is thrown into the furnace, will He not much more do so for you, O men of little faith?
The significance of this event to us is that faith is the answer to fear - faith in the goodness and care of God in our lives; faith that He loves us and He is able to work in our midst.
What these stories impress upon us is that faith in Christ is not just for our salvation, but also for every detail and demand of life. He rebuked them for their absence of faith. This is not saying they are not believers. They just aren't walking by faith or trusting in Him for that situation.
Do you know what faith is? If someone asked you what faith is, could you explain it to them? Faith is always intelligent, it knows what it is doing. Biblically defined, faith is understanding and assent to a proposition. If you were to ask me, "Where is my money?" And I said to you, "The check is in the mail." Now, you are either going to believe me, which is faith; you are trusting in what I said, or you are not. No matter what the subject, whether it be God or guns, the psychology or linguistics of belief is identical in all cases. How many of you know what a M61 Vulcan is? It is a 20mm cannon with a rate of fire of 6,000 rounds per minute. That's 100 rounds per second. Do you believe that? Yes or no are your only choices. If you say, "Yes," that is faith. You are trusting in what I have told you. Believing is always thinking that a proposition is true. The difference between various beliefs lies in the objects or propositions believed, not in the nature of belief. Faith must begin with knowledge, you can't believe what you don't know or understand. Belief is the act of assenting to something understood. But understanding alone is not belief in what is understood. I understand the teaching of evolution, but I do not assent to it. I understand Dispensational theology, but I do not believe it.
Faith is believing a promise:
Romans 4:20-21 (NASB) yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.
Abraham understood what God was promising him, and he believed Him. Faith must have a promise. Believing God for things He hasn't promised isn't faith, it's presumption or foolishness.
There are degrees of faith: We often think in terms of either having faith or not having faith. But the Bible talks of various degrees of faith:
Romans 4:20 (NASB) yet, with respect to the promise of God, he did not waver in unbelief, but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God,
Abraham "grew strong in faith." This shows that there are degrees of faith. Our Lord charges the disciples, in general; and Peter, in particular, as having "little faith." They had faith, but, unlike Abraham's, it was deficient in strength. The disciples asked Jesus to increase their faith:
Luke 17:5 (NASB) And the apostles said to the Lord, "Increase our faith!"
The Scriptures speak of: little faith, great faith, weak faith, strong faith, lacking faith, perfect faith, dead faith, full faith, growing faith, and increasing faith. There are degrees of faith. All believers don't have the same amount of faith. Some believers are weak in faith. Some believers have dead faith.
How can we increase our faith? There are two main factors that determine the strength of our faith. First, is our knowledge of God. The main explanation of the troubles and difficulties that most Christians experience in their lives is due to a lack of knowledge about God, theology proper. We need to study the revelation that God has given of Himself and of His character. That is how to develop strong faith. The more you know God, the more you will trust Him.
Martin Luther said to Erasmus, "Your thoughts of God are too human." I think that is true of most Christians in our day.
Romans 10:17 (NKJV) So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
We need to study the Word so that we may know Him. It's hard to trust someone you don't know.
The second element is the application of what we know. A knowledge that never ventures out upon what it knows will never be a strong faith. The disciples in the boat during the storm were failing to apply their faith and that is why our Lord put His question to them in that particular form. He said, "Where is your faith?" They had faith, but where was it? Why weren't they applying it to the situation that they were in? Their problem was that they did not use the faith they had, they didn't think.
They were looking at the waves and the water coming in the boat. They were bailing it out, but still more was coming in, and they cried out to Jesus, "We're going to die." He said to them, "Where is your faith?" They had seen Jesus do the miraculous; they should have trusted Him.
They saw Jesus raise the dead, and they were worried about drowning? They weren't applying their faith. In addition to our knowledge of God, there is this very important element-- we must apply what we know.
At times we do apply what we know, and we come through the problems and difficulties victorious. Like David when he faced Goliath. And yet at other times, we become consumed with our circumstances, and we do not apply our faith; like David before Achish, the king of Gath.
