Have you ever thought to yourself that life is a little unfair?
When the traffic lights never seem to be in your sequence. When the lines up at the bank or shops are so long and you have other places to be. When you get a puncture in the brand new tyre you just put on.
On more serious note, when you know someone who has battled for years with ongoing illness. When a diagnosis hits that you weren’t expecting. When all the bills come due….
Life has storms,and we struggle to cope at best of times, and when the worst of times hits, we are left with little more than anxiety, depression,doubt, and hurt.
What our hearts turn to in moments of distress reveals what we are trusting in. Who we blame shows what we truly believe.
Marks gospel begs the question of all – who is Jesus? It shows how often we get Him wrong and shows Who He really is.
1 – The Great Storm
The Sea of Galilee’s location creates the perfect mix for many violent and unexpected storms.
Although storms were known to happen, and the majority of the disciples were seasoned fishermen, the severity of this particular storm even had them panicking.
The boat was filling with water, the waves crashing and breaking, the swaying back and forth, up and down.
Wet, wild, windy, and terrifying.
Some of the scenes from the Sydney to Hobart are enough to put me off getting on board any sailing boat, and stories like this, and numerous other shipwrecks and storms in the bible confirm the biblical foundation of never setting foot on something that needs wind to carry it.
The disciples reaction to the storm is something we sympathise with, as fear is a common connecting point between all humans, despite the separation of time, gender, race, culture…Fear is a great leveller.
2 – The Great Calm
When Jesus does wake up He rebukes the wind like it was a naughty child, and we are told Jesus says to the sea, “Peace, be still”, and like a compliant child, the winds and waves ‘obey’ Him.( v41).
There is a great calm. A complete calm after total calamity.
He didn’t utter an incantation. He didn’t summon the angels of heaven to hold back the wind and the four corners of the earth. He didn’t brace Himself for a fight. He didn’t give instructions to the disciples. He just rose and spoke, and all was calm.
This miracle of a calm sea shows us not only the great power that Christ had as the Creator of the universe, but also the message of why He came to this earth at all.
The sea, in those days, and even still in come situations today, is seen as an unstoppable force of destruction and death.
Once it reaches it’s full, unbridled fury, no vessel and no person is safe who is on it or near it.
Christ comes along, and with a word, brings stillness.
How much we need to see the Word made flesh do the same in our lives and hearts.
To have calm in the raging storms of life is possible, but only if Jesus the One you go to for help.
There are two options when we face the storms of life.
You could argue that it’s just life. You’re born, you suffer, you die and that’s it. All is destruction and everything is meaningless. It makes no difference how you handle storms. If you have integrity and humility or if you are cruel and vindictive, nothing matters in then end, and nothing will make a difference.
“To-morrow, and to-morrow, and to-morrow, creeps in this petty pace from day to day. To the last syllable of recorded time; and all our yesterdays have lighted fools the way to dusty death. Out, out, brief candle! Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player, that struts and frets his hour upon the stage, and then is heard no more. It is a tale told by an idiot. Full of sound and fury signifying nothing.” – (Macbeth), William Shakespeare.
The other option is to believe that Jesus is Who He says He is. Then there is a different way to look at life and all that happens to us. If He is truly Lord of All, including this world, and your life – then you will find that He gives all the healing, rest and power you will ever need. But you’re going to have to see Him for Who He is first and just how much you need Him!
3 – The Great Fear
Everything was going wrong, they were about to die and Jesus seemed to be MIA. If He truly cared, He wouldn’t be absent, they wouldn’t be about to sink. If He loved them, He wouldn’t let them suffer.
His words to them after He calms the sea are somewhat of a rebuke, but more of challenge to the disciples ( and our) perceptions of Who He is and what it is He should be doing for us.
He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”.
When the storm is raging, the disciples are afraid. When the storm is calmed, they are terrified. Why is that? Why were they more afraid in the calm than they were in the storm?
