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Calm at the Center: Sleeping Through the Storm
Proper 7b Ordinary Time; 12B Pentecost
June 22, 2003
[Mk 4:35] On that day, when evening came, He *said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd, they *took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him.  And there *arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up.  Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”  And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.  And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?” (NAS)
“Go over to the other side.”
Jesus can be difficult, especially when he asks us to, “go over to the other side.”
You are about to bed down and get comfortable; you’ve been working hard all day. You’re ready to put up the tent, kick back, and tell fishing stories about the day’s catch. But, then there’s Jesus. He’s not sitting down yet. You don’t like the look in his eye. Finally he says; “Why are you getting comfortable, you need to ‘go over to the other side?’”
With Jesus, it is always about the other side.
In Matthew 14:22, he tells the disciples to go over “to the other side” of the lake and meets them halfway across walking on the water. He sends them constantly to the pagan nations “on the other side” [Matt 8:28; Mark 5:1, John 6:1]. Why can’t Jesus just get comfortable on “this side, the side we are already on, my side?”
Not only does he send his followers to the “other side”; but he sends them at evening. Every fisherman knows that a lake given to storms will always face the worst weather when evening comes. To their credit, these reluctant followers still trudge their way to the boats and resignedly push out for the other side despite the propensity for a storm. Jesus is not only difficult, he is also persistent, there will be no rest tonight.
Do I “go over to the other side,” when Jesus tells me?
I know my side, I know where I am comfortable, I know where the risk of a storm exists; and yet, Jesus is still pointing with annoying constancy. Do I roll over and climb deeper into my comfort zone or do I obey and go?
Each of us knows where the “other side” is in our town. Each of us knows where the potential of storm is highest. Faith is all about going there especially when I know the odds are against me. It is about going to the other side when I know that a storm is more than unavoidable; it’s a given. Faith is knowing the odds are against me and going anyway. Do I go?
The miracles that happen in this reading are immense; grand and miraculous. Yet, they would never have happened if the disciples had not taken the very first step. They knew there was a high chance of a storm and they still went to the other side.
If my faith walk is missing the miraculous it is not because Jesus has gone to sleep in my bow (my life); it is most likely because I got too comfortable. So comfortable that I would not “go to the other side.”
We must remember that even though the odds are against the disciples, Jesus is in the boat with them. He’s in the boat with us too. We never go to the “other side” alone. So, let’s go…
Mark 4 35-41
[Mk 4:35] On that day, when evening came, He *said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.”  Leaving the crowd, they *took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him.  And there *arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. (NAS)
When evening came
Surrounded by hills and at a depth of 680 feet (207 meters) below sea level; the Sea of Galilee was a funnel for surprisingly sudden and dramatic storms. The sea itself was shaped like a wind tunnel at twelve and one-half miles long and anywhere from four to seven and one-half miles wide. Still, the disciples were some of the lake’s most seasoned professional fishermen. They would be seasoned enough to know that it is almost always the evening when the worst storms blasted down upon the tranquil lake. That’s when the cool air clashes with the heat with such force that the lake would look like a wading pool with six full-size Sumo wrestlers doing cannonballs in its center.
You have to admire these disciples for even listening to Jesus; but you also have to think they knew they would be lucky to make it across the lake without trouble. They knew what they were heading into and they went anyway. This was a bold response to a Christ-centered command. Once again, we find the disciples willing to follow their Lord to a place where most of us would never go.
Jesus on the other hand was not exactly ignorant of the forces of nature (having been privy at their creation). We must not think that he would be caught unawares by this storm either. No, what we see here is the Lord purposely taking these disciples into a precarious situation. Humanly we might even ask; “If Jesus really loved them, why would he put them at risk?”
