Sermon 20 June 2021


                                                Storms calmed.                                            20/06/21

 

Reading – Mark 4:35-41

 

Mark’s Gospel, is often described as, ‘The First Christian Discipleship Course’! I hope we’ll learn from it, today and tomorrow, live a little better as a Christian, than we did before.

 

Ask a group of Christians today, where they might like to have been, if they had a choice, to be present at any time during Jesus’ ministry, and the same variety of answers, will be forthcoming: the wedding at Cana; the feeding of the five thousand; the mount of Transfiguration; the raising of Lazarus; this or that healing; outside the Garden Tomb; etc, etc.

Never, does anyone say, that they would like to have been in the midst of the storm, on the Sea of Galilee! That’s because, like those first disciples, none of us like storms. Yet, in the teaching school of Christ, storms are very much part of the course!

Without storms, trials and tribulations, without temptations, difficulties, afflictions, set-backs, failures and gallons of tears, we would never develop any sort of Christian maturity. For the Christian Disciple, storms are part of spiritual enrichment, and part of our Christian heritage!

James 1:2-4: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work, so you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.”

Check out Romans 5:3-5, - that’s very clear, and just as uncomfortable too!

Now, the storm itself. Sudden, fierce storms were not (are not), unusual on the Sea of Galilee. A large expanse of water, 113 miles long and 3-7 miles wide; 696 feet ‘below’ sea level; 150 feet deep. Surrounded by high mountains, with deep valleys, channelling between them. Hot, humid air, rising from the sea, meets colder air from the hills, producing violent winds, that form dark thunderous storm clouds, and whip up the surface of the lake. A natural phenomenon. Beautiful but deadly! And very unpredictable!

But could there have been more to it, that day? Perhaps, and many Bible commentators are inclined to think that this particular storm, was a little more sinister. It’s certainly true to say, that many of the disciples were very experienced Galilean fisherman; they knew these waters very well, yet they were taken completely by surprise! And the Greek word to describe their fear, was ‘deilos’, in v 40 – which means ‘cowardly fright’; not something one would normally associate with these hardy men. So they were, ‘terrified’, sure they would die (v 38)!

It’s certainly also true, that Satan was beginning to launch a sustained attack, upon the ministry of Christ, so it’s perfectly possible that he had a hand in this particularly vicious storm, too!

Natural, supernatural, or a mixture of both, it doesn’t really matter that much – because Jesus knew what was coming.

Ahead, lay His confrontation with the demoniac of the Gerasenes, (Mark 5:1-20) – a face to face confrontation with the devil; so the storm was no surprise to Him. And that means that He allowed His disciples to be caught up in it too!

Why? I think it was because He also knew their hearts and minds. I think He knew that they thought, that serving Jesus, would mean, that they would somehow, ‘escape’, all the common problems of life! That now, having decided to follow Him, it would all be, ‘plain sailing’! Not a storm cloud in sight!

After all, everything was going so very well! Jesus was healing the sick, cleansing lepers, casting out demons. He’d ridiculed the scribes, belittled the Pharisees, and promised His followers the Kingdom – surely He would not allow His closest disciples, His favourites, to suffer in any way?

But in this, they were sadly mistaken. Serving the Lord did not, and does not, give all believers, complete protection, from the many and varied storms of life – despite what the Health and Wealth, Faith teachers may say, most of which is complete heresy!

As disciples, Christians who believe in the Great Commission to spread the Gospel, we need to understand this clearly – we have the privilege and the responsibility, of sharing the words of Eternal Life, with anyone who is willing to listen. In Jesus’ Name, we can offer them Salvation – but what we must not promise them, is material prosperity, and perfect physical health, as part and parcel of that deal. We must not promise them a long, easy life; freedom from setback, or pain, and an increase in worldly wealth and success.

Thousands, millions more, would love to have, ‘Christ and perfect health’; or ‘Christ and plenty of power or money’; or ‘Christ and freedom from every worry’.

Though ‘everyone’ would want to be a Christian, on these terms, would ‘anyone’, really be one?

Would following Jesus, be for the sake of His kingdom, or for ours? For the health, for the wealth, for the easy successful life?

What we call, sanctification – the gradual process of becoming more holy, after being born-again – would not, could not happen, if we were never tested, and refined by trials. I refer you again to Romans 5:3-5, and James 1:2-4!

