Faithlife Sermons

Sermon Tone Analysis

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Mark 4:35-41
{{{"
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
*36 *And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.
And other boats were with him.
*37 *And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.
*38 *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?”
*39 *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.
*40 *He said to them, “Why are you so afraid?
Have you still no faith?”
*41 *And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
}}}
It is too easy for Western, American Christians to get comfortable with Jesus.
Before long we view him as nothing more than a good friend who is always there for us, ready to help us whenever we need him to do so.
But Mark is not willing to leave us with that kind of perception of Jesus.
This passage is one way in which Mark wants us to see Jesus more clearly.
What we see will shake us, but if we don’t see this we will be left with a fake Jesus, one we have imagined but one who exists only in our mind.
We need to put ourselves in the shoes—or, sandals!—of the disciples on this frightful night on the Sea of Galilee, for what happened there happened for their benefit and for the benefit of anyone who wants to be a disciple of Jesus.
!
The Disciples’ Plight
What Mark tells us in verse 37 is enough to picture the serious danger these disciples were in that night.
First, he tells us “a great windstorm arose.”
The Sea of Galilee sits in a basin about 700 feet below sea level and surrounded by steep mountains on the east and towering hills on the west.
Windstorms such as Mark describes are common to this day.
The cold upper air from Mt Hermon, which lies just to the northeast, collides with the warm air rising from the sea producing frequent severe weather conditions.
The word Mark uses here ("great windstorm") is descriptive of a hurricane.
The winds itself are dangerous enough, but add the rolling waves and it’s not hard to imagine how frightening this moment must have been, even for experienced fishermen like many of the disciples were.
Mark’s description continues.
He tells us that “the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.”
It wouldn’t have been a very big boat.
It was probably one just like the one discovered in the Sea of Galilee back in 1986, which measures about 26 feet long, 7 feet wide, and 4 feet high.[1]
It could hold about 15 people, but it wouldn’t stand much of a chance in a hurricane!
Mark tells us that the boat was quickly filling with water.
It wouldn’t be long before the boat would sink.
In such a perilous situation it is most amazing to read that Jesus was in the back of the boat asleep.[2]
In the Bible, sleeping in the midst of adversity is a symbol for complete trust in God.
For example, God tells the Israelites that when they get to the Promised Land,
{{{"
/I will give peace in the land, and you shall lie down, and none shall make you afraid./
(Lev 26:6)
}}}
And the psalmist said,
{{{"
/In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.
/(Psa 4:8)
}}}
Jesus could sleep through the storm because he knew this would not be the way he would die.
He demonstrated total trust in God’s plan for his life.
!
The Disciples’ Complaint
But the disciples don’t know that!
For all they know, the only hope they have of surviving this storm is for everyone to help bail water.
All hands on deck!
So when they notice that Jesus is still asleep in the back of the boat, they do what anyone would expect them to do.
They woke him from his sleep.
While Jesus’ sleep in the storm may signify his trust in God, that’s not what it signified to frightened sailors.[3]
To them it indicated that Jesus did not care about their plight.
They rebuked him by saying, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
This is the language of desperate, frustrated people.
One commentator paraphrases their rebuke, “Teacher, are we to drown for all you care?”[4]
Again we find this feeling, that God has forsaken his people, expressed elsewhere in the Bible.
{{{"
/Why, O LORD, do you stand far away?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?/ (Psalm 10:1)
/Awake!
Why are you sleeping, O LORD? Rouse yourself!
Do not reject us forever!
Why do you hide your face?
Why do you forget our affliction and oppression?
Rise up; come to our help!/
(Psa 44:23-24, 26a)
}}}
Isn’t this how we sometimes feel, that God ignores us in our plight?
That he really doesn’t care?
The Scripture tells us to cast all of our cares on him, “because he cares” for us (1 Peter 5:7), but it can be so hard to believe that he really does.
!
Jesus Responds
Clearly the disciples wanted, or at least hoped, that Jesus would do /something/ to help them in their perilous condition, so they awoke him.
Indeed Jesus does do something.
!!
He Calms the Storm
The first thing Jesus did after he awoke was he rebuked the wind and he spoke to the sea with the command, “Peace!
Be still!”
As quickly as the storm came, it was gone.
While that in itself is no miracle, the fact that the raging seas were immediately tranquil again is a miracle!
Five other times in Mark’s gospel[5] we see Jesus “rebuking,” and in every case except one (Mark 8:30) it is demonic spirits that he rebukes.
Why does Jesus speak to the storm as if it were an enemy?
Perhaps it’s because wind and water are common biblical symbols for forces that are hostile to God.
Jesus rebukes the storm just like God rebuked the Red Sea (Psa 106:7-12) which stood in the way of Israel’s escape from Pharaoh in the Exodus.
Jesus shows that he has mighty power, mighty enough to calm a storm and a raging sea.
This is a comforting truth indeed, and it is no surprise that from early in church history we find this story has comforted many in the midst of suffering and persecution.
And it can have that effect when we see that God is sovereignly in control of everything, even hostile forces.
But Mark does not tell this story mainly to comfort his readers.
Before it can comfort us it must trouble us.
This is not simply a showing off of Jesus’ power.
It is, more importantly an unveiling of Jesus’ identity.
For in Jewish understanding, only God possessed the power that could calm storms.
{{{"
*/23 /*/Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; /*/24 /*/they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep.
/*/25 /*/For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea.
/*/26 /*/They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; /*/27 /*/they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end.
/*/28 /*/Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.
/*/29 /*/He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
/*/30 /*/Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven./
(Psalm 107:23-30)
}}}
This passage demonstrates that God has power over the forces of nature because God commands (v.
25) the forces of nature.
So before we can be comforted by the sovereignty of God, we must be troubled by the sovereignty of God.
He does not just /calm/ storms; he also /sends/ them.
!!
He Questions the Disciples’ Faith
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