They had just seen the unimaginable happen. The storm had had great power, they couldn’t control the storm and they certainly couldn’t escape it. Jesus clearly had far more power than the storm, and they clearly had even less control over Him and had been called to follow Him!
“If I go to Jesus in my storm, He’s not under my control anymore than the storm is. He lets things happen that I don’t understand. He doesn’t do things according to my plan, or in a way that makes sense to me. But if Jesus is God, then He’s got to be great enough to have some reasons to let you through things you can’t understand. His power is unbounded, but so are His wisdom and His love. Nature is indifferent to you, but Jesus is filled with untameable love for you.” – Timothy Keller
The premise that that if God loves us nothing bad will ever happen to us is a wrong one.
If you believe in a God great enough and strong enough to be mad at when things don’t go your way, you also have a God Who is great enough and powerful enough to have reasons you don’t understand. You can’t have it both ways.
What do you do when you’re faced with such a truth about Who Jesus is? About Who God is?
You have to realise you cannot save yourself.
You have to realise this Jesus has power not only beyond your imagination, but also beyond your control.
The step you should then take is move from fear to awe, and fall down and worship. “Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey Him?”
“Where is your faith?” – in framing it like that, we can see a hint of what He’s trying to get them to see.
“No you can’t save yourself from the storm. Yes, you were right to call upon me, even if you had no idea of what I would do and now are terrified even more. You do believe, but you need help with your unbelief.”
He was also showing them that it wasn’t the quality or quantity of their faith that would save them, but the object of their faith.
4 – The Greater Jonah
The water and the depths of the sea we have already noted were associated with death and destruction.
No one who went into the depths of the sea could possibly survive.
The Psalmist often used the image of the waves and seas and depths to portray a helplessness and as a place to call out to God from.
Jonah, of course, gives us the account of another boat, in another storm, at another time many years before Jesus calmed that sea of Galilee.
There are many parallels between Jonah’s story in the storm on the boat and this storm with the disciples and Jesus.
Both Jesus and Jonah were in a boat.
Both boats were overtaken by a sudden storm.
Both storms are described in a very similar way.
Both Jesus and Jonah were asleep through the storm.
They were both woken up by fearful sailors who were saying they were all about to die.
In both cases, through a miracle, the storm was calmed and all survived.
In both stories, the sailors were terrified after the calm.
There are of course, some differences.
Jonah instructed the sailors to throw him overboard in order to save themselves. ( Jonah 1:12).
This of course doesn’t happen in the story in Mark.
Or doesn’t it?
Mark is hinting at, and Jesus said explicitly in Matthew 12:39-41 that He was the Greater Jonah.
“Someday I’m going to calm all storms, still all waves. I’m going to destroy destruction, break brokenness, kill death. How can He do that? He can do it only because when He was on the Cross He was thrown – willingly, like Jonah – into the ultimate storm, under the ultimate waves, the waves of sin and death. Jesus was thrown into the only storm that can actually sink us – the storm of eternal justice, of what we owe for our wrongdoing. That storm wasn’t calmed, not until it swept Him away.” – Timothy Keller.
The knowledge that Jesus hung and died on a cross, bearing the ultimate weight of all our sin, all of sin and all of it’s effects that cause us such grief and sorrow here on earth, and bearing our own sins in His own body…that picture, as you see it truly for yourself, will give you a true awareness that God truly does care.
If He could go through that darkness, that unspeakable and unimaginable storm of God’s wrath for you, how could we possibly think, as believers in Jesus, that He would not only be with us through our current storms, but be with us in the same power?
When we let that truth sink down deep, we may well still have moments when we are overwhelmed, but we will never be overcome, not if the One Who commands the very winds and waves is with us.
You will know He cares when you look at the cross.
When through the deep waters I call you to go,
The rivers of woe shall not overflow;
For I will be with you, your troubles to bless,
And sanctify to you your deepest distress.