There are two possible answers to this question and the truth is probably found in a blend of them both:
1. They weren’t really at risk;
Wherever we go in Christ, we never go “at risk,” if we are going where he commands. We can be assured we are going with his authority. Christ himself prays for the protection of our souls from the greatest threat we could ever face; the Evil One:
[Jn 17:15] “I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. (NAS)
The only danger to truly fear is separation from God and we cannot be separated from God if we are obedient to his commands:
[Ps 86:11] Teach me Your way, O LORD; I will walk in Your truth; Unite my heart to fear Your name.
 I will give thanks to You, O Lord my God, with all my heart, and will glorify Your name forever.  For Your lovingkindness toward me is great, and You have delivered my soul from the depths of Sheol. (NAS)
[Ro 8:31] What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? (NAS)
[Heb 13:6] ...so that we confidently say,
“THE LORD IS MY HELPER, I WILL NOT BE AFRAID. WHAT WILL MAN DO TO ME?” (NAS)
[Ro 8:37] But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NAS)
If Jesus sends us into the storm (or, when he sends us into the storm) we can be assured that he goes with us. We can go forward in his confidence.
2. Jesus sends us into the storm for our growth.
My tendency is to believe that Jesus was fully aware of the storm ahead and with clarity of purpose headed out to sea. Whether or not you believe this was an intentional decision set up by Jesus or a “teachable moment” that he used; the lesson is clear: Jesus can use any situation to increase our faith.
Our Lord’s commands are never empty and, in particular, the storms we go through with Jesus will bring us incredible growth. Rather than fear the storms; we need to train our hearts to see them as opportunities. There is no empty storm with Jesus!
[Mk 4:38] Jesus Himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they *woke Him and *said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”  And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.  And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (NAS)
“Do You not care?”
We seem far more likely to panic when we go knowingly into a storm than if we stumble upon it. I can just imagine the disciples muttering among themselves rather than waking up Jesus to confront him and the more they blamed Jesus; the more they became helpless.
Do we make these fatal faith flaws?
1. Do we presume Jesus is unaware of our trials?
2. Do we grit our teeth and blame God when our seas become stormy?
3. Do we presume that just because we experienced storms in our life “pre-Jesus” that those experiences should cease because we have “found Jesus?”
The response to these questions should be; “no, No, and NO!”
We are a new creation when Jesus enters our life. God is neither dormant nor distant and we have a living advocate who goes with us to confront our fears. We still face storms, we just do not face them either alone or without purpose.
2 Corinthians 5:17
[2Co 5:17] Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. (NAS)
That is a focal point of this lesson; to journey with Christ means that the rules have forever changed. No matter how similar the landscape seems, no matter how many times we have previously faced a storm, no matter how many times we would like to blame instead of “take the helm,” we need to realize that Christ adds a new dimension to our lives. We may be sailing the same waters; but we have a new purpose and, therefore, a new strength.
In addition, this is one of the reasons that Jesus doesn’t often reveal our future paths in detail. I have to laugh about this because if someone handed me a job description for what I am now doing everyday; I probably would not accept it! Living by faith, going to jails, shelters and rest homes daily; I’d be nuts to take my job. Yet, God sort of snuck up on me one life at a time. Suddenly, I found myself doing this without ever planning to do it. God’s path is not easy, but it sure is exciting.
Rebuked the wind
As I mentioned before, I don’t believe that Jesus was accidentally in the storm; I believe he was right where he expected to be when he sent those little fishing boats upon the lake at evening time. His deep sleep in the midst of a raging storm is a model to us of a Godly calmness in a stormy world. He expected the storm yet, he also knew God’s will was going to be achieved. What does Jesus model? “Expect great storms but expect God to be greater.” In essence: “His sound slumber isn’t a sign of apathy (as the apostles thought); he sleeps the deep slumber of great confidence. This is God’s storm; what has Jesus to fear?
We too need to pray for a similar attitude of confidence. Obedience to Christ will increase the storms in our life; but it will also increase the confidence in our heart.
The words and actions of Jesus model the response of a Christian standing in the midst of any “unexpected” storm:
1. He rebukes the wind;
To rebuke [GSN2008 epitimao] could best be translated as; “he sized up his opponent then firmly put him in his place.”
