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When Jesus is in the Boat...

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The need for and peace of faith

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Introduction

Have you ever been in a situation where you were sure you were about to die?

Several years ago, one of the men at the congregation where I preached in Metropolis told me about a scary experience he had on the Ohio River. He had been out boating with a friend, and as evening approached a sudden storm blew in. The rain was coming down in sheets, and the wind had the water churning with huge swells. He couldn’t see a thing, and his boat was being tossed around all over the place.
This is a picture
To top it all off, he was close to the small Brookport lock and dam. It’s nothing like Watts Bar, or Fort Loudon. It’s just a small lock and dam (which I’m pretty sure is just used to control the water level of the port in Paducah). It’s barely visible in good weather, especially if the water level is up. But he knew it was out there as a looming danger—and he couldn’t see it at all.
He told me that in that moment, he was sure he was going to die. He began to make peace with how he was going to die. Yet at the same time he kept pushing on ahead, and eventually made his way back to the shore. Obviously, he lived to tell me the frightening story.
Have you ever experienced something like that? It doesn’t have to have happened on a boat. It could have happened in any kind of setting. Whatever the situation was, you were sure you were going to die. Your end had come. And yet, it didn’t.
But that feeling of impending doom is probably much the same as the one the disciples in Jesus’ boat felt when they were overtaken by a sudden windstorm. They were sure they were going to die! Let’s read our text for this morning’s lesson:
Mark 4:35–41 ESV
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 windstorm arose, and the waves 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. 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 the wind and the sea obey him?”
Once had a man in Metropolis (Galen) tell me about a time when he was on a boat on the Ohio River and a sudden storm caught him. It was getting dark, he couldn’t see where he was going. His boat was being tossed all over the place. He also knew that there was a small dam up ahead somewhere, but he couldn’t find it or the lock. He said he was sure that he was going to die. But thankfully he made it back to the bank.
This same story is recounted in and . Yet Mark’s account seems to be the most “raw.” It’s possible his account comes from first-hand information. Maybe Peter or someone else who we can suppose was in that boat told him about it (of course, with the Holy Spirit guiding Mark’s process of writing). There are very specific details that the other writers don’t record, like the time of day, the cushion, and Jesus’ location where he was sleeping.
Have you ever had that sort of experience? Maybe it wasn’t in a boat, but whatever it was, you were sure that you were about to die.
That’s the sort of situation Jesus’ disciples find themselves in in our text for this morning.
Mark’s account also seems to portray the disciples words to Jesus in a more raw, emotional way. We can see their irritation with Jesus. After all, some of these men are likely experienced sailors (e.g. fishermen). They’ve been on the water a lot. They’ve seen lots of storms. And if this one is enough to get them worried they are going to die, well, it must have been a pretty bad storm! They are at the point where every able-bodied person is bailing out the water that’s quickly filling the boat. And there Jesus is… asleep...
As I was preparing for this morning’s lesson I read several commentaries on this text. They described all sorts of interesting things we could look at, like facts about boats they sailed in, the unpredictable and turbulent weather on the sea of Galilee, and the similarities between this story and what we read about Jonah… I’ll let you read about that in a book!
(Galilean Fishing Boat Picture)
fishing boat
Instead I want to spend our time together focusing on something a bit more personal. I want us to meditate on the gentle, yet profound rebuke Jesus brings against his disciples in this instant: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
(Artist’s Rendering of Fishing Boat)

Jesus apparently expected his disciples to have a greater amount of faith at this point.

Consider with me just a handful of the things his disciples would have seen and heard at this point:
Water changed into wine ()
Healing of the official’s son ()
Healing of the demon-possessed man in Capernaum ()
Healing of Peter’s mother-in-law ()
Healing of many on one evening ()
His preaching, and casting out demons ()
Healing a leper ()
Healing a paralyzed man ()
Healing a man with a withered hand ()
Other things not recorded, as well as Jesus’ teaching...
Other things not recorded, as well as Jesus’ teaching...
They had even just seen this miracle!
That’s the context of Jesus words with his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Or as Matthew records, “O you of little faith.” Or as Luke says, “Where is your faith?”
Their scolding of Jesus only shows their ignorance of who he truly is.
No, they hadn’t seen everything that Jesus would or could do… but how much did they have to see before they fully believed? Would one more miracle make a difference? Ten more? What would it take? Or had they seen enough?
He expected more trust from them by this point. He expected them to have the same kind of peace inside their hearts that he had—because HE was in the boat with them!
Instead, the disciples allowed the storm around their boat to have a greater influence on them than the Savior inside their boat.

Jesus was at peace despite the storm raging around him.