Because we’re so ‘stiff-necked and hard-hearted’, it’s only ‘fire’, that will burn away the dross, and refine us in our lives. It’s only the ‘pruning knife’, that will cut away the dead wood in our lives, making us more spiritually fruitful!

If we want to follow and serve Jesus, we must accept Him, on his terms, not on ours! So, the disciples needed to learn, that following and serving the Lord, would not, automatically protect them from trouble and danger and hardship.

 

We read in v38, that despite the fury of the storm, Jesus was asleep, with His head on a cushion that was traditionally kept under the coxswains seat.

That still surprises some people, but it shouldn’t. Jesus was fully man, and He’d had a long weary day. Preaching for hours, perhaps days, in the hot sun, to huge crowds. Now the God-Man, was tired – Jesus the God-Man, was exhausted.

The One who could have been living in glory, with His Father, in Heaven, had come to earth as a mortal man. Born of a virgin woman, Mary. He had a human body just like our own. He knew hunger and thirst; His feet blistered on the hot desert pathways; His hands were scarred and calloused, from chisel, hammer and wood-plane.

He would in the years ahead, feel sorrows, and weep; He would feel pain and cry out; He would eventually die, as any man would, when nailed to a cross.

The ‘Creator of the Universe’, was for a short time, just a man, though a man full of the Holy Spirit, and on this particular day, He was weary enough to sleep on through the storm.

The Great High Priest of Heaven, is the Great High Priest – who knows how ‘we’ feel. Listen to what it says in Hebrews 2:14,17,18.

“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity…..For this reason he had to be like his brothers, in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest, in service to God, and that he might make atonement, for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered, when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Jesus is not only the Powerful Saviour, He’s the Compassionate Saviour too.

He’s not only the Son of God, but the Son of Man, too, who knows all our human pain, who understands all our human weakness, and yet, is also able to do all that is necessary for our Salvation.

Had Jesus been only God, we might have trusted Him, but we could never have approached Him in anything but fear!

Had Jesus been only Man, we could have loved Him, but never trusted that He could do anything to save us!

At Christmas over 2000 years ago, a miracle took place – human understanding and compassion, fused together in a mysterious way, with awesome God power, and holiness. God and Man, joined in one body, in one short life. Doesn’t seem, much of a rescue plan for the whole human race, does it? But it was!

Consider the true wonder of it –

 

  1. Are you poor and in desperate need? So was Jesus. Born in a borrowed cow-shed; He preached from a borrowed boat! He slept in borrowed beds, and ate off borrowed plates. He rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey; died upon a borrowed cross, (it should have been Barrabas), and was buried in a borrowed tomb, belonging to Joseph of Arimathea! (Matthew 8:20), “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but Jesus, the Son of Man, has nowhere to lay his head.”

 

  1.  Are you alone in the world? So was Jesus. The very few who followed Him, were unsophisticated fishermen, despised tax-collectors, sinners and prostitutes. And even these ‘friends’ – well most of them, abandoned Him, during His long, last hours of torture and death. They ran away and left Him to die alone. Even His own family disowned Him!

 

  1. Are you misunderstood, misinterpreted, misrepresented and even persecuted? Christians around the world are! And so was Jesus. He was accused of being friends with unacceptable outcasts, of questionable character. His enemies said He ate and drank too much, especially on the Sabbath.  They insisted He was possessed by Beelzebub, the Prince of darkness, and that He was insane! He was perjured, lied about at His trials, and unjustly condemned to a hideous death!

 

  1. Are you ever tempted? So was Jesus. He was tempted all His life, not just during those long 40 days in the wilderness! He never once gave in to that temptation, not once! He was without sin, yet He understands how it feels to have Satan constantly breathing down your neck, whispering, suggesting, inviting, convincing, lying. Let me add Hebrews 4:15 to our earlier reference of Hebrews 2:14,17,18, - “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathise with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we have – yet was without sin”

 

  1. Do you ever feel depressed, so mentally and emotionally stressed, that you think that your head must explode? So did Jesus.

Who of us can begin to understand, the depth of despair and suffering, He went through in the Garden of Gethsemane, when He lay exhausted upon the ground, and literally sweated blood?

“Father, if you are willing, take this cup from me; yet, not my will, but yours be done.” (Luke 22:42)

Who of us, can begin to understand the darkness and despair, of His loneliness, when He cried out, from the cross – “Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani? My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?  (Matthew 27:46)

So you see, putting aside for a moment all the doctrine, and all the dusty theology…..it’s impossible to ever find a Saviour, more perfectly suited to all our needs, than Jesus Christ our Lord and Saviour. Don’t you agree?

