We are continuing our sermon series, Jesus Unfiltered. Very often our own filters will
tame the teachings of Jesus. We may think of him as docile, mild, and compassionate.
There are certainly times when he is all of those things, but he can also be direct, angry,
and passionate. We don’t follow a sugar coated Jesus. We follow a Jesus who loves us and
wants to teach us be better, be the people that God created us to be.
In today’s passage, Jesus has been teaching a crowd all day. He was in a boat while the
crowd was on shore. You can see how that would create a natural amphitheater. In a few
weeks we will have the Shake the Lake fireworks show over Wallowa Lake. Part of what
creates all the noise is the reflection of the soundwaves off the water. In a boat, Jesus’ voice
would carry to all of those in attendance. All through the day, he has been teaching the crowd
in parables, two of which we heard last week, and Jesus is ready to call it a day.
Up to now in Mark, we haven’t heard too much from the disciples. Of course, they were
among the crowd that Jesus was teaching, but they were silent in the narrative. Up to this
point, Jesus has called them. He has named the twelve of his inner circle. Jesus has been
the primary actor. That changes in today’s passage.
Mark 4:35-41 (NIV)
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”
36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also
other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that
it was nearly swamped. 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?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died
down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves
All of this takes place on the Sea of Galilee. It’s called a “sea”, but technically, it is a large lake.
It is 13 miles long by 8.1 miles wide. Wallowa Lake is 3.5 miles long by .75 miles wide (Wikipedia).
So the Sea of Galilee is 4-5 times as large as Wallowa Lake. On a beautiful day, the Sea of Galilee can
be calm and serene. On the west side of the Sea of Galilee there are some mountains. When the wind
blows, it can get very nasty. It is not only a problem for boats. On the western shore, there are warning
signs about how the wind can affect cars. (Wright 51)
Several of the disciples were fishermen, and they were very well acquainted with the Sea and its storms.
Even they were concerned and thought that they were going to die. We should trust their assessment.
Even with all of the violent weather on the Sea of Galilee, this was no ordinary storm.
Can you imagine what it was like? Put yourself in the boat with Jesus and the disciples. First, of all it is
night. By definition, it is more dangerous to sail at night. They didn’t have any of the modern equipment.
There was no sonar or radar to help you know what was around you, to let you know if there was some
danger in your path to be avoided. There were no weather forecasts, no Coast Guard to rescue you if
something goes wrong.
And something does go wrong. The wind begins to blow. The waves begin to churn, and before you know it,
you are having to bail water out of the boat and dump it over the side. The boat is rocking violently. The
wind is howling. Everyone is running around the boat doing everything they can, but you can’t keep up.
Every wave that crashes over the bow is pouring more water in than you can empty out. The boat is at such
incredible angles that it is a wonder that no one has fallen overboard yet. You are sure that you are going
down any second. You are so focused on your task. The adrenaline is pumping. You can’t think of anything
else that what you need to do this second in order to survive. Everyone is just as focused. You see something
in the corner of your eye, and you glance over. It’s Jesus, and he is … sleeping! How can he be sleeping at a
time like this? You would think that all the movement of the boat, the wind, the rain, something would have
wakened him, but no. He is sleeping soundly. Someone else has noticed and goes over to him and wakes him
up. “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Instantly, Jesus gets up and with a word stills the storm, and then Jesus scolds us for being afraid and our
lack of faith. It was like he said, “Do I care? Of course, I do! Haven’t you learned anything yet?” Did he think
that we should have all been sleeping too? We were scared before, in the midst of the storm, but now we are
even more afraid. We are terrified. “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:37-41)
Can you imagine it? Can you imagine Jesus being with you in the midst of the storm?
Another question is the one that the disciples ask. Who is this? Do we know? A few weeks ago we talked
about the difference between “knowing” and knowing. I may have read something in a book or online
and can recall or recite what I read. The circumference of Wallowa Lake is about eight miles. I know that,
but what does that really mean. I may not understand it until I go out there and look at it, experience it.
If I wasn’t here, I might be able to know by comparing the size with a body of water I have seen.
Who is Jesus? Do we know? Two weeks ago Mary and Jesus’ brothers thought they knew. They thought
that he was their son and brother. He was, but that just scratched the surface. The scribes from Jerusalem
thought that they knew. The crowds knew that he healed people, but there were other people in the area
doing the things that Jesus did. There were “miracle workers,” exorcists, magicians. However, they could
not control a storm. Only God can do that. Jesus almost treated the storm as if he was casting out a demon.
In this act, Jesus is doing what only God can do. We heard it in Psalm 107 earlier, but there are other places
where these kinds of acts are referenced. In Psalm 65:7 the writer asks, “Who stilled the roaring seas, the
roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.” Psalm 89:9 says, “You rule over the surging seas;
when its wave mound up, you still them.”
Earlier in the day (last week for us), Jesus was teaching in parables. He was teaching about what the kingdom
of God was like. In this act with the storm Jesus is physically illustrating his kingdom parables. The Kingdom
of God is like, “a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and
becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade”
The Kingdom of God is like a raging storm at sea. The wind blew. The waves crashed, but with a word,
all became calm and serene.
Well, the weather became calm and serene, but the disciples were not. They were more afraid of Jesus than
they had been of the storm. Of course, both we and Mark’s audience have an advantage over the disciples. We
at least have a better idea of who Jesus is. We have the opportunity to gain a better understanding every day.
We can learn that Jesus travels with us, even when he seems to be asleep. The chaos of the world, of our lives
can seem overwhelming, inescapable. All that is around us can feel like a constant threat, but the risen Christ
can deliver us from that chaos.
Storms will come. They will pop up in our lives without warning. Can you imagine Jesus being with you in
the midst of the storms? They are coming. They are here. We are in the midst of storms. We often have
converging storms that can turn into a super storm. Personal, national, international. They can have to do
with world events, our families, health concerns, finances. Can you imagine Jesus being with you in the
midst of the storm? Helping you, guiding you. Can you trust his direction? It’s scary. Sometimes he stills the
storm himself. Sometimes he will call on you to act, to help others in the midst of their storms, as he will in a
few weeks as he sends out the disciples to do the kinds of things he has been doing.
Even after this very scary event, the disciples keep riding in the boat with Jesus. What is important for us
also is riding in the boat with him and trusting him. When we can trust, then we will have “the peace of God,
which transcends all understanding” that Paul talks about in his letter to the Philippians (4:7). I admit I have
a harder time with this on some days than others. So did the disciples.
The Good News for the disciples and for us is that Jesus did not abandon them when they reached the other
side of the Sea of Galilee, and Jesus will not abandon us either. Jesus has more for the disciples to witness
and learn. For their part, they continue to follow him, which is what Jesus asked them to do in the first place.
That’s what Jesus asks us to do, learning, seeing, doing. It is our continuing discipleship journey. Our part is
to keep moving forward with Jesus knowing that sometimes he’s going to turn around and scold us. “What’s
wrong with you? Don’t you trust me yet?”
That’s Jesus unfiltered.