150628 Mark 4:35-41

Last Updated on Monday, 29 June 2015 Written by Pastor Pagels

Text: Mark 4:35-41
Theme: The Lord Has The Last Word

This past week I was reminded that the Lord has an amazing sense of timing (and a bit of a sense of humor too). It was Monday morning, and I was in the office putting some thoughts down on paper for this weekend's sermon. I started the way I always start my sermon preparation, by reading the Scripture lessons for the day, and it didn't take me long to make the connection. In the first lesson the Lord spoke to Job from an ominous storm cloud. In the second lesson (recorded in Acts 27) Paul and his traveling companions were caught up in a storm on the Mediterranean Sea. And in today's gospel lesson Jesus and his disciples were tossed and turned by a squall on the Sea of Galilee.

As soon as I finished reading the lessons I heard the thunder. And then I looked out my office window and saw that it looked more like midnight than mid-morning. And then I put down my pen and wondered if God might be making a suggestion about the direction of my sermon.

This Sunday could be called "Storm Sunday," but the weather is not the only thing today's readings have in common. God wanted Paul and Job to know, the Lord wanted his disciples to know, and our Savior wants us to know that he is in control. He is always in control. And he demonstrated his power over nature in a miraculous way in the fourth chapter of Mark's gospel.

If you have ever been dragged down by doubts, if you sometimes feel like your faith is weak, if there are things in your life that you can't control, if there is anything in your life that makes you afraid, you need to listen to this sermon. You need to see your Savior in action. You and I need to hear the authority and the compassion in Jesus' voice, and we need the constant comforting reminder that...

THE LORD HAS THE LAST WORD

Have you ever been really tired, so tired that you literally fell asleep before your head hit the pillow, so tired that even if your house was falling down around your bed you wouldn't wake up? Jesus was that kind of tired in today's text. After a long day of preaching and teaching and healing and helping and counseling and encouraging, Jesus (who was a human being just like you and me) needed to rest. And the only way he could get away from the crowds that were following him was to get into a boat and put out to sea.

The Sea of Galilee isn't much of a sea at all. It looks more like a lake. To put it in perspective, the Sea of Galilee is less than half the size of Lake Winnebago. And I never understood how such a big storm could pop up on such a small body of water until I saw it with my own eyes. The Sea of Galilee sits down in a bowl surrounded by mountains. And when the cool winds up above race down the valley to meet the warm, humid air down below, the clash can stir up quite a storm.

That is the meteorological explanation for the storm, but there is another explanation. The Lord sent this storm at this time and in this place to teach his disciples an important lesson about trust. And the lesson began while Jesus was sleeping soundly below deck.

Out of nowhere "a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped" (37). At least some of the disciples were fishermen. They were experienced sailors. They had survived many storms. But this storm was different. This time the boat was taking on water faster than they could scoop it out. And the disciples were afraid.

There was nothing they could do to stop the storm. There was nothing they could do to save the ship. So they did the only thing they could do. They went below deck and woke up Jesus and with obvious panic in their voices they shouted: "Teacher, don't you care if we drown" (38)?

If this was a test, the disciples failed. They should have known better. They should have known that Jesus would protect them because they had seen what Jesus could do. He made the sick well. He made the lame walk. He gave the blind their sight. He had power, awesome power, divine power. But the disciples were distracted by the power of the storm. And as their boat filled up with water, their minds were being filled with doubt.

It wasn't just the disciples. We know better too. We know what Jesus can do because the Bible tells us what Jesus has done. But because we live in a sinful world there are plenty of things that can distract us. And because we are sinful creatures we sometimes succumb to doubt.

The institution of marriage is being assaulted on multiple fronts. The definition of marriage is being rewritten before our very eyes. We see the prophecy of Isaiah coming true as people call good evil and evil good (Isaiah 5:20), and we feel helpless to do anything to stop it.

The most recent statistics don't make us feel any better. The Christian church continues to lose ground. Most denominations are losing members. Young adults in America, called millennials, are leaving churches or not joining churches in record numbers. It is an alarming trend, and there seems to be more questions than answers about what can be done to stop it.

Maybe defining marriage isn't a front burner issue for you. Maybe you don't have time to worry about the millennials because you have plenty to worry about in your own life. Your marriage is in trouble. Your kids are always getting into trouble. You have a dead end job that is taking all the joy out of life. You have a secret addiction that is threatening to destroy your life. Your life is spinning out of control, and there isn't anything you can do to stop it.

Do you ever feel like the disciples? Do you wonder why God seems to be letting the devil have free reign in the world? Do you wonder why God is letting you be tossed back and forth by all the problems in your life? Do you sometimes just want to grab Jesus by the shoulders and shake him because he must be asleep? Is "trust" the best word to describe your relationship with God, or would a better word be "doubt"?

Doubt isn't a minor character flaw. Doubt is a sin. Doubt is serious. Doubting God is dangerous. If you follow the path of doubt far enough, you will eventually end up in the land of unbelief. And Jesus himself reminds us that whoever does not believe in him will be condemned (Mark 16:16).

Jesus was sleeping during the storm, but at the same time God never sleeps. God is always watching over us. God is always working on our behalf. God is always making everything work out for good. And the Ruler of wind and wave did something to remove the disciples' doubts for good. He got up and spoke two words (in Greek), two little words, two powerful words: "'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm" (39).

The storm was no match for the power of God's Word. Nothing is. Jesus spoke and he turned a raging sea into a sheet of glass, but this was not his most impressive miracle. The most amazing display of our Savior's divine power was also the most amazing display of his unconditional love, when he took our place, when he carried the billions of sins of billions of sinners to the cross, when he uttered three triumphant words, "It is finished" to declare that his mission was accomplished, when he rose from the grave to declare victory over death forever.

The storm on the Sea of Galilee made lots of noise, but in the end Lord had the last word. And after the crisis was over, after the disciples had a chance to catch their breath, Jesus turned to them and said: "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith" (40)?

When Jesus asked his disciples those questions there was probably a hint of disappointment in his voice. But the Teacher also recognized that his students were a work in progress. And so he didn't order them to get off the boat. He didn't make them walk the plank. He remained patient with them. He forgave them for doubting him, and by stilling the storm he gave them one more reason to put their faith in him, to follow him, to trust him.

The Bible gives us many reasons to trust in God, and it is my prayer that the Holy Spirit will work through this account today to encourage you to trust him more and more. But it is naïve to think that listening to one sermon or reviewing one miracle will make all your doubts disappear. It doesn't work like that. Our faith is kind of like the waves on the Sea of Galilee. Our faith goes up and down. For a while we are way up here, but then something happens and we come crashing down.

The one constant in this account, the only constant in our lives, is Jesus. His Word never changes. His love for us never wavers. And we can rely on his promises every day. He forgives us, but he doesn't stop there. He has given us faith, and he gives us the desire and the power to put our faith into practice, to stand up for the truth and be willing to accept the consequences, to speak the truth in love in a world where love has grown cold, to fear and love and trust in God above all things, to love our neighbors as ourselves, to show Christ-like love to our friends and even our enemies.

And when we see storm clouds gathering on the horizon, we won't be afraid. We are not afraid because we are not alone. Jesus is with us, and he will give us the strength we need for the journey. And when we finally reach the end you and I will hear one more word, a beautiful word, the Lord's last word, a word that invites us to enjoy the blessings of everlasting life: "Come!" "Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world" (Matthew 25:34). Amen.

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