The One who lay His exhausted head, upon a cushion, in the middle of a storm, was, Fully God and Fully Man!

 

And finally – what of the storm itself, or rather, the “storms, themselves”

Because there were two. One was in the wind and the rain; in the huge waves, that threatened to capsize, and break up the boat. The other, was in the ‘hearts and minds’, of the terrified disciples. Their nerves failed, they became worked up; stressed and overwrought. It was no longer the storm on the outside, that threatened them – but the storm on the inside!

Victor Hugo, French poet and writer (1802-1885), author of ‘Les Miserables’, wrote a short story, called, ‘Ninety Three’.

He tells of a ship, caught in another terrible storm. When the storm, was at its height, the frightened crew, heard a crashing sound, below decks. On investigating the source of the sound was discovered. A cannon, they were carrying, had broken loose, and was banging wildly, into the sides of the ship’s hold, tearing gaping holes in it, with every smashing blow!

Risking their lives, two men went down, and eventually secured the cannon. The captain knew that the loose cannon within the ship, was far more dangerous than the storm outside! The storm could toss them about, but the loose cannon within, could be the means of sinking the ship and destroying them!

That’s the way it was with the disciples; the storm on the outside made them panic on the inside – that’s often the way it is with us too!

 So, when the storm rages around us, and within us, we need to remember the ‘Power of Jesus’!

We need to remember that our ‘Gentle Saviour’, is also the ‘Almighty God’!

That our ‘loving Redeemer’, is also the ‘Lord of Lords’ and ‘King of Kings’!

 

  1. We see it in His works of creation.

John 1:3 – “Through Jesus, all things were made; without him nothing was made, that has been made”

From the spinning galaxies above, to the lowly earthworm burrowing below – all is the work of Christ. From out of His mouth, He commanded them into existence, such is His awesome power!

 

  1. We see it in the great works of ‘providence’. The way the creation clock

ticks. Sun, moon, planets – all revolve in perfect symmetry. The seasons follow one another, in perfect regular order – His order, not according to ‘our’ carbon footprints. But according to the Lord’s will!

C.S.Lewis put it beautifully – “I believe in God, like I believe in the sunrise; not because I can see it, but because I can see all it touches!”

The kingdoms of the world rise up and increase, then decline and fall, passing away to dust.

Colossians 1:16,17, “For by Jesus, all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers, or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him, all things hold together.”

Such is His awesome power!

 

  1.  We see it in His miracles.

He could feed thousands, with a little lad’s supper. He could restore sight to the blind; hearing to the deaf; speech to the dumb. The lame walked, the leper was healed, the demonised delivered. He raised the dead to life – but most amazing of all, he could cleanse and redeem sinners, just like you and me, by His precious blood, shed on the Cross – so that we could see, and enter His eternal, everlasting Kingdom. Truly, as James 2:13 says so simply, “Mercy triumphs over judgement!”

Such is the awesome power of Jesus!

 

So, when Jesus rose up and cried out, “Quiet, be still!”, is it any wonder, that the wind and the waves became calm; completely, instantly calm!

And the other storm, the more dangerous one, laced with fear and panic, in the hearts of the disciples? That storm, grew calm too. Such is the awesome power of Jesus!

Jesus can still calm the storm, outside us and around us – even when it threatens to pull us, push us, and drag us under!

But, far more important still – if you long for peace, from that raging storm inside – when your heart is racing, and your emotions are out of control – then…. cry out to Jesus, as those first disciples did!

Take a long, hard look, not at the storm, but at the awesome power of Jesus. Remember the words of Oswald Chambers – “We have to pray with our eyes on God, not on our difficulties.”

And though your life is in turmoil – through pain, disappointment, failure, sickness or loss – Jesus can still rise up, and say to your storm, “Quiet, be still!”

Doubt everything else if you must, but don’t doubt the awesome power of Jesus. For as it says in Hebrews 7:25, from the Amplified Bible, “Jesus, is able to save, to the uttermost – completely, perfectly, finally and for all time and eternity – all those who come to Him….”

To which we, I hope say, ‘Hallelujah’ and ‘Amen’!

                                                                                                                     

                                                                                                                  Tim Ravenscroft

 

 

 

 


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