March 20, 2016
A reminder to readers: We’re in the thick of a Sunday Voice Series by Dr. Timothy C. Tennent, a close friend, mentor and colleague of mine. He serves as the President of Asbury Theological Seminary among other posts he holds across the global church. This Sunday Voice Series will continue to cover the Gospel of Mark over the next few months.
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 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?”
He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
There are three parts to this passage, and 99% of all sermons on this text focus on the last two parts: namely, Jesus’ calming the storm and the disciples’ collective reaction to Jesus’ miracle. It is the first part of the passage, Jesus being asleep in the boat, which will be the focus today. We will focus not so much on Jesus calming the storm, but Jesus’ calmness in the storm.
The text tells us that Jesus is asleep in the midst of a great storm which emerged on the Sea of Galilee. When you step back and look at the entire Gospel of Mark up to this point, you see that, in fact, Jesus is asleep in the midst of several storms. This makes Jesus’ calmness, as well as his slumber in the midst of these storms, even more remarkable. Mark, more than any other Gospel, very quickly unveils the opposition which Jesus faces. He delivers the full gale force wind of Jesus’ enemies at a relentless pace: the host of evil (chap. 1), the Pharisee and teachers of the law (chap. 2), the Herodians’ conspiracy (chap. 3), and now a physical storm threatening to capsize Jesus’ boat. Everything seems to be moving and conspiring to destroy Jesus! Yet, in the midst of these storms—storms within storms—Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat!
As the storm rages, the disciples glance furtively at the storm and then back at Jesus again, incredulous that anyone could possibly sleep through this. They ask themselves, “should we awaken him? How could he sleep through this?” Finally, as the storm reached a fevered pitch, they agree they must awaken him. The whole of these early chapters, as they have encountered storm after storm, finally finds voice in one of the disciples who, as they awaken Jesus, asks, “Master, don’t you care that we are going to perish?” Don’t you care that we are about to be destroyed? Master, don’t you care for your own life which is about to be cast into the sea? Notice that Jesus doesn’t jump up in a panic, offer an apology for oversleeping, wave His arms and take care of the whole thing. Jesus wakes in perfect peace. He has no cares at all. Here, we meet one of the most profound truths of the gospel: The indestructibility of Christ!
Despite the storms of opposition which rage around Him, Jesus is not worried. He is not full of anxiety, because nothing can take his life; He lays it down on his own accord. We spend so much time fighting and worrying and managing our own survival and the survival of the church that we often do not have the courage to really live in faith. Let me give you a new definition of the church which you haven’t seen before. The church is the community of those united to the indestructibility of Jesus Christ! We do not need to live in fear. Jesus Christ is Lord!
Our frailty and His indestructibility—that’s the lesson for us. We expend far too much energy building better boats, stronger boats, boats that will ride out the storms through sheer institutional power and the depth of our financial resources. We put our faith in large, beautiful buildings, good bank accounts, or secure jobs. But, in the end, our faith must be—can only be—in the indestructibility of Christ and our union with Him!
- What is the difference between the miracle of Jesus calming the storm and the miracle of Jesus’ calmness in the storm?
- What fears are howling around your life today? Can you name them? Can you see Jesus in the midst of them, bringing His peace?
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The Sunday Daily Text through Mark’s Gospel is written by Timothy Tennent. Visit his blog here.