A number of years ago I was visiting one of my congregational members who had invited me to tour his workplace and have lunch with him. As he was giving me a look around the place, we ran into one of his coworkers. He introduced me as his pastor and asked this man if he had a church home. This person smirked a bit and said, “No. I don’t see what difference a dead guy on a cross can make for anybody,” and then he walked away.
A lot of people like him ask, “What’s the big deal about Jesus Christ?” We’ve been answering this question for the last couple weeks in this sermon series entitled, “Like No Other.”
Jesus was promised like no other. Hundreds of years before He arrived, the prophets talked about what He would be like. He was described to a tee, and those promises were fulfilled by Jesus.
We also see He had a birth like no other, a virgin birth. He was true God and true man. When we look into the eyes of Jesus, we are looking into the eyes of God.
Today, we see He has power like no other. We see His power in a story about a storm. Mark has been describing Jesus for us. Mark is an excellent storyteller as he reveals Jesus bit by bit. The disciples were discovering more about Jesus after He called them to follow Him. He began training them as they witnessed His miracles, His power to heal, and His authority to cast out demons.
They also get a wonderful teaching from Jesus prior to this storm. He gives them parables, which He explains to them: the parable of the sower, the parable of the mustard seed, the parable of the farmer who planted the seed. In each of these parables, the seed starts out small but soon grows into something big, and the story ends well. Jesus explained these stories by saying: I know this enterprise of mine looks rather small right now as I announce the kingdom of God and God’s plans to rescue this world. But it is going to come to fruition and will make a big splash in a lot of people’s lives.
Now Jesus and the disciples are in a boat. It’s the same day they had heard these parables but the teaching is done and Jesus wants to go to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. He goes to the back of the boat and takes a nap. When they get out into the center of the sea, an unexpected storm hits, swamping the boat! Even the fishermen Peter, James, John and Andrew are panicked. What’s going to happen to God’s plans, His promises? The boat is sinking!
The disciples look at Jesus who is still asleep. They had to have wondered how He could be sleeping through the storm. The forces of evil were aroused, and it was an angry and threatening storm!
Have you ever wondered how Jesus could remain sleeping? Was He so confident in God’s presence and power that He could sleep even in the middle of a storm? Someone once remarked that the disciples had some faith in Jesus, but they didn’t have the faith of Jesus in His heavenly Father.
The disciples wake Jesus up asking, “Teacher, don’t you care? We’re perishing!” Look at this statement. First of all, they call Him Teacher! Not, Lord. We get a clue about their relationship with Jesus. He’s still basically a great teacher in their eyes. Furthermore, they think He is uncaring and doesn’t love them after all. After all, He is letting them go through this deadly storm, and He’s not doing anything to help them. They hadn’t figured out an important fact yet, a fact we all need to be reminded of, as well: No one escapes storms in life, even when Jesus is in your boat. You are not untouchable when it comes to hardships, if you are a follower of Christ. This fact had not hit them yet. When pressures came and the storm happened, we see their courage and assurance that Jesus cared or could do something quickly faded.
Fear leads to despair that God doesn’t care. It brings about another storm, deep within, a doubt storm, a faith storm. When a hurricane sweeps into our lives, Jesus may seem indifferent to our plight like He’s asleep or even absent. When we lose our health or our job or a loved one, it may feel like Jesus is ignoring our fate and has no concern for us. Yet nothing could be further from the truth.
We learn here that, even when Jesus is in the boat, we are not exempt from facing storms. Jesus stands up, and with three words stops the storm. “Peace. Be still!” He rebukes the storm. The wind stops immediately. The water is as smooth as a mirror – immediately. The have witnessed a great miracle.
The word “rebuke” is the same word used when Jesus exorcised demons who possessed people. Could it be Jesus is insinuating the storm was a satanic attack to finish off this mission early on? Perhaps. Satan had already done battle with Him out in the wilderness. Satan works not only through subtle temptations, but also with an onslaught of hardships and evil attacks.
Notice what Jesus says to the disciples as He turns to them. Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? Believe the promises I shared with you in those parables. God has plans and they will not be thwarted. We are going to bring His kingdom into this world and “thy kingdom come” will happen. We are safe with Him. Nothing can snatch us from His hands. Believe in me and know I care about you. What about the miracles you have already witnessed, and my compassion for people? Jesus seems to be saying, Even the people I care about, I allow them to go through storms. Storms come, even when I am with you. Don’t doubt in the dark what you have heard in the light from me. Trust my promises.
