Covenant Words
Covenant Words

Episode · 7 years ago

Christ Stilling the Storm

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Rev. Stu Sherard (Guest preacher)

The text is in. It's in the gospel of Mark Chapter Four versus thirty five through forty one. Mark Chapter Four versus thirty five through forty one. This is God's word for us this morning, so let's pay heed to it. On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, let us go across to the other side and, leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was, and other boats were with him, and a great wind storm arose and the waves were broke, were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the Stern, asleep on the cushion, and they woke him and said to him, teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea peace, be still, and the wind ceased and there was a great calm and he said to them, why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, who then, is this that even wind and sea obey him? Please pray with me, father, this is your word. You caused it to be written, every word of it. It is your word, every jot, every tittle. We thank you for this beautiful story of Christ stilling the tempest, which tells us that there, that there is a theology of Christians in suffering and trials that we are to remember and not to ever forget. So give us wisdom and discernment this morning to learn and apply this important lesson in our faith. And we ask it for Jesus Sake. I'm in. Please be seated. You know, you think you know Jesus. You have a relationship with him. He's your savior, he's your Lord, he's your friend, you've talked to him, you commune with him. He he comforts you when you're sad, he provides for you when you're in need, he reassures you when you doubt. He's always there when you call upon him. He meets your needs, he does what's best for you. And then something happens, something everything starts to unravel. You lose your job, you lose a loved one, you get sick, there's conflict in the church, your...

...family is in disarray, your dreams and your aspirations come crashing down around your ears. You don't get that promotion and you think, Jesus, this isn't what you're supposed to do. This isn't the way things are supposed to be. Jesus, don't you care? You find yourself in a storm. You know some of you this morning, or in a storm, maybe most of you. You know this week has been a storm and nothing about this week makes any sense. Do you know John Newton's prayer, a prayer answered by crosses? The prayer of that old slave trader turned pastor goes like this. He says, and I quote, I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith and love and every grace, might more of his salvation, know and seek more earnestly his face. Twas he who taught me thus to pray, and he, I trust, has answered prayer, but it has been in such a way as almost drove me to despair. I hope that in some favored our at once he'd answer my request and, by his love's constraining power, subdue my sins and give me rest. Instead of this, he made me feel the hidden evils of my heart and let the angry powers of hell assault my soul in every part. Yeay more, with his own hand, he seemed intent to aggravate my woe crossed all the fair designs, I schemed, blasted my gourds and laid me low. Lord. Why is this? I trembling cried. Wilt Thou pip, pursue thy worm to death. Tis In this way, the Lord replied, I answer prayer for grace and faith. These inward trials I employ from self and pride to set thee free and break thy schemes of earthly joy, that Thou may seek thy all and me. You know, if you don't know this poem of John Newton's, it's also a hymn. Google it now, get it on the web, prended out. Stick it in your bibles. I'm telling you, it will help you through many a trial. It will help you through many a storm. You see, that's what this story of Christ stilling the storm is all about. It's about life's trials and how we, as Christians, should deal...

...with those trials. So, as we begin this morning, let me just make a few general comments about this text. You know, each of the three Sonoptic Gospels, Matthew, Mark and Luke, includes this account of Jesus stilling the storm. It's an important miracle, not least because I think it recollects to us the power of God displayed over nature and some of the great miracles of the Old Testament, for example the parting of the waters of the Red Sea. It provides another demonstration that mark gives us of the identity of Jesus with Yahweh of the Old Testament. It demonstrates that Jesus is God. He can control the weather, he can control nature. It's also interesting, I think, that this little account is vivid with many eyewitness details. The first one is in verse thirty six. You know, we see this curious detail that that they took Jesus along just as he was, which apparently means that Jesus was taken directly from the boat from which he had been teaching the crowds along the lake shore, without returning him to the shore. Now that's something that an eyewitness would remember, but no one else, I think, would think to add. A similar detail, not picked up again in the account, is that there were other boats with them as they began their crossing of the sea. You know, we're left to wonder what happened to these these other boats in the storm, but mark says nothing about them. It's an eyewitness detail. Then there's that strange little detail here that Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat on a cushion. Again, it's an eyewitness detail. Now, I mentioned all this because these sorts of details, they don't have advanced the plot here. They don't develop any of the characters. They're basically irrelevant, they're unnecessary to the flow of the story, and I think that's what gives this story the marks of something that actually happened and it's being reported by someone who was actually there. In other words, we can know that this story, which is all about the power of Jesus, really happened. It's a true story. In other words, also in calm weather, a journey across the Sea of Galilee, depending upon one's destination along the fire shore, would probably taken an hour or two. But this is this lake is notorious for sudden and severe squalls. Now, the surface of the...

