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Mark 4:35-41 - Through The Storm

Mark 4:35-41 – Through the Storm

Northcote Baptist Church

Morning Service Sermon - 22 April, 07

Last week Peter shared about the meaning of the cluster of parables Jesus gives in verses 21-34. I really appreciated the teaching on the Kingdom. It doesn’t happen like we may want it to. It is slower, smaller and more secretive than we often wish it to be.

This passage follows directly on from this, and continues the theme. We’ll work through the verses and then look at the continuing theme of the Kingdom…

Verse 35-36

To the Other Side

Jesus had been preaching to a BIG crowd (a GREAT multitude) from a boat. He had been teaching about how the Kingdom comes, and how its power works. And the evening of the same day, they take him – verse 36 says ‘in the boat as He was.’ Maybe just more of Mark’s quick-editing, fast-paced style.

Then, Jesus says, “Let us cross over to the other side. Now, 5:1 tells us where they went. Then they came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gadarenes. They had been in the Jewish area of Capernaum, and Jesus was wanting to go ‘to the other side’ – to the region of the Gadarenes – a Gentile area. I’ll say more about this later, but the Gentiles in this area were the owners of the pigs that Jesus was about to send the ‘Legion’ of demons into in chapter 5. (Remember, Jews don’t eat or even own pigs) And the man who had been possessed goes and proclaims it in the Ten Cities – or Decapolis (another Greek identifier). Then, they beg Jesus to go (remember, these are not Jews), and he heads back to the Jewish side and ends up healing the daughter of a synagogue ruler.

So, do you see the to-and-fro of the context? Parables to Jews; then over to the Gentiles with their ‘unclean spirits’ and ‘pigs’; then back to the Jews for some more faith lessons. It is in the middle of this flow that we look at these verses.

Other ‘little boats’

Jesus was not in the other boats, but in the boat with the disciples. He was ‘with them’ and they were ‘with Him’ – and they ‘still’ end up having no faith.

Verse 37-38

A Great Windstorm and a Sleeping Saviour

Then comes the wind and waves. Apparently, even to this day, the Sea of Galilee can get rough and rowdy quite quickly. This was no different. It was even beginning to fill the boat.

Now, to Jews – especially at that time – water meant more than just water. It symbolised chaos – the very chaos out of which God ordered the creation of the Earth in Genesis 1. Water features quite often in the Scriptures. The Lord Himself was seen (in the Psalms and elsewhere) to be the One who could calm the waters with His powerful word. It was the Lord who had opened the waters of the Red Sea to deliver the Israelites from the Egyptians. It was the waters which produced the monstrous and oppressive empires in Daniel’s vision. And, in the case of the disciples, the only thing on the other side of the water was Gentile land and Gentile people. Not exactly motivation for making the trip in the first place! But Jesus had said, ‘Let us go,’ so there they were – in the middle of this intense storm, fearing for their lives!

And Jesus was sleeping on a pillow in the stern. Sleeping we can understand, right? I mean, He’d just spent hours teaching – from a boat. But sleeping during this storm? The disciples are losing it. They wake Him up and say, ‘Don’t you care that we’re perishing?’ The irony is that while Jesus is sleeping in their hour of distress, they will be the sleeping ones during Jesus’ own hour of distress in Gethsemane! Indeed (NIV App. Comm.), their future slumber seems to indicate that they are the ones that don’t seem to care that Jesus is about to perish!

Verses 39-40

Jesus doing what God does

Matthew and Mark have the order of Jesus’ response slightly differently, but Jesus ‘arose’ (we’ll come back to that) and with the words from His mouth - like God speaking order out of chaos – stills the waters. His words, “Peace, be still” are as though He is quoting Psalm 46 to the waters, “Be still and know that I am God.” Believe it. There’s more to Jesus than meets the eye.

Isaiah 43 can be put along side this passage in its wider context with striking results. Indeed, “When you pass through the waters, I will be with You” – the “You” being none other than Jesus the Lord. In short, He’s acting like God!

His rebuking question to the disciples shows His disappointment that even with the private explanations of the parables and the wonders He has worked so far, they ‘still’ had no faith.

Verse 41

Only God can do that!

Their questioning response to each other shows that they still haven’t quite realised – or we might say they haven’t LET themselves realise – just who Jesus is. He’s acts like God, He speaks like God – and they are still unsure.

Whole Passage & Gospel

A Small view of the Big Picture

OK, now I want to show you something that is SO exciting for me. More and more as I study the Gospels, I am amazed at the precision and care with which they were written. The stories and content are carefully crafted by the writers. The Gospels are more than dry, lifeless, historical reports – they are majestic works of art.

