The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost June 20, 2010
2 Corinthians 5:14-21
17, 514, 521, 649
Hymns from The Lutheran Hymnal (1941) unless otherwise noted
On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm. But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”
Dear Friends in Christ Jesus:
Among the largest computers in the world are those used to track and forecast the weather. There is one going into service in Australia that can make 1.5 trillion computations a second. Such computers are fed vast amounts of data concerning wind, temperature, humidity and other climatological information, then based on cause and effect the computer can crank out useful information to aid people who depend on knowing what the weather will be. It is a far cry from the days when the condition of the weather, beyond the time of year, seemed to arise from a puzzling chaos of factors, or, more often, when it was ascribed to the mere whim of a deity.
But the largest computers in the world cannot compare with the one Deity—the living God—who still has control over every detail of this earth, including the climate. As the Lord pointed out sternly to Job after letting Job stew in his own self-pity for a while: “Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?…Who determined its measurements? Surely you know!” (Job 38:2). God was there. The earth and the solar system and the universe are His handiwork. He was there to spread out the dry land and hem in the restless seas, telling the waters “this far you may come, and no farther. Here your proud waves must stop.” (Job 38:11)
It was none other than this same God who was resting at the back of the boat as the disciples sailed for the far shore of Galilee. The occurrence of that storm was no more random than was its ceasing at Jesus’ word just a coincidence. Jesus and His disciples all had a place in that boat. But what were the disciples to learn from Jesus’ power over the fury of the storm?
Most of Jesus’ disciples were seasoned fishermen. They had spent their lives on the small but tempestuous body of water known as Gennesaret, Tiberias, or the Sea of Galilee. But on this occasion because of their faithlessness they were troubled by the sea.
This was, admittedly, no ordinary storm. The word used by Mark was the Greek word for “hurricane.” The challenge of keeping the boat free of water and riding out the tempest was very real. They could lose their lives and probably knew others who had indeed lost their lives to the sea. All their years of seamanship were being put to the test.
One of the first things we should take away from this incident is the realization that when people face difficulties in life we should treat them as very real for the people who are in them at the time. We may sit on the sidelines and think we are in a position to judge another person’s ability to deal with an illness, marital problem, or other hardship. But until we can get a person to see beyond his own fears, criticism and badgering are of little use.
Something else that the disciples saw, amidst all the turmoil and all their efforts to stay afloat, was the remarkable sight of Jesus fast asleep in the back of the boat. This is an important proof of Jesus’ humanity. Mark records the grueling activities that Jesus carried on—the crowds pressed in from every side, always seeking something from Him, which He gladly provided, but He would wear Himself out to the point that His disciples worried about Him. As they sailed away from the shoreline—pursued by other boatloads of people eager to be around Him, Jesus fell fast asleep, and even the frantic activities of the fishermen didn’t disturb Him.
But the God of Israel “neither slumbers nor sleeps.” (Psalm 121:4) This Jesus was indeed their Lord and God, and on another level everything was in His control. The storm was no accident, it was taking place precisely at this time for their benefit. How would they react? What strength would they seek? What would they find in this hour?
In the midst of their own test, you can hear the testiness in the disciples’ voice: “Lord, do you not care that we are perishing?” [v.38] They had seen Him spare no effort or energy on the well-being of others. Now, they, His friends, were surely going to die and He wasn’t doing a thing about it.
We can hear ourselves right there, can’t we? Basically, it is “I’m miserable—why don’t you do something about it?” “You’ve got time for everybody else—why not me?” It applies in our relationship with the mortal people around us and with the immortal God.
“Lord do you not care?” The disciples’ answer was right there in their words. He did care; He was in the boat with them; He had come into the world for them, and if they thought this storm was bad, they had no idea of the tempest that was to come at the end of His three year ministry. Then too, it would seem like random forces would organize themselves into a perfect storm of evil and hostility against Jesus. But at that time, it would be the disciples who slept, while Jesus poured Himself out for the work that was at hand. It would seem like Jesus was accomplishing nothing when in fact He was finishing everything—everything necessary for the salvation of sinners like themselves.
It was the faithlessness of Jesus’ disciples that the storm exposed, just as such storms do in our lives time and again—but only so that we might better learn the lesson the Lord has for those who are in the boat with Him.
Jesus quieted the seas to stir up His disciples’ faith.
“Lord help us!” It is worth noting that, rude as the disciples’ approach might have been, it was, technically, a prayer. Maybe it was not a prayer offered in the greatest of faith, but the disciples knew to whom they should turn.
Once they awoke Him, Jesus stood up in the boat and spoke to the wind and the sea. He sharply told them to quiet down, like you’d rebuke a barking dog. Only He was more successful. Instantly, the wind stopped and the sea fell back to a flat calm.
How do you ‘rebuke’ an inanimate force? Remember, the weather is all the result of cause and effect in nature. The heating of the ground in the morning brings on our afternoon thunderstorms. How do you tell the sun not to shine, or water not to evaporate? You can do that only if you are the Creator, only if you yourself put the sun in the skies and covered the earth with this unique atmosphere. If you put it there, you are uniquely in position to change it, or modify it.
But the Lord put the sun and the moon in their place in the universe for more than mere utilitarian reasons. Sure, the sun rules the day and gives us light and heat thereby making life possible here. But the larger significance for us is that they continually give us reason to recognize and glorify our God and Lord. When Jesus stood up in the boat and gave the wind and waves a tongue-lashing, He was doing more than getting His disciples out of a tight spot. He was demonstrating (once again) His divine power and showing that He could and would use it in behalf of those who put their trust in Him.
We are spiritual people created to interact with God, to seek His involvement in our lives, and to fear, love, and trust in Him above all things. Sin causes a breakdown of that trust and distorts our view of all of life. These men had God in the stern of their boat, but they had yet to learn the lesson that they need not fear anything this world could throw their way, precisely because Jesus was in the boat with them.
“Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” [v.40] That is the question that hangs over our whole lives when we live according to the flesh, when we do things based on fears, when we turn inward and love ourselves more than anything around.
Jesus shows us His power so that we can know what He can do for those who trust in Him. But He shows us His love, coming as our Savior and taking our sins and faithlessness on Himself, so that we can see that He really is in the boat with us, and we are always safe with Him.
The Christian church has found great comfort in this image of Jesus and the disciples together in the boat. The interior of those great cathedrals was called the “nave” because of their appearance of being the inside of a very large boat. Baptism is described in Scripture as the ark through which our souls are buoyed up and preserved amidst all the storms of this life for we are baptized into Christ (cf. 1 Peter 3:18-22). He is our hope and our salvation. God grant that He teach us in all phases of life to so trust in Him. Amen.
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All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.