Sea of Galilee is about seven hundred feet below sea level and on several sides it's bordered by steep hills, including the goal on heights. Now what happens is the interchange between cooler air from the heights and the warmer air coming up from the surface of the lake creates conditions in which these winds sweep down the ravines and they whip up unusually large waves for a lake that particular size, and that's what happened here. It says in Verse Thirty Eight that Jesus is fast asleep even in the uproar of this storm, which is a testimony, I think that he's no doubt he's exhausted from his ministry. He has to get away from the crowds. By the way, this is the only passage in the gospels where we read that the Lord is sleeping, and the fact that the disciples, who make their living on the waters of this lake were so afraid indicates the severity of this storm. It was a big one. You know, this desperate and, we might think, disrespectful rebuke of Jesus by the disciples in Verse Thirty Eight, I think it's almost certainly of verbatim recollection of what they said. See, this is the way people speak when they're terrified. This word for rebuke in verse thirty nine. It's the same word used earlier by mark when the Lord rebuked the evil spirits in people. You know, the Lord speaks to this lake as if it were an unruly heckler. I think a good paraphrase of what he said is quiet, shut up. You know, whether evil spirits or forces of nature, they're all subject to his command. But power over nature even more starkly, I think, reveals Jesus Divine Authority. You know, there are remarkable parallels between this verse and Psalm One and seven, but they're the one who stills the storm. In Psalm one hundred and seven is Yahwe now in verse forty one. The presence of the supernatural terrifies the disciples just as and even more than the storm had. Now even the prospect of their own death was not as discomfiting to them as the presence of God. And so, as this text ends, we're left with the question, in the midst of this storm, will these men put their faith, put their trust in Jesus? How should they...

...respond to this serious trial that they're experiencing? So let's get into the boat with Jesus and these disciples and see what we can learn. You know, this story, this historical narrative, in the first place, is a revelation of Jesus himself. It's a demonstration of his divine authority. It's a demonstration of his power over the forces of nature, and that's really important for us to see that. But this story is much, much more than that. I think it's entirely proper to treat this passage as a lesson for us regarding the trials of our lives, the sorrows, the fears and confusion which we have to endure in this world. You know, Jesus asked his disciples immediately after calming the lake. Have you still no faith? So Jesus is interested not only in the facts about himself, but he's interested in the implication of those facts for us, his disciples. So the Lord turns this miracle into an important lesson about my faith, in your faith, in trial, in tribulation and frustration, in fear, in the storms of life. And what's our faith going to look like when things suddenly go south and we find ourselves in a situation these disciples found themselves in? You know, I think if there is a single and simple lesson to be learned from this narrative of the stilling of the storm, it's best captured by that old Anglican Bishop, Bishop J C Ryle, who put it this way. Raoul said sight, sense and feeling make even believers very poor theologians. Sight, sense and feeling make even believers very poor theologians. And he went on. He says the size of the waves and the fury of the wind, the sight of the water accumulating in the bottom of the boat and of the boat sinking deeper into the waters of the lake, made the disciples forget almost everything they had already learned about Jesus, not everything, for they at least knew enough to wake up the Lord and cry out to him, but they did so after the manner of a desperate appeal to their last resort and in a spirit of despairing fear, master, master, we're going to drowned. You know, sitting here, dry and undisturbed, we may think very poorly of the disciples. I...