Now obviously, some have asserted that the Gospels are such works of art that they are not historical reports at all. This is most certainly not the case. We could go into much more detail, but suffice it to say that 1st century Jews didn’t write fiction like this. The Gospel narratives were birthed out of real history, real events and real life – otherwise we would not have them.

Now, I believe Mark has placed key words/phrases in this passage (and throughout the whole Gospel) that give hints, glimpses and fore-shadowings of the entire message he is presenting. The Big picture, the ‘gospel’ if you will, is seen in amazing ways through this passage.

Part of what made the Gospel a ‘stumbling block’ for the Jews was that it was going to mean including the Gentiles. This passage and the surrounding context strongly hint at this. They leave the Jewish ‘multitudes’ to ‘cross over to the other side’ – which, of course, was the Gentile side. That’s the Gentile-friendliness of the Gospel showing through there. Also, the Gospel shows how Jesus defeats evil on the Cross; and this passage features Jesus overcoming the chaos of the evil sea. That’s the evil-defeating power of the Gospel showing through.

Now, here’s my favourite (and perhaps the most obvious) bit. You have Jesus ‘asleep’ in the boat, and the disheartened disciples. Think of the disciples’ sorrow while Jesus was ‘asleep’ in the tomb. Then… here it comes… THEN, Mark says Jesus ‘arose’ and stilled the storm. HELLO! Jesus is RISEN! Is He not!!?? The Greek word for ‘arose’ here is from the root ‘diegeiro’ (dee-eg-i’ro) – having been raised thoroughly. Jesus, having been raised thoroughly, stilled the storm. WOW. I find it interesting that in chapter 16 verse 9, where it reads, ‘when He rose early on the first day of the week’ the Greek word for ‘rose’ is not ‘diegeiro’, but from the root ‘anistemi’ (an-is’-tay-mee) – having stood up. Almost seems better suited for the boat scene, doesn’t it? I wonder – and this is totally just my pondering here – if Mark is pointing forward to the resurrection in chapter 4, AND hearkening back to the boat scene in chapter 16. Maybe. Maybe not.

No time to explain, but there are fascinating connections with the Jonah story; showing HUGE contrast to Jonah and Jesus – indeed, Jesus said He was the ‘Something greater than Jonah.” Aren’t these pointers to the Gospel astounding? It is the God of Jews AND Gentiles. It is God who dwells WITH His people. It is God who we can trust even when He seems to be sleeping. It is God who RISES and defeats the Evil one. It is God whom we trust.

The Challenge to Us

On Board with The King

And it is precisely that Trust and Faith that we need so desperately in our World, and even in the Church. As we heard last week from Peter’s message on Jesus’ parables, the Kingdom is smaller, slower – and, as we see in our passage – sleepier than we sometimes want it to be. We dare not try to INFLATE, SPEED-UP or WAKE-UP God to re-make Him into the God we want.

Therefore, may we remember just what kind of Kingdom it is! GOD’s Kingdom. The Kingdom of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has power over wind and sea and has RISEN in Power. But that powerful comeback of all comebacks was after the apparent weakness of the Cross. Let us not forget – there is GREAT power in apparent weakness. GREAT victory in apparent defeat. GREAT joy in apparent sorrow. GREAT life in apparent death.

At times it can seem that the only real things are death, weakness, defeat and sorrow. But – as the hymn we will now sing says – This Is My Father’s World - O let me ne’er forget! That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet!!

This Is My Father's World

This is my Father’s world, and to my listening ears
All nature sings, and round me rings the music of the spheres.
This is my Father’s world: I rest me in the thought
Of rocks and trees, of skies and seas;
His hand the wonders wrought.

This is my Father’s world, the birds their carols raise,
The morning light, the lily white, declare their Maker’s praise.
This is my Father’s world: He shines in all that’s fair;
In the rustling grass I hear Him pass;
He speaks to me everywhere.

This is my Father’s world. O let me ne’er forget
That though the wrong seems oft so strong, God is the ruler yet.
This is my Father’s world: why should my heart be sad?
The Lord is King; let the heavens ring!
God reigns; let the earth be glad!

This is my Father’s world, should my heart be ever sad?
The lord is King—let the heavens ring. God reigns—let the earth be glad.
This is my Father’s world. Now closer to Heaven bound,
For dear to God is the earth Christ trod.
No place but is holy ground.

This is my Father’s world. I walk a desert lone.
In a bush ablaze to my wondering gaze God makes His glory known.
This is my Father’s world, a wanderer I may roam
Whate’er my lot, it matters not,
My heart is still at home.




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