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Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Mark 4:35–41

James T. Batchelor

Pentecost 4, Proper 7, series B
Good Shepherd Lutheran Church  
Hoopeston, IL

view DOC file

Sun, Jun 21, 2015 

The incident recorded for us in the Gospel we just heard is not just a nice story about Miracle Worker Jesus saving His followers from a watery grave.  It is also full of teachings concerning the nature of Jesus as the Christ and the nature of the sinners in the boat with Him.

The context leading up to the events in todays Gospel include a very full day of teaching for Jesus.  We heard two of the parables He taught in last weeks Gospel.  Its been a long day.  Jesus is tired.  As is often the case after a busy time of ministry, Jesus decided to get away with His disciples for some much needed rest and relaxation.  In this case, He elected to take a cruise to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee is about eight miles across from west to east at its widest point.  Ordinarily, the crossing should only take a few hours, but on this crossing, a storm came up.  Even though several of the disciples were experienced fishermen, they were still frightened.  This indicates that the storm was fairly powerful.

Where was Jesus during this storm?  He was asleep in the stern of the boat.  He was exhausted from His long day and fell into a sleep so sound that even the storm did not wake Him.

The fact that Jesus was asleep is an important demonstration of the nature of the Christ.  Other than His actual death on the cross, there is no better demonstration of the humanity of Jesus than the sleep of exhaustion.  Every human being on the planet knows what it is to grow tired and fall asleep.  Here Jesus demonstrates His unity with all people.  He sleeps like any other human being.

But then the disciples wake Him and ask for His help.  We should not assume that the disciples were expecting much from Jesus.  After all, he was brought up as a carpenter, not as a sailor.  It is more likely that they were thinking in terms of another set of hands to help bail the water out of the boat or some other similar activity.  It may even be that they just wanted Him to move away from the stern so that they had better access to the rudder.  In any case, they woke Him and asked for help, but they did not expect what happened next.

Jesus woke up and had a word with the elements.  The word rebuke in the text means that Jesus scolded the wind and the water rather harshly.  After that, the wind and the water became calm.

Now, you and I could scold the weather until we were blue in the face and nothing would change.  In fact, if we continued in that sort of activity, people might wonder if they should call the authorities to take us somewhere to get a mental checkup.  Jesus, on the other hand, scolded the weather and the weather paid attention.  It paid attention because Jesus is not just your ordinary, sleepy human being.  He is also the God of all creation.  Jesus ability to control the wind and the waves with just a word clearly shows that He is God.  So it is that this one event very clearly demonstrates that Jesus is both 100 % man and 100 % God in one person.

The disciples, on the other hand, were terrified.  The original Greek says that they feared a great fear.  They were in a boat with someone who could talk to the wind and the waves and the wind and the waves would pay attention to what He said.  They began to question who their master and teacher really was.

This is one of the themes in Jesus life.  People often ask who Jesus is.  Today, we heard that the wind and the waves know who Jesus is.  In other parts of the Gospel account, we learn that diseases, birth defects, and injuries know who Jesus is.  Even the demons know who Jesus is.  But, when it comes to the human beings, Jesus is a great mystery.  They regularly ask, Who is this?  Where does He get this authority? This reminds me of the words that the Holy Spirit spoke through His prophet Isaiah.  The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its masters crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand. (Isaiah 1:3)

The terror of God traces its way clear back to Eden.  God called and Adam replied, I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid. (Genesis 3:10) Adam had sinned and the presence of the holy and almighty God terrified him.  It is the same for all people who see their sin clearly in the holy presence of Almighty God.  It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Hebrews 10:31)

That is the reason it so important that Jesus be both man and God.  If Jesus were only God, He could not take our place under the law and live a holy life for us.  He also could not suffer the penalty we have earned for our sin.  If Jesus were a man, and nothing more, then His perfect life and sacrificial death would earn the salvation of one and only one person.  The rest of the world would be lost.  It is essential for our salvation that Jesus be both God and man.

We need the salvation that Jesus provides because the storm on the Sea of Galilee is just one instance of the many disasters that the sin of humanity has brought into this world.  The destruction that storms bring is an expression of the curse that came when sin entered the world.  Our sin not only brings sickness and death to us, but even the world is cursed.  The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to the Romans: We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now. (Romans 8:22) Floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, lightening, earthquakes, and all the other natural disasters are the result of the curse that our sin brought into the world.

These natural disasters are not the only storms that our sin has brought into the world.  There are other storms in our lives as well.  There are the medical storms of infections, heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cancer, and so forth.  There are the relational storms of broken families and friendships.  There are the financial storms of plant closings and layoffs.  Ultimately, there is the storm of death that comes to all of us sooner or later.  We may try to deny the existence of sin in our lives, but these storms, both private and public, say otherwise.

It is in the incarnation of Jesus Christ the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature that we see Gods loving plan to deal with sin.  In Jesus Christ, God assumed human nature to save humans from their nature their sinful nature.  For our own sin doomed us to perish not just from this earth, but also from the blessings of Gods presence with us.  But the blood of Jesus [Gods] Son cleanses us from all sin. (1 John 1:7) Christs human nature allowed Him to be the target of Gods wrath as He hung on the cross.  Christs Divine nature allowed Him to endure that wrath for all people in all times and places.  So it is that God took on human flesh and saved us from our sins.

We have complete confidence in that salvation that Jesus earned for us because death was unable to hold Him.  For Christ did not remain in the grave, but, after He conquered death, He rose from death never to die again.  After He rose, He showed Himself to His disciples.  He encouraged them to examine the marks of the cross in His body.  He talked with them and ate with them.  He interacted with them in very human ways.  At the same time, locked doors and windows were no barrier to Him as He appeared and disappeared at will.  In His resurrection, He demonstrated that He lives forever as both God and man in one person.

Jesus Christ is both fully God and fully man.  With that combination, we find our full salvation from sin, death, and the power of the devil.  In His humanity, He was able to suffer on the cross in our place and for our good.  In His deity, He was able to defeat our foes and rise from the dead to give us eternal life.  It is in the person of Jesus Christ who both slept and stilled the storm that we have our faith and the promise of eternal life.  Amen

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