...think we might smug smugly say, why didn't these guys put simply put two and two together? You know, the one who had miraculously healed a leper and driven demons out of men obviously wasn't going to drown in a storm on the Sea of Galilee. You know, why didn't one of them just say not to worry, let's just set here and see what happens. But not a single one of them thought that. Not a single one of them said that. And far too often you and I are just like them, just as forgetful, just as mesmerized by the waves when our trials come. You know it's true. You know we see the waves, we hear the wind, we sense the danger, and our trouble consumes us in the same way. And though we're Christians, we appeal to the Lord only as a kind of desperate afterthought. Why aren't you doing something, Lord? Can't you see that? I that I that I'm drowning here. We can't hear our theology, we can't hear our Christology, what we know to be true about Christ. That can't be heard in our souls over the moaning of the wind and the crashing of the waves. And here's the point, here's the lesson. There is a theology for Christians, for you and me, in suffering, to be remembered and not forgotten, and I think that theology is clearly depicted here in this account of Christ tilling the storm. You know, one of the best definitions of personal faith that I've run into lately is this. Faith is confidence in Christ as able to act suitably to the occasion. Faith is confidence in Christ as able to act suitably to the occasion. And I think that's true, and at least three particular aspects, all of which are highlighted in this wonderful account of the calming of the storm. First, the troubles which so much disturbed and distress these disciples were the Lord's doing. Look at Verse Thirty Five. It was the Lord's idea to take a boat across the lake, and one Peter's idea, when John's idea. It was the Lord's idea. Now they would never have been in this pickle, they would never have been on that lake that night but for the Lord's decision. That was...

...the Lord's doing. Now he was tired, he was exhausted, he had to get away from the crowds. So it was the Lord's needs and the Lord's purposes that had put the disciples in this difficulty. So, given that, what do you think their response of the disciple should have been? Well, let me suggest this. You know, had the disciples had the faith the size of a grain of mustard seed, which, by the way, Jesus had been taught that had just taught that earlier in the day, I think these disciples would have come to Jesus in the boat and said not master, master, were going to drown, but let's just sit back and see how the Lord is going to deal with this rather interesting situation, knowing that these troubles had been ordered for them by the Lord. No, think now, if the Lord could still a great storm by merely rebuking the wind and the waves, is it not obvious that he could have prevented the storm from rising in the first place? Now, he could have ordered up a glassy, smooth water, he could have ordered up a bit of a tailwind. If you find yourself in a storm, your merciful savior has had a hand in that. Faith knows that. Sight does not site forgets that, and I think knowing this as a very large part of the hope and the peace and the strength that we need in the storms of life. You know, my experience has been that it has been a large part of my deliverance from various trials just to know that this is the Lord's plan, this is his purpose, that it was his plan for me to pass through these waters, whatever that water was. Now, he who loves us with an everlasting love, could have kept us from every one of our trials, every one of our heartbreaks, every one of our dangers. That he has not, I think, is the clearest indication that he intends for us to face this trouble or that trouble. Dear. One's nature is powerful, but a storm doesn't love you, a storm is indifferent to you, but God is all powerful and he is filled with an untamable love for each of us. So I think that's one thing that we can get from this text. The troubles which so much disturb us are the Lord's doing, I think. Second, the troubles which so frightened the disciples posed no real danger to them at all,...