A second lesson to be learned from this passage is a reminder even Christians experience problems. However, Christians have the “Problem Solver” living within their heart. The disciples are filled with even more fear at the end of the story than when they were in the middle of the storm. Who is this, they asked? They knew their Psalms, I imagine. In Psalm 89 God is described as the One who rules the raging sea. When its waves rise, He stills them. Psalm 107 describes God stilling the storm for the sailors who were in the midst of it. The sea was uncontrollable. The Jewish people didn’t particularly like being out on the water, unless they were fishermen, because it was so unpredictable. They believed it was a place where evil actually lurked with sea monsters and so on. Yet they also believed it was under God’s control.
Here we see Jesus was able to exercise a power only God has, and they wondered if they were standing in the presence of God. How frightening that must have been!
So what is our takeaway? Two things.
Number one, Jesus has power like no other. This story identifies who this Jesus is. It is a sign, a lesson of His great power, greater than any storm. It’s not about how He rescues fretful disciples from danger when they call out to Him. One cannot expect a miraculous intervention in every storm of life. Storms are a part of living from which no one escapes. Chaos can hit and happen quickly. One moment all is well, and then in a flash all is chaos. We can trust in a Savior who may not always deliver us from storms, but He always will deliver us through the storms. While following Jesus Christ may not be a refuge from the uncertainties of life, one can certainly find security with Jesus and a serenity, a peace this world does not know and cannot give because He is like no other. He is the Lord of the storm.
As Christians, we know Jesus has already done the ultimate battle with the strongman, Satan, at the cross and the empty tomb – HE HAS WON! He has beaten down the storm, and no one has reason to fear anything from nature or the supernatural, from life or death – because when we trust in Jesus Christ, we belong to Him.
We are invited then to lift our eyes above the storms of life to the One who rules all things knowing He is Lord of the storms. Even when our faith is not so strong, it is not the critical factor, for we have a strong object of our faith – Jesus Christ.
Does He really care? Look at the parallels of this story and the Old Testament story of Jonah and the whale. There is a storm in each story. The main characters – Jonah and Jesus – are asleep. The sailors are afraid the ship is going to sink so they wake up the main character and ask, What’s going on? The storm gets calm in each story, followed by the awestruck fear of the sailors at the end. Jonah is thrown into the water, and it calms the storm. Jesus simply orders the storm to be quiet, and it obeys. This appears to be the difference – but maybe not. A little while later, Jesus makes the remark, “You know one greater than Jonah is here (this Jonah who stilled the storm by jumping in the sea)” (Matt. 12:41).
As we look at the rest of the story of this Jesus, we find He is thrown into the ultimate storm. Near the end of the story when Jesus goes to the cross to save us, He experienced the sense of abandonment, separation from God’s care when He cried out, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?” Why did He do it? He did it out of love for you. If He will do something like that for us, surely we can trust Him in the smaller storms of life and know in the bottom of our hearts that He cares.
You know, we’re kind of hard on those poor disciples. We ask ourselves the question, Don’t they get it? How slow can they be? But I sometimes think I might be just as slow, and I have to give them a little break. I also have to give them a little credit. They knew where to turn when the storm hit. I hope you know that too. Later, Peter will write to folks who are being persecuted, “Cast all your anxieties on Him because He cares about you” (I Peter. 5:7). Paul, the apostle, will say “I am hard-pressed on every side but not crushed; perplexed but not in despair; struck down but not destroyed” (II Cor. 4:8-9). Paul points to Jesus, the Lord of the storms, who is getting him through life’s storms.
The stories go on. I think of a friend of mine, a young lady who was engaged to be married. Her fiancé was tragically killed weeks before the wedding, in an avalanche. As I sat with her, she was devastated. I walked through that experience with her. She felt destroyed, but never defeated. She seemed to be able to live by these words, “Yay, though I go through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for thou art with me” (Psalm 23:4). One day the sun did come up for her, and through it all, she experienced the power of the Lord of the storms.
A friend of mine named Irv lost his wife. He said it felt like losing his arm. They had been married more than fifty years. I’d have breakfast with him, check in with him, and some days he would just walk around with a cloud over his head. One morning, though, when I asked him, “How are you?” He smiled and said, “I get it. Jesus is seeing me through this.”
He will see you through as well, if you are facing a storm. An important verse each of us should memorize and keep tucked away in our heart is this: “I am convinced that neither death nor life nor angels nor rulers nor things present nor things to come nor powers nor heights nor depth nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom. 8:38-39). Memorize it. Take it to the bank.
Jesus is Lord of the storms. He has power like no other. Know this – He cares about you. Amen.
Pastor Steve Kramer