Jesus doesn’t size up the storm against his own stature; he sizes it up against God’s stature. A friend of mine once preached to some of my friends in the jail; “Don’t tell God how big your problems are; tell your problems how big God is!”
Size them up against God’s stature, not your own.
1 Samuel 17:37-40
[1Sa 17:37] And David said, “The LORD who delivered me from the paw of the lion and from the paw of the bear, He will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.” And Saul said to David, “Go, and may the LORD be with you.”  Then Saul clothed David with his garments and put a bronze helmet on his head, and he clothed him with armor.  David girded his sword over his armor and tried to walk, for he had not tested them. So David said to Saul, “I cannot go with these, for I have not tested them.” And David took them off.  He took his stick in his hand and chose for himself five smooth stones from the brook, and put them in the shepherd’s bag which he had, even in his pouch, and his sling was in his hand; and he approached the Philistine. (NAS)
2. He silences the sea;
Next Jesus silences the sea, telling it to; “Be still [GSN5392phimoo].”
Literally, he “muzzles the sea,” he “puts it to silence.”
Faith in Christ silences our adversary. A threat is only a threat if it can take away something that you value, but the Christ-centered person has only one value; to love like Jesus. The adversary can’t touch us when we are centered in Christ. The obedient Christian abides in God’s love.
[Jn 15:4] “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.  “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.  “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.  “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.  “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.  “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love.  “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
Nothing can separate us from such love:
[Ro 8:35] Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  Just as it is written,
“FOR YOUR SAKE WE ARE BEING PUT TO DEATH ALL DAY LONG; WE WERE CONSIDERED AS SHEEP TO BE SLAUGHTERED.”
 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us.  For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers,  nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (NAS)
The result of Christ’s rebuke is not just “calm”; but “perfect [GSN3173 megas] calm.” This word was used of great achievements, or huge accomplishments. Imagine a so unexpected and so complete that it leaves observers terrified (as we witness in the apostles response to the storms immediate cessation).
That is the calm of Jesus Christ. Our Lord’s encompassing calm not only includes him but it also exudes from him; it is a commanding calm that extends to all who surround him.
Some scripture have improperly tried to reduce this scripture as Jesus extending his calm only to his disciple’s attitudes thus enabling them to “ride out” the storm. It is always mentally tempting to reduce the great works of Christ to our own humanistic terms; but it doesn’t pan out. As we plainly see, Jesus’ miracle is not merely for one boat but there are many boats on the boiling sea. He doesn’t calm the crews, he doesn’t calm the Captains, he rebukes the source and the source ceases to harass the followers of Jesus.
In like manner, we have the miraculous power to “size up and silence” the source of the storm in our life. Let’s use that miraculous power to bring peace to all the boats tossed about by the storms about us.
3. And, he challenges his followers to deepen their faith.
“Why are you afraid?” is the tame version of what Jesus really says. The word we translate as “afraid” [GSN1169 deilos] translates more closely to cowards or cowardly. “Why are you cowering?” Or, “Why are you cowards?”
Jesus doesn’t encourage our faith; he demands it. It’s not an option! It’s fundamental. It is as though Jesus is telling us; “Absolute faith is the only acceptable response to God!”
If we don’t “get faith,” we can’t “get God.” Without faith, we remain victims of the circumstantial. Double-minded people tossed upon the sea:
[Jas 1:2] Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials,  knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
 But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.  But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord. (NAS)
Jesus rebukes his follower’s faithlessness as much as he rebukes the adversarial sea. Will our lives be marked by such a faithful response, so deep we do not fear “going over to the other side,” “sizing up and silencing the adversary,” or even extending Christ’s calm to an ocean of storm-tossed boats.
For, if God is for us, who can be against us [Romans 8:31]?
Copyright © 2003 Jerry Goebel. All Rights Reserved. This study may be freely distributed, as long as it bears the following attribution: Source: Jerry Goebel: 2003 © http://onefamilyoutreach.com