Who Is This?

Who Is This? | Mark 4:33-41

“He would speak the word to them with many parables like these, as they were able to understand. And He did not speak to them without a parable. Privately, however, He would explain everything to His own disciples. On that day, when evening had come, He told them, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea.” So they left the crowd and took Him along since He was already in the boat. And other boats were with Him. A fierce windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking over the boat, so that the boat was already being swamped. But He was in the stern, sleeping on the cushion. So they woke Him up and said to Him, “Teacher! Don’t You care that we’re going to die?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Then He said to them, “Why are you fearful? Do you still have no faith?” And they were terrified and asked one another, “Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:33-41 HCSB)

Note: This story’s focus isn’t about living and loving like Jesus but having faith IN Jesus. He’s not just an example of faith in God, He’s the object of our faith because He IS God in human flesh.

Happy Birthday, America! Folks across this great land will gather this weekend and Monday and celebrate America’s Independence Day. While we generally reference it as July the 4th, it is really all about gaining our political independence and associated religious freedoms. That independence and those religious freedoms are cause to celebrate. While I strongly believe that we must be very careful about blending our religious faith and our political ideologies together and creating a “mash up” of a Christian political cult, we do need to be very thankful and celebrate our freedom to worship openly, live out our faith publicly and to share our faith boldly with others. Also, we must never forget that the religious freedoms afforded to those of us who seek to worship the one, true God of the Christian scriptures is the same freedom granted to those who choose to worship other gods, any and every god or even those who deny the very existence of God. Not only do we celebrate those freedoms afforded to us by our Constitution, but we also desire and seek those same freedoms for all men.

However, we gather today as a people who are citizens of another kingdom – the kingdom of God. So while we are thankful for and celebrate the religious freedoms we enjoy in this great nation, we must never forget that the greatest freedom granted to us is the freedom to boldly approach the throne of God and freedom from sin and judgment through the body and blood of our righteous Savior, Jesus the Son of God. Let’s celebrate and be thankful for our political freedoms but let’s WORSHIP the Lord our God, alone. He alone is worthy of our praise. As we pause to celebrate these freedoms, we also undertake a passage in Mark that will challenge our faith. Hopefully, it will also cause us to fully utilize these religious freedoms as we seek grow in faith and to know and worship God in a deeper and more meaningful way.

“Our Lord and God, You are worthy to receive glory and honor and power, because You have created all things, and because of Your will they exist and were created.” (Revelation 4:11 HCSB)

As we consider this week’s focal passage, I’ve included the final two verses we considered last week. It is important that we always keep these stories in context and these verses provide key context and insights into the purpose of Mark’s telling of this storm. As you’ll recall, Mark has told us that Jesus spoke to them in parables, “as they were able to understand.” We tend to have a much higher opinion of our own knowledge and understanding than we do of others. I think we are afraid to admit our own lack of knowledge or understanding. While the crowds didn’t fully understand all that Jesus said and taught via these parables, Mark tells us that He would explain everything to His own disciples, privately. Simon Peter, Andrew, James, John, Matthew and the others were chosen to join Him and walk with Him but they still struggled to fully grasp and understand all the things He said and taught.

Sound familiar? Don’t we often struggle to fully understand Jesus’ words and teachings?

Now that Mark has set the ground work for the next story, he begins to draw us in. Listen to the details in his telling of the story: That same evening, Jesus said: “Let’s cross over to the other side of the sea (of Galilee).” Remember, Jesus had been sitting in the prow of a boat on the lake as He taught the crowds and when He finished teaching He told the disciples to cross over to the other side. They left the crowd and began to cross and Jesus lies down on a cushion for a nap in the stern of the boat. As they’re crossing, a strong windstorm suddenly came up and began to toss them around. These sudden storms are not unusual on Galilee because the lake sits in a “bowl” about 3,000 feet below the peak of the Golan ridge. The wind was so strong that the waves were breaking over the prow and sides and begin to cause these seasoned fishermen/sailors to become concerned. Their concern quickly changes and they to begin to fear for their very lives.

I think it is important to note, Jesus was sound asleep in the stern of the boat and the disciples were panicking and, quite honestly, afraid they were going to die. There’s a really strong contrast in this story and I think that is an important part of what Mark is wanting us to see. We’ve just been told about how seed of the kingdom of God is sown, takes root, grows and bears fruit in the lives of those whose “soil” is ready. Then we’re told how some of those hearing don’t quite understand and that Jesus is explaining all these things to the disciples, privately. Then we encounter them in a boat, in the midst of a storm with Jesus asleep in the stern and they panic and fear they’re going to die. Sounds to me like their faith is still really shallow and struggling to grow strong.

It is easy for us to look at Simon Peter and see his “foot in the mouth” events or his moral failures, his faith stumbles and even his denying Jesus and wonder why Jesus chose him. We’re not quite as harsh with the other disciples, maybe because Simon Peter gives us plenty of ammunition. Mark shows us, they also struggled. But, be careful… you and I look and act a LOT like them. We attend worship, Bible study, small group, prayer meeting and other church events and we read our Bibles (daily, I hope) and pray regularly and we still struggle with our faith and faithfulness, too. You might counter by pointing out all of the evidence, all of the miracles, all of the opportunities the disciples had to see Jesus in action and to see God’s power on display in Him and, yet, they still struggled. Well, we have the hindsight of His resurrection and His indwelling Spirit and we also struggle. But that’s really the point. It is called faith for a reason. It requires us to see things others can’t see. To hear the truth in His Word and to let it resonate down deep in our soul as the song of the redeemed (see Rev. 7:9-17). To trust God and walk with Him when everything within us tells us to abandon Him and run!

