Series: 24: A Day in the Life of Jesus
Title: Calming a Storm
Date: 9am Worship. Recorded 20th June, 2021 for use in online worship on the 27th June, 2021
Preacher: Rev Phil Swain
Bible Reading: Mark 4:35-41
Continuing our sermon series about an incredibly intensive 24 hours in the life of Jesus from Mark chapter 3 and 4. This Sunday we cover the first 8 hours of the 24 hour day when Jesus launches into a full-on time of teaching – covering such topics as the sower and the seed and not hiding your light. Even though Jesus was already tired, it is funny how doing things that we are passionate about can give us extra energy. How does this experience of Jesus (and the teaching of Jesus) help us in our work / life balance?
We are up to part three of our four part sermon series looking at a chaotic 24 hour day in the life of Jesus as recorded in the gospels … a crazy 24 hour period from midday to midday.
Two weeks ago we looked at the prologue to this 24 hours and noted the context … that Jesus even before the 24 hours hit was already exhausted. He was physically and emotionally drained by his ministry to the crowds, his run in with the Pharisees, the expectations of his family and not looking after himself to the point of not finding time to eat. And then the 24 crazy intensive 24 hours started.
As I said, we are counting the day from midday to midday … and last week we covered the first part of the day, in which Jesus launched into an extended 7 or 8 hour long major time of teaching – sharing multiple parables with the crowd beside the shore of Galilee. Actually in Matthews gospel, this is the time when Jesus does the sermon on the Mount! We are talking serious teaching which likely went from midday through to late afternoon or early evening.
Then as we saw last week in verse 10, when Jesus finally got away from the crowds and sat down with the disciples to eat their evening meal together … the twelve asks Jesus to explain the teaching to them – to go over it again. So even when Jesus gets a break, Jesus continues to give, to share, to help the disciples.
Then we get to today’s reading – Verse 35 – and Mark starts by giving us the time. “That day when evening came.”
The Greek word for “When evening came” is ὄψιος (óp-see-os) which can mean dusk (ie 6pm) but the main usage of this Greek word is to refer to “late” or “late in the evening”. And looking at how much has already been packed into the day and that they probably have already had the evening meal … most commentators would suggest that the timing of this verse is more like 10pm rather than 6pm. So, it makes more sense to interpret this verse, “Late in the evening Jesus said to his disciples let us go to the other side of the lake.”
Just wait. If it is around 10pm, why head out on the lake? Jesus has been exhausted the whole day, he has been teaching since lunchtime, it should be time to stop. So why does Jesus suggests a 2 hour trip to the other side of the lake?
Verse 36 gives us a clue … “Leaving the crowd behind.” The crowd was still there and Jesus being Jesus was probably still feeling the expectations to minister and heal and teach and whatever … so the idea of going to the other side of the lake allows Jesus to take a break.
The other interesting part of 36 is noting who is making this happen. Take a closer look at the verse. It is the disciples who take charge. They took Jesus – just as he was – in the boat.
“Just as he was” – that is an interesting phrase. Taking Jesus just as he was. Remember, Jesus had been running on empty all day and he reaches out for help – “let us go to the other side of the lake” … and his friends responded. They took over – they got Jesus into the boat and despite the fact it was about 10pm and it was about a 2 hour journey to the other side … they set off. Just Jesus, the disciples … and other boats! Some people in the crowd are very persistent.
As I said, at the time of Jesus in 1st Century fishing boats, it is usually about a two hour trip to the other side of lake Galilee. And remember that four of the disciples are experienced fisherman so sailing at night was not that big of a deal … except…
Well, two things happen on the journey.
Firstly … Jesus finally crashes. The day, the exhaustion, the draining nature of ministry finally catches up to Jesus and he just needs to stop. And I can just imagine the disciples, carrying Jesus onto the boat “just as he was” and laying him on the cushion in the stern where Jesus falls asleep. The exhaustion is too much and Jesus crashes.
The second thing that happens is that while Jesus is asleep, a storm comes up. Has anyone explained to you before the geography of the sea of Galilee and why storms on the lake are not that unusual?
The two defining features of the sea of Galilee is that it is large – 50 kms long and 21 kms wide … which means that if you are in the middle of the lake you can’t really see the edges … but the other defining feature is that the sea of Galilee is surrounded by hills. It is in the bottom of a valley which acts as a bit of a wind tunnel.
As one website explains, “The sea’s location makes it subject to sudden and violent storms as the wind comes over the eastern mountains and drops suddenly onto the sea. Storms are especially likely when an east wind blows cool air over the warm air that covers the sea. The cold air (being heavier) drops as the warm air rises. This sudden change can produce surprisingly furious storms in a short time.
And this is what happened in our reading. A “furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.” As the disciples battled the storm, it is worth remembering that there are at least four disciples who are professional fisherman who are in their home patch. It must have been an extraordinary storm if they were not coping.