...with Christ present with them, as he was. You know, in the aftermath of this storm, it's clear what a blunder these disciples made and why they had nothing to say when the Lord effectively rebuked them for their lack of faith. They had been terrified for their lives, while the Mac Maker of heaven and earth lay a few feet away from them sleeping peacefully. Now, these these guys didn't know everything about Jesus of Nazareth, but they knew enough by now that he was the Messiah. They had considered it the most sensible thing to leave their livelihoods to serve him. They had witness, at witness, all his miracles, all of his healings, is casting out of demons. Did they really think that God's plan for the world would come to an end because of some unforeseen accident, Jesus drowning while crossing the see of Galilee? Couldn't they see that no boat ferrying the son of God, the Savior of the world, was going to sink? Couldn't they see that there was no safer place in all this great universe and in that boat on the lake on that night? No, they couldn't see any of that, because, while the eyes of their bodies were wide open and terror struck by the side of the ways, the eyes of their souls, their faith, were slam shut. And we can fire too often, I think, be just like the disciples on the lake that night. What we can see with our eyes and hear with our ears often mesmerizes us. We forget that our savior promised that he would never leave us or forsake us and that he will be with us to the end of the world, that he will always provide a way of escape from our tests and our trials and that he knows how to deliver the godly from their troubles. God forgive us that we can sometimes think and behave as if our Lord Christ, our master and commander, were on the far side of the world, unaware of our circumstances, uncaring of our plight, instead of in the stern of the very boat in which were rowing through the storm. Now, what a difference it would have made if the disciples had exercised their faith that night on the lake. I tell you, they would have felt alive. Now, it would have been vitality, not fear, that it would have filled their hearts. They would they would have felt...

...and I think they would have written home saying what Winston Churchill told his mother from Cuba after participating in a battle in eighteen ninety five. Churchill wrote told his mother, you know, there is nothing more exhilarating than to be shot at and missed. Dear ones, I don't know what storms you're rowing through this morning. I'm rolling through my own storms, but I do know that, whatever your troubles and sorrows and dangers may be, if you see the Lord at your side, if you see heaven before your face if you see the angels camped around you. If you see that, then suddenly, instead of fear and this creeping despair, you will discover that there is a certain exhilaration to being shot at and missed. So I think that's that's a second thing. Now, the troubles which so frightened US pose no real danger to us with Christ present with us as he is. And finally, I think the troubles and dangers which so disturbed and distress these disciples were, in fact they were primarily opportunities for Christ to manifest himself and reveal his glory among his people. You can't tell me and when all this was over, you know, when this lake was calm and the wind was just a gentle Zeph Zephyr. You know, with the adrenaline still pumping through the veins from what they had just gone through, you can't tell me that even one of those disciples would rather have stayed behind and missed out on all that action. Not on your life. You know what they had seen would stay with them, vivid in their memories, to strengthened and encourage them. They would take that experience with them to their graves. But don't you see? No great demonstration of divine power, calming a storm, can be given without a storm to come. Now, these disciples would never have seen what they saw had there not been waves and win for the savior to rebuke. You know, Sam Samuel Rutherford, once wrote that the Lord, he said, ties terrible notts just to have the pleasure of loosening them off from those he loves. He lays nets and sets traps only that he may get a chance of healing broken bones and setting the terrified free. And that marvelous in that exhilarating dear was what a completely different, wonderfully different way to look at the troubles we face,...