Yes, it’s likely Jesus was extremely tired from his work. Showing that Jesus slept certainly does point out his humanity. But I don’t think that’s the whole story. Think about this:
Have you ever stayed awake all night, anxious because of the weather? Maybe it was one of those nights where there was thunderstorm after thunderstorm, weather warning after weather warning (a little like the start of last night).
Why?
Why did you stay awake? Did nervously watching the weather make it change? Unless you have a basement, how much difference is there between the room you were staying in and the “safest” room in your house?
And if a tornado did in fact come and blow your house down around you, what if you died? Really think about it. What if you died? As a Christian, what would that mean for you?
So did staying up worrying really accomplish anything? Not really… and we know that. But it usually doesn’t stop us from worrying anyway.
So can you find peace in the midst of a storm (whether real or metaphorical)? Sure you can… just have the same trust in God that Jesus had!
I’ll grant you that Jesus knew some things that his disciples didn’t know. He had a grasp on God’s overall plan (i.e. not dying in a boating accident, but on a cross), and he knew the boat wouldn’t go down—and even if it did (just for the sake of argument), he’s GOD. He could fix it. He could float that boat through the sky, or make it appear suddenly at the shore if he chose to. The truth is, those disciples in that boat were probably the safest physically that they ever would be… they just didn’t realize it.
Again, they allowed the storm around their boat to have a greater influence on them than the Savior inside their boat.
Now before we are too hard on these disciples, let’s be fair about our own condition. Even today, even with all the evidence we have showing us who Jesus is, we still do the same thing. We can still forget about Jesus. People still get angry at him, wondering where he is—“Why isn’t he ‘pulling his load’ and helping to ‘bail me out’ of this bad situation I’m in?”
But you’ve got to realize that Jesus didn’t heal every sick person. He didn’t cast out every demon. And he didn’t calm every stormy sea. But that’s not important. What is important is that he has the power to do so—and that you believe he has that power!
---
True faith is able to find peace in the midst of the raging storm. Consider a few passages with me:
Psalm 89:9 ESV
You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.
Psalm 4:8 ESV
In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety.
Of the one who keeps godly wisdom in his heart, Solomon writes:
Proverbs 3:24 ESV
If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet.
Psalm 107:25–29 ESV
For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
Proverbs 19:23 ESV
The fear of the Lord leads to life, and whoever has it rests satisfied; he will not be visited by harm.
Think about that last proverb. The key to peace isn’t in becoming blissfully ignorant. Instead, it’s in fear—but fearing God instead of what anyone or anything can do to you on this earth!

Obviously, the key to peace is genuine faith.

So how do we build genuine faith?
While our main text doesn’t give a neatly packaged answer, it does suggest something to us that I think we sometimes forget.
Faith exists in degrees.
Throughout the Bible we see people with varying degrees of faith. Some simply have the basic, beginning surface level kind of faith. They are willing to acknowledge Jesus as being who he is, but that faith doesn’t work in their life.
On the other end of the scale are those with the mature, sacrificial, “I’m willing to die for Jesus” kind of faith. It’s the ultimate level of trust and devotion. That’s our target, and what Jesus wants us to strive for all our lives—up to the point that we may actually have to give our life as a result of that faith.
The disciples in the boat with Jesus are somewhere in between those two ends. They have more faith than a beginner. Yet, they still don’t want to die in that boat with Jesus (if that can be helped).
The truth is, that’s probably where most of us lie. Some of us would probably be just like the other disciples, chastising Jesus for sleeping instead of bailing out water.
So how do we NOT be that person? How does faith grow?
What if I told you the answer is simple… but you just probably don’t, or haven’t had the willingness to do it?
Would I be right? Well, let’s see… because the Bible is pretty plain about where faith comes from...
Romans 10:17 ESV
So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.
Everything starts with God’s Word—with the Bible. In fact, one of the major purposes of the Bible is to build the faith that we need, and the kind that Jesus expects us to have!
All the amazing things we read about are intended to serve that purpose. Think about all the miracles recorded in the Bible—the signs and wonders Jesus performed. Then look at what Jesus said to a questioning Philip:
John 14:8–11 ESV
Philip said to him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father is in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority, but the Father who dwells in me does his works. Believe me that I am in the Father and the Father is in me, or else believe on account of the works themselves.
John 14:
Sometimes we’re more like Philip than we’d like to admit. “Jesus… just show me one more thing and it’ll be enough...”
First, Jesus knows that isn’t true. We actually require continual reminders. We tend to forget.
Second, look at what Jesus says at the end: “… Or else believe on account of the works themselves.”
I think what John writes later on in a passage familiar to most of us gets across what Jesus is saying here:
John 20:30–31 ESV
Now Jesus did many other signs in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.
Want your faith to grow? Read the Bible with intention. Don’t casually glance at it. Look at what the Bible says Jesus has done! Look at what the Bible says God has done! Look at how He has always taken care of those who put their faith in him! He has always kept his promises! Then consider the promises made to us as believers:
Matthew 28:20 ESV
teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
Hebrews 13:5–6 ESV
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” So we can confidently say, “The Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”
Hebrews 13:5 ESV
Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”
Then consider the fact that you are here right now. What all have you survived to this point? What can you (or should you) give credit to God for doing in your life? And don’t just give it lip service—mean it! Count your blessings! The proof of God’s promise to provide, and Jesus’ promise to abide can be seen in your own life if you will look!
Sure, he hasn’t healed every wound, or stopped every bad thing from happening. He hasn’t calmed every storm. But that’s not what he promised. He promised to be with you IN those storms. He isn’t afraid to be in the boat with you. And if you’re honest, you know He has been!
So, in the future...
Again, they allow the storm around your boat to have a greater influence on you than the Savior inside your boat.
Don’t allow the storm around your boat to have a greater influence on you than the Savior inside your boat.
We sometimes
We sometimes sing the song, “Anywhere with Jesus”:
First Verse:
Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go, Anywhere He leads me in this world below. Anywhere without Him, dearest joys would fade; Anywhere with Jesus I am not afraid.
Third Verse:
Anywhere with Jesus I can go to sleep, When the darkling shadows round about me creep Knowing I shall waken never more to roam, Anywhere with Jesus will be home, sweet home.
Anywhere with Jesus I can go to sleep, When the darkening shadows round about me creep Knowing I shall waken never more to roam, Anywhere with Jesus will be home, sweet home.
Refrain: Anywhere! anywhere! Fear I cannot know.   Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.
Anywhere! anywhere! Fear I cannot know.   Anywhere with Jesus I can safely go.
How can that song be true? Well, how much do you trust Jesus?
Don’t leave Jesus asking you, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
If you’re struggling with this, be honest—how much do you really have to “see” before you are willing to believe? It’s most likely that you’ve seen more than enough. If you’re still waiting—you may be waiting until it’s too late. Please don’t do that...
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