The other thing worth noting is that Jesus is still sleeping through the storm. When we said before that Jesus crashed, he really did crash. Jesus must be really asleep not to be woken up by the storm.
Before we zoom in on the text – lets just ponder our broader topic of how this passage speak to us about our work life rest balance. I know I said the other week that it is never wise to question whether Jesus was wrong or not … but did Jesus get it wrong again here? In a moment when the disciples were really needed Jesus – we find that Jesus is asleep because he ran his energy tank to empty.
And if Jesus was able to see into the future … I would argue that even though the day of teaching was amazing and helpful … in comparison being awake for a deadly storm would seem that it might have been more helpful for Jesus to have an afternoon nap and been awake for the night trip. Yes – we could argue that Jesus solves the problem anyway … but I did wonder if this was another example of what I was talking about in week #1 … the dangers of running our energy tank out and not having anything left in case something big happens? Or a storm of life hits?
While we ponder that, lets come back to our bible reading and zoom in on the text. The storm is raging, Jesus is sleeping, the boat is being battered and filling up with water and the disciples are feeling life they are just about to die.
Lots of things I could mention but a few things jumped out of the text for me…
Verse 38 – Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Let me read that last bit again slowly and see if you pick up on what I picked up on… The disciples woke him and said, “Teacher, don’t you care…”
I know that they were anxious and scared but did they really ask Jesus if he cared? This is the Jesus who had just worn himself ragged because he couldn’t stop ministering to the crowd, the Jesus who at the end of a long day still took time out to explain the teaching to them … they ask Jesus if he cares? If you google the meme “Are you serious” I could imagine any of the results being Jesus response to the question…
Are you seriously asking if Jesus cares?
But I can’t really blame the disciples. When the storms of life hit and things are have taken a dramatic turn for the worse … and Jesus doesn’t seem to be responding (or worse asleep) … we can’t blame the disciples in blurting out what they said. I think it was more of a statement of their anxiety and fear rather than questioning Jesus compassion. However, just to be totally clear. Yes Jesus does care. Of course Jesus cares what you are going through and cares how you are feeling. Just because there may not be an immediate response is not indication of the level of compassion. Yes – Jesus does care for us and Yes, Jesus did care whether the disciples down. Jesus cares.
In our reading, Jesus responds to question with a miracle. Through his words “Be quiet, Be still” Jesus brought peace and calmness – both literally (the waves and winds became calm) and figurately (the fear and anxiety of the disciples calmed down too).
Although now the disciples were terrified – not by the storm but by Jesus. “Who is this man that the winds and the waves obey him”.
One of my New Testament Lecturers said that this was the most important question that is asked in the gospels and one that we need to ask for ourselves. Who is this Jesus? Who is this Jesus who cares so much for the people around him? Who is this Jesus who experiences the same exhaustion from life like we do? Who is this Jesus who can calm the wind and the waves? Who is this Jesus and who is this Jesus to me?
When I teach SRE in the schools, one of the lines that I often use is whether I could do what was in the bible story. For example, if we were doing the reading for today I would ask:
If I stood up in a boat and told the waves to be still and the wind to be quiet … would they listen to me? And all the kids would reply “NO”. And then I would ask, “Then why can Jesus do it?” And because they are used to the question they reply, “Because Jesus is the son of God”. I do it all the time because I want to hammer the message home that Jesus is different. That there is something divine about Jesus that means that we can ask for help when we need it. When the storms of life hit you can call on me for compassion and love and prayers – but if you want the storm to calm, then all I can do is point you to Jesus because Jesus is the one who has the power to calm your storm.
And maybe that is the message we need to take from today’s reading. We acknowledge that life can be intensive and busy and draining and exhausting … but when a storm hits we are worried and anxious that we might not even survive. And yes, while I can encourage us to manage our inner levels so that we always have something left in the tank just in case a storm hits, there are some storms in life that are so overwhelming that all we can do is turn to the one who has the power to speak to the storm.
And I am not saying that Jesus promises to always take away the storm – my experience in life and prayer and walking with Jesus is that doesn’t always happen. But there is no question that Jesus does care about us and about the storms we are facing. And that in a mysterious way which we can’t quite put our finger on, when we call on Jesus he does bring a calmness and a peace which is beyond our understanding.
Ask Philippians 4:7 affirms – And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Are you facing a storm in life at the moment?
If you are, imagine being like the disciples and go to Jesus and ask the question, “Jesus, do you care that I am drowning here? Jesus, do you care?”
I am sure that in your imagination the answer is Yes. Of course Jesus cares. Jesus is there with you right now. Now imagine Jesus speaking over your situation, “Be still. Be calm.”
Be still. Be Calm.
Reading Philippians 4:6-7 again but this time from the Message translation:
Don’t fret or worry. Instead of worrying, pray. Let petitions and praises shape your worries into prayers, letting God know your concerns. And before you know it, a sense of God’s wholeness, everything coming together for good, will come and settle you down. It’s wonderful what happens when Christ displaces worry at the centre of your life.