...to see them as opportunities for the Lord to show himself to us as our deliverer and savior and friend and all powerful protector and and and this isn't just some psychological ploy, some trick that we play on ourselves when we do that. Rather, it's nothing more nor less than the practice of the truth. The playing out of true faith in all the disciples straining at the oars, all of their worry and fear was nothing but a setting of the stage for the Lord Christ to thrill them with his power and glory to show them what a savior and what a salvation they had got in the son of God. And our troubles are the same. Thou'll have the same thrilling, exhilarating effect if we practice faith in the midst of storms and see the Lord rising up to help us. Well, as I wrap this up, I want you to notice one more thing. Notice that the Lord doesn't simply encourage us here. He actually rebukes us. Now, because I think of our modern therapeutic way of dealing with people who failed or people who are in trouble. We might miss that in the Lord's words here, but he rebukes these men for the lack, for their lack of faith. You know, we might have thought that he would put an arm around Peter or John or maybe tussle James Wet here hair and say, with a smile, you know, come on, guys, what do you think I am? Chopliver? You guys crack me up. You didn't have to worry. No, sorry, I didn't wake up sooner. I could have stopped the storm before it got started. But he didn't say that, did he? Instead, he said why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? Or, to put in another way, after all you've seen me do and heard me say, do you still understand nothing at all? You know, we all need encouragement in many ways, and the Lord gives us that. He gives us that in abundance. But from time to time we also need to hear that our faithless ways, especially in the light of the Lord's many demonstrations of his faithfulness to us over the years of our lives, are inexcusable. There are sin we must repent of those and put them to death. You know, there is no excuse for us not to understand that our troubles are no accident but have been brought to us by the Lord himself, that he is with us in and through them and that we cannot sink so long as he is there to...

...save us, and that our trials are his opportunities to thrill us, as he thrilled the disciples that long ago night. We need rebuke, and that rebuke, I think, is a powerful encouragement in itself. You know, there's a young woman, I know she's a marvelous, marvelous songwriter. She attends a big PCA church in Atlanta, Georgia. It's called perimeter PCA. Her name is Laura's story. I don't know if any of you've heard of her. About ten years ago, suddenly, out of the blue, during a routine check up, doctor's found a brain tumor and her husband it was pretty serious and they originally thought that it was inoperable, that he wasn't going to make it. Laura and her housemen were devastated and they they had the same questions, exactly the same questions that these disciples had. You know, why, Lord? Why us? Lord? Don't you care about us? Are you asleep? What's happening to us? And that news started a long journey for this young couple. Surgery, Chemo, ups and downs, good days and bad days, and through it all Laura's story and her husband learned the lessons, I think, we find in this short narrative of Christ stilling the storm. Well, Laura's husband survived. Today they have two wonderful, beautiful children. She wrote a song called blessings, which I think expresses their experience of rowing against this brain tumors storm. So wonderful testimony which captures, I think, the essence of the lessons of this biblical narrative and the lyrics go like this. We pray for blessings, we pray for peace, comfort, for family protection while we sleep. We pray for healing, for prosperity, We pray for your mighty hand to ease our suffering, and all the while you hear each spoken need. You love US way too much to give us lesser things. Because what if your blessings come through rain drops? What if your healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights are what it takes to know you're near? What if trials of this life are your mercies in disguise? We pray for wisdom, your voice to hear. We cry in anger when we cannot feel you near. We doubt your goodness, we doubt your love, as if every promise from your word is not enough,...

...and all the while you hear each desperate plea and long that we'd have faith to believe when friends betray us, when darkness seems to win. We know that pain reminds this heart that this is not this is not our home. It's not our home, because what if your blessings come through rain drops? What if you're healing comes through tears? What if a thousand sleepless nights or what it takes to know you're near? What if my greatest disappointments or the aching of this life is the revealing of a greater thirst this world can't satisfy? What if trials of this life, the rain, the storms, the hardest knights, are your mercies in disguise, Jesus, calming the storms of our lives? Dear ones, the Lord's in the boat with us. He's with you in your loneliness. He's with you in your worry, yes, in your worry about the future or your job. He's with you in the troubles you have with your kids, with your husband, with your wife, with your boss. He's with you and your sickness and those of your loved ones, and he will be with you still on your death bed. And he who simply spoke and calmed a great storm, is fully able to hold you up and deliver you when his waves and breakers sweep over you. And you see, if you call this to mind, if you keep it in mind, it is, after all, a frequently taught lesson in the Bible. I promise you, in the Lord's name, you will, far more often than is now the case, have occasion to say with wonder and with exhilaration, who, then is this that even wind and sea obey him? Let's pray.

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