When we fail to trust God, we doubt His sovereignty and question His care and goodness. God views our distrust as seriously as He views our disobedience. When the children of Israel were hungry, they spoke against God:
Psalms 78:19-21 (NASB) Then they spoke against God; They said, "Can God prepare a table in the wilderness? 20 "Behold, He struck the rock, so that waters gushed out, And streams were overflowing; Can He give bread also? Will He provide meat for His people?" 21 Therefore the LORD heard and was full of wrath, And a fire was kindled against Jacob, And anger also mounted against Israel;
Why was it that God was so angry with them?
Psalms 78:22 (NASB) Because they did not believe in God, And did not trust in His salvation.
In order to trust God, we must always view our adverse circumstances through the eyes of faith. Faith pleases God. And fear is the opposite of faith.
Our question to Jesus is, "Have you no care?" His reply to us is, "Have you no faith?" This is the key: While we say, "Lord, don't you care about my situation?" He says, "Son, don't you trust me in it?"
Remember the scene that Daniel and his three friends faced? In both situations, they encountered dreaded situations, a fiery furnace and a lion's den; and yet, their confidence and even calmness came, because they believed that by their Sovereign Lord's design this was His fiery furnace and His lion's den. And they belonged to the Lord, so they found rest by abandoning themselves to their gracious Sovereign Lord. That is faith. It remained in embryo fashion in the disciples, but soon they too emerged with refined faith so that even when they were imprisoned and beaten for the sake of Christ, they could rejoice that He would consider them worthy to suffer for His name's sake (Acts 4:13-31).
Mark 4:41 (NASB) And they became very much afraid and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?"
The word translated "fear" is the Greek word phobeo, which means: "to reverence, venerate, to treat with deference or reverential obedience." It is a different kind of fear than that which occurs earlier. Then it was cowardly fear; here it is that sense of deep respect that has awe at its heart.
The question of the disciples is probably rhetorical, and the answer is left for us to supply. That answer is not difficult to arrive at. As we have already said, the Jews believed that only God had power over the winds and the seas. This is not just a miracle, this is a portrayal of the One Who is Lord of all; of One Who rules the power of the sea (Psalm 89.9). And we may surmise that Mark deliberately used "sea" rather than "lake" to make this connection.
The unbelief of the disciples is just as evident in us, who are Christians today, as it was in that little ship, tossed by the sea. It is not so much that we doubt God's ability to save, as it is God's awareness of our needs. We falsely suppose that because our Lord is with us, the storms of life will pass us by. And when the trials of life sweep full force over us, and it seems that we are losing ground, here our faith is tested. We impugn the character of God by challenging His failure to act in our defense. We wonder at why God seems to be "asleep in the ship" while we are only too aware of our impending peril. We do not doubt God's power to act in our behalf; we wonder at His refusal to act. Can God really care for us and let us sail headlong into disaster? It is God's timing that we question. God delays His deliverance of men to the point of despair so that His salvation will be acknowledged as totally divine. It was only when the disciples were snatched from the jaws of death that they sensed their inability and His omnipotence. We must trust God's ability as well as His timing if we are to be people of faith.
Do you doubt God's care? This is the Lord who gave His only Son for us that we could be pardoned from sin. Do we doubt His love after seeing the Cross? You say, "But I need some sign of His love for me." What greater sign could He give us than the Cross?
Our text today speaks of a literal storm. But there were many other kinds as well.
When we face difficulties, we need to have faith in God's goodness and God's control. The storms He sends our way are to build our faith. The storms He sends our way will not last forever. That is not to say they may not last the rest of our natural lives, but one day, all our storms will be over.
J. C. Ryle, writes:
If we are Christians, we must not expect everything smooth in our journey to heaven. We must count it no strange thing, if we have to endure sicknesses, losses, bereavements, and disappointments, just like other men. Free pardon and full forgiveness, grace along the way, and glory at the end--all this our Savior has promised to give. But He has never promised that we shall have no affliction. He loves us too well to promise that. By affliction He teaches us many precious lessons, which without it we should never learn. By affliction He shows us our emptiness and weakness, draws us to the throne of grace, purifies our affections, weans us from the world, makes us long for heaven.
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