Fifth Sunday after Epiphany February 9, 2020
43, 130:1,5-6, 651, 347
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 fellow sojourners and pilgrims, fellow redeemed in Christ Jesus,
There are few things that demonstrate our weakness and frailty more than extreme weather. In January 2019, citizens living in the Upper Mid-West, were reminded once again of the great blessing of modern forecasting. Almost a week in advance, weather forecasters were preparing people first for the potential of snow followed by plummeting temperatures. The advanced warning gave people time to prepare for the arrival of that severe weather.
Even though we knew that polar vortex was coming, we were powerless to do anything about it. None of us were able to stop those bone chilling wind-chills. As much as we dislike -45 wind chills, there was nothing we could do to change it—only prepare for it. Again, there are few things in life that make us feel as helpless and powerless as weather.
In our text for today we hear of a great storm on the Sea of Galilee. Now, sudden, violent storms on the Sea of Galilee was nothing unusual. On board the boat that day were men who, before they became disciples, had been professional fishermen on this very lake.
But this storm was different. The word Mark uses to describe this storm is the same word that would be used to describe a hurricane. This storm was so violent that the boat Jesus and His disciples were in started to take on water. Even though many of these disciples were seasoned fishermen on this very lake, CALM is not the word that we would use to describe their reaction. They were frightened, terrified that were going to sink and drown in this violent storm. And yet, what do we hear of Jesus? In the middle of this violent storm Jesus was calm and at peace, as He slept at the back of the boat.
As the waves beat against the boat and the boat begins to take on water the disciples cry out to Jesus, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Jesus slept in calm assurance while His disciples feared for their lives. “Don’t you care that we are perishing, Jesus?”
Notice two things about the reaction of the disciples. On the one hand we hear Jesus scolding them for their fearfulness. “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Literally Jesus calls their emotions as being cowardly. They had no faith that God would protect them in this violent storm. They should have seen the calmness of Jesus, sleeping at the back of the boat and be reassured that they were safe.
On the other hand, we see that the disciples knew where to go in their time of trouble. They went to Jesus for help. “You do care, don’t you, that we are in peril?!” They took it to the Lord in prayer! While they thought their end was near, they also looked to Jesus for help. And Jesus did! He did not ignore the pleas of His people, though weak in faith.
We have before us, the two natures of Jesus on full display. Jesus is certainly true man. Having had a busy day of preaching and healing, Jesus now He was tired. While God neither slumbers nor sleeps, Jesus as true Man got tired and slept. But in our text we also find Jesus showing Himself to be true God. We read in verse 39, “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.”
As the temperatures plummeted during that polar vortex in Minnesota, no matter what you said in your cold car, your words were not going to change the temperature, even a degree. Yet when Jesus speaks, even nature listens! At the word of Jesus the wind stopped and the sea immediately became like glass. This is something that only God can do! He who created the heavens and the earth is Lord over all Creation as Jesus here demonstrates.
Though the disciples had seen Jesus do many miracles prior to this, they marvel at His power. Though He looked and acted like any one of them, He did something that they had never seen any man do. And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” This is the eternal and almighty Son of God dwelling among them! This is the great calm that only Jesus can bring.
This event on the Sea of Galilee is one that we are very familiar with. Maybe you’ve heard it in Sunday School or read it as a devotion to your children. And it is one which each of us—even our children—can relate to, because we have all been in storms that scared us. It is very comforting to know that Jesus is more powerful than the winds of a hurricane.
But look more closely at our text, and there is even more we can take away from this event on the Sea of Galilee. What is the last storm that came into your life? What storm are you dealing with right now? A storm in your family, with your health or the health of a loved one, your finances, or your emotions? What storm clouds are darkening in your life?
I imagine the disciples, especially those experienced fishermen, thought they could handle this storm by themselves. And so, as the clouds darkened and the sea began to get more choppy, they thought they’d be okay. I say I can imagine that would be the case, even though our text says nothing about it, because that is what I would do—and that is what I usually do. I try to deal with these storms on my own, only to find I’m taking on water faster than I can bail and am beginning to sink. Maybe you find yourself doing the same thing.
And as the storm rages, it feels like Jesus is sleeping and doesn’t care about what we are going through. Eventually, things get so bad that we cry out to Jesus, “Do you not care that we are perishing?”
Jesus does care. In fact, Jesus cares more than you can imagine. Jesus knew you were perishing, not just from a financial storm or health scare, Jesus knew you were perishing eternally. Jesus knew your sins had earned for you the unending storm of God’s wrath in hell. Jesus cared so much that you were perishing, that He, true God who with His Word can calm the wind and the sea, became true Man—your brother. He did this to face the storm of God’s wrath Himself in your place. He was willing to endure the darkness of Good Friday and the cursed-ness of being abandoned by God on the cross. He did this, Paul writes to the Colossians, for the forgiveness of your sins and wipe out “the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.” (Colossians 2:13-14) Every mark of sin that was against us, Jesus wiped away with His own blood.
Does Jesus care? Let there be no doubt in any of your minds that He absolutely cares. The cross proves He cares. “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
Now, take that absolute truth of Christ caring all the way to the cross and apply it in faith to the storms you are dealing with. With a word Jesus would calm your souls in the midst of the storm. Jesus does tells us, “In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33) In this broken, sinful, dead and dying world we will have storms come into our lives. Some storms we bring on ourselves by our own sinful choices, some the devil brings into our lives to try and lead us away from God, and some God brings into our lives to draw us closer to Him.
No matter the storm, Jesus says, “Peace! Be still. …I have overcome the world.” Jesus has overcome the WORST this world could do to Him—it killed Him. Jesus rose from the dead. And by His resurrection He assures all His believers, “Because I live you shall live also.” (John 14:19) Even in the face of death, the Word of Jesus can give us calm knowing we too shall rise. Because Jesus rose and we too shall rise, we can confidently say with the Apostle Paul, nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:39)
Even though it may seem that Jesus is sleeping in the midst of your storm, go to Him in prayer and wake Him up. His cross proves that He cares for you. Your Savior would continue to calm you by His Word, just as He literally calmed that storm on the Sea of Galilee. “Peace, be still,” our risen Lord says to us even as the storm clouds continue to gather. All praise be to Him who rules over wind and wave, and whose arm is mighty to save. Amen.
Ministry by Mail is a weekly publication of the Church of the Lutheran Confession. Subscription and staff information may be found online at www.clclutheran.org/ministrybymail.
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.