That’s the contrast Mark wants us to see. The contrast between those who “get it” and those who are staring blankly at Jesus as they listen to His words. The contrast between those who are willing to trust Him, walk with Him and obey Him regardless of where that leads and those who only like Him for what they can get out of Him follow Him only when He’s going their direction. You see, we like the teachings of Jesus when we feel they reinforce our feelings, when they affirm our desires and when they give us what we want. But what happens when the teachings and expectations of Jesus put us in dangerous situations? What happens when everything around us is falling apart and we feel like we might drown? What happens when the world is crashing down around our ears and we look around wondering where Jesus is and He’s asleep in the back of the boat? Just so you know, truth is still truth even when it conflicts with our feelings, even when it condemns our desires and even when it doesn’t give us what we want.

So, Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat and the disciples think they’re all going to die. They wake Him and ask incredulously, “Teacher! Don’t you care that we’re going to die?” Ah, there it is. The main point: We believe we’re going to die and You don’t even seem to care. Isn’t that our main complaint with God? I know it’s mine. Our faith falters and we question His love and goodness when it feels like God doesn’t care.

Faith is much easier to have, to hold and to live out when it requires little trust. “It’s OK God, sit down. I’ve got this. No worries.” But it becomes much, much harder as the need for trust deepens and pushes us beyond our ability to see and understand. In other words, faith is easy when it aligns with our experiences and our expectations and hard when it doesn’t. It’s easy to follow Jesus and believe His word when it fits with our wants, wishes and desires but it’s hard when it feels like we’re in a fierce storm and the boat is sinking. Where is He then? Asleep? “God, are you seeing this? Why aren’t you doing something about it? WHERE ARE YOU, GOD? I don’t understand…”

Exactly! The disciples misunderstood the situation and we do the same. Let me ask you a simple question. If Jesus is who He claims to be then is there any risk of Him drowning in that boat? Not a chance. They weren’t alone in that boat and never outside of God’s care. So, next question. Are you alone in your boat? If not, then what are you worried about? The storm may rage but you’re safe with Him. Watch what happens, next…

Jesus got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Silence! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was great calm. You may not initially see it, but Mark is presenting another stark contrast for us to consider. The “fierce windstorm” suddenly becomes a “great calm” at the command of Jesus. While “fierce” and “great” are adjectives translated relative to their object, they are the same word. So, a “great” wind suddenly became a “great” calm at His word. First, He commanded that the winds cease and be silent, quiet or calm and then to remain so, be still or be muzzled! Then He turned to the disciples and asked, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

Now, it’s really easy to skip right over this and miss it. Jesus question was directed at their fear and lack of faith not just while He was awake but while He was sleeping and not responding to them. Why were they afraid? Why didn’t they believe? Why didn’t they trust Him? If they believed Him on the shore when the storm wasn’t raging then why didn’t they believe Him when it was? Isn’t He the same Jesus in the midst of the raging storm that He is in the stillness? Why do we claim to believe and trust Jesus while we participate in worship or Bible study and then completely doubt His ability or care and question His love when the circumstances change, the challenges appear and our fears or anxiety kick in?

Finally, we need to focus on the disciple’s question resulting from this encounter. Mark says, “They (the disciples) were terrified and asked one another, ‘Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!’” Who is this? The real heart of the matter and the question each of us must answer. Just who is Jesus? Your answer to that question will impact you, deeply. Very, very deeply. If you think He is just a good teacher with great love and revolutionary ideas then you’ve completely missed it. If you think He’s a prophet sent from God, you might listen to what He says but you’ve still missed it. But if you begin to grasp the fact that He’s the one God has promised from ancient times, you’re beginning to catch a glimpse. If you realize that He’s God in human flesh you’re almost there. If you’re willing to believe Him, love Him, obey Him, follow Him, trust Him and place your faith in Him and not yourself then you’re beginning to know the truth and it will truly set you free.

My words might surprise you, a bit. Don’t you just have to say the “sinner’s prayer” and ask Jesus into your heart? Well, neither of those things (the sinner’s prayer and asking Jesus into your heart) are ever found in scripture. Wait! Don’t label me a heretic, just yet. Jesus says, “anyone who believes in Him (God’s Son) is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God (John 3:18).” When you truly believe something you act in accordance with that belief.

So, what do you believe about Jesus? As the disciples asked, “Who is this? Even the wind and the sea obey Him!” Is He the Son of God? If so, act in a way consistent with that belief. If Jesus is the Son of God then we either kneel in humble submission to His authority and seek His mercy and forgiveness or we walk away in an act of arrogant rejection and self-condemnation.

“For God did not send His Son into the world that He might condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. Anyone who believes in Him is not condemned, but anyone who does not believe is already condemned, because he has not believed in the name of the One and Only Son of God.” (John 3:17-18 HCSB)

You can choose to deny Jesus’ identity and authority as the Son of God. You have every right to do so. But to do so is to deny the truth, reject God and to reap the results. Before you walk away, let me ask you one more question… if you heard this story firsthand from an eyewitness who saw these things and who heard Jesus speak so that the wind and the sea obey Him, how would you respond? Do me a favor, go back and read the story yourself. Listen to it closely. Notice the details. Doesn’t it sound like someone who was there is telling it to you?

Now, ask yourself: Who is this?

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