Jesus calms the Storm
Sermon preached by Rev Charles Royden, Ordinary 12 Year B 2012
Sermon by Charles Royden Ordinary 12 Year B
Jesus calls the storm on the lake
Mark Chapter 4 Mark 4:35-41
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, "Let us go over to the other side." Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.
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?" He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" They were terrified and asked each other, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"
It is a small passage this one from Mark this morning, but it holds some really valuable lessons and insight. I want to think about a few key messages
Crossing to the Other Side.
At the start of Chapter 5 we read that when they had eventually crossed the lake and they get out of the boat they are in the country of Gerasenes and Jesus heals a man who has demons and we are told that the demons go into the pigs. They are going to a place where there will be pigs, it was a foreign place. It was different. Specifically if you were one of the disciples you would regard this as going to gentile territory.
I want to make the point that this is a symbolic crossing as well as a literal one.
In their upbringing the disciples would have been taught that this was an unclean place, the place where gentiles lived. Gentiles were not favoured by the Jews, since Gentiles were unclean, the fundamental things for a Jew was to avoid such places and such people, they were to remain uncontaminated.
The thing which is perhaps most important for us to remember is that this was not just something which they had picked up from their parents. This was Jewish teaching, this was Biblical teaching, this was from God. The God fearing faithful Jew believed that the gentile was unclean. God had told them. Jesus is now crossing the lake, and he is also crossing centuries of prejudice and separation. Jesus is rewriting the rules in a way which must have seemed frightening.
The worry which we all should share is that sometimes what we think of as God’s prejudice is actually just our prejudice and we justify it by convincing ourselves that God demands such behaviour. Good Christian people have done this throughout the centuries as we have colluded with racist and sexism. It was not so long ago we considered it alright for Christians to subjugate black people, marriage between blacks and whites was considered wrong by good God fearing people in this country. We are still a long way from equality of the sexes in the Anglican church even today. This would be bad enough if it were not for the fact that we use scripture to reinforce our prejudice.
The challenge for us today is to ask ourselves whether we are prepared to get into the boat with Jesus, knowing that it might take us to the other side, to foreign territory, spiritually, intellectually. The hardest journey is not a physical one, it is being able to open our minds. We know how difficult it was for the early church to come to terms with the inclusion of the gentiles into the new community.
How prepared are you to cross to the other side, to meet people who you have been taught are unclean, to see them as Christ sees them.
So here are the disciples going to gentile country, a mission to new territory and they are doing so in the dark. Then there is a storm at sea and it is clear that they are frightened. I know that quite a few of you enjoy cruising, and apart from some recent accidents they are usually quite safe. This is the case even in quite rough storms. However the boat which Jesus and the disciples were travelling on was a little boat, and the waves were large and the wind was blowing in the night. The language used could mean a hurricane. The impression we are given is of hardened fishermen who had been through quite intense weather conditions and they were afraid because the conditions were life threatening. The waves were beating on the boat and the boat was filling with water.
It is in this context that we are told the disciples use the words to Jesus
‘Don’t you care’
These words are considerably softened by the other Gospel writers !
Matthew has, "Save, Lord, we are perishing."
Luke has, "Master, Master, we are perishing!"
These words sound harsh towards Jesus but we can understand them. Have you ever wondered what on earth Jesus was doing whilst people you knew suffered, or terrible things took place? Have you never asked Jesus why he seemed less compassionate towards suffering than you?
This story teaches us the valuable lesson that we cannot judge Jesus by the ferocity of the storms which rage around us. Jesus was totally present physically with the disciples and yet they encountered life threatening storms.
Jesus stills the storm
We are told that Jesus raised from sleep rebuked the wind, and said to the sea,
'Peace! Be silent!'" Jesus rebuked the wind just as he had rebuked the demonic powers (1:25, 3:12). He says to the sea, "Be silent!", which is the same thing he had said to the demon which had possessed the man in the synagogue (1:25).
This is really difficult because we could read this passage and believe that when we get into the storms of life, be they physical, spiritual or otherwise, that all we have to do is wake Jesus up and he will do something about it. This is the belief of many Christians. Millions of prayers are made which ask Jesus to stop the storm and provide a nice sunny day with calm seas.
Gve me a new job, give me a new girlfriend, stop the bank from taking my house, give me better exam grades than last year, make me well again
These are all the sorts of prayers which often come through our church website prayer requests. I always answer the prayer requests but I never lead the person asking for support to believe that I will pray that God will be like Jimmy Saville and somehow ‘fix it’. We all know that this is not what God is like.
Jesus rebukes the disciples and the rebuke he uses is about their faith
Jesus says to the frightened disciples
"Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
Faith will not protect us from the storms of life. Neither should we be in denial and pretend that storms around us do not exist. The presence of Jesus in the boat does not change the condition of the sea, neither are we protected from storms. However Jesus is clear that faith should have one important impact, it should drive out fear. His disciples will be buffeted and tossed about, they will be persecuted and tortured and killed. Yet Jesus is absolutely resolute that despite all of this they should be a people without fear.
We tend to be afraid of what is new and different.
We feel comfortable when we travel on familiar roads
We avoid foreign ideas, more comfortable with people who see things the way that we do and agree with us rather than challenge us.
In this passage Jesus encourages us not to be afraid, to cross to the other side.
The presence of Jesus will not protect us from the storms of life, as the hymn says the storms will come. The issue is not about avoiding stroms it is rather about making sure that we have an anchor which can hold fast.
Jesus disciples will not live a life calmed waters, they will be subject to all manner of trial and tribulation.
The remarkable difference for those who put their trust in Jesus is that they need not be afraid.
Faith does not pretend that a storm does not exist. It does not exempt us from efforts to take care of ourselves and others. What faith does is to ensure that we are not overcome with anxiety, stress and worry. Faith enables us to trust that God does care even when our weakness causes us to think that God has given up and isn’t bothered anymore.
Faith enables us to put our trust in God’s hands, no matter how fierce the storm. It ensures that we will never judge God's love by the condition of the sea.