Mark 4:35-41 (ESV)— 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
The Tabernacle & Jesus-- Last week we began our discussion of the Tabernacle (the tent that was the dwelling place of God) as God moved with His people on their journey through the wilderness. In this tent God met His people in an amazing way; and in this tent were several pictures to help us understand the nature of the Holy One and how we are to come into His presence. And we will be discussing each of these in the weeks to come. But before we do, I want to connect for you the abiding presence of God in the Tabernacle with the abiding presence of God in the person of Jesus Christ. Because when we move from the Old Testament into the New Testament the apostle John makes a remarkable statement in the opening of his Gospel. In talking about Jesus, he says…
John 1:14a (ESV)-- 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,
Dwelt— That word dwelt (in the original Greek) comes from the word σκηνόω, which means “I dwell as in a tent, encamp, have my tabernacle.” So what John is saying is that the very presence of God tabernacled with us in the flesh of Jesus Christ. In Jesus, the abiding presence of God has been revealed.
Who then is this...?-- This is what makes this passage so important as the disciples begin to try to understand the identity of this rabbi from Nazareth that they have begun to follow. They ask in verse 41: Who then is this…? (PAUSE) And that is the question every person (including you and I) must come to answer. Who is Jesus? And of course in and through numerous signs like the one in our passage this morning Jesus demonstrates to us that He is nothing less than the Lord of Heaven and earth; the Creator of the universe; the very Holy God who performed wonders in and delivered His people from Egypt, who walked with them in a pillar of cloud and fire to guide them, who parted the Red Sea; who fed them with manna in the wilderness; who quenched their thirst with water He miraculously produced from a rock. This very God (John is saying) he met in the flesh in the person of Jesus Christ. And in the sign Jesus performs in our passage today, He is giving us a remarkable demonstration not only of who He is, but how our own lives can be forever different when we place our faith and trust in Him. Go ahead and look with me at verse 1…
Mark 4:35-36 (ESV)— 35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.
Jesus Exhausted-- And Jesus is exhausted. Many preachers will tell you that after they preach, they are completely drained emotionally and physically. I often feel bad for the people who try to talk with me on any given Sunday because honestly I feel like the Walking Dead; a show I haven’t seen, but I know it’s about zombies. And maybe that’s all zombies really are; really tired preachers. I’m not sure. But Jesus has not just been preaching and teaching; He has been healing the sick and driving out demons. And he’s tired. And he’s so tired, he doesn’t even come close to waking up when the storm hits. I don’t think he’s sleeping through it to test His disciples’ faith. I honestly think He’s just really tired. I don’t know if there is any other story in the Gospel that gives us a better picture of the humanity of Jesus. Before the disciples see the most phenomenal display of His deity, they are first given a very moving picture of His humanity. Jesus (the God of the Universe) allowed Himself to become so much like us that He even allowed Himself to get tired. And so He is sleeping when, out of nowhere a storm hits. Now the disciples were not irresponsible or anything like that, sailing in bad conditions against sound judgment. The storm really did come out of nowhere.
A Storm Comes-- You see, the Sea of Galilee is actually situated in a basin surrounded by mountains. And it actually sits more than 690 ft. below sea level. You have Mount Hermon in the North, which rises 9,200 ft, and so you have obviously cool air, combined with the cool air from the Mediterranean that is drawn through the mountain passes and from May to October strong winds will sweep through the gorges and hit the hot, humid air lying on the Sea of Galilee and produce sudden, violent storms. And they are unpredictable. And this is exactly what happens. It says in…
Mark 4:37 (ESV)-- 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.
An Unusual Storm-- Now the disciples were used to dealing with windstorms. But this storm was something much more powerful. The word translated windstorm can also mean “whirlwind.” It was a storm that had the properties of a hurricane. This was a storm that (to these experienced fishermen) was so above and beyond anything they had experienced before, they thought they were going to drown. J. Vernon McGee, in his commentary, suggests that this was not a natural storm at all, but was a demonic attempt of Satan to destroy Jesus. Satan had left him in the wilderness until an opportune time, and here again raises his ugly head. And McGee may be right.
Mark 4:38-39a (ESV)-- 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!”
No Coffee-- Now be honest, how many of you are at your best in the morning? I was remarking to my wife Tanya the other day about how it seems like there are so many jokes about how people are useless before they have their coffee, to the point now where I don’t even find these jokes funny anymore. But then I think, you know it’s interesting how useless I am right after I wake up. But what I love about Jesus is when He wakes up from (not just a nap but) a very deep sleep; honestly, he’s not even at His best. He is probably (like anybody would be) a bit groggy. He probably looks a little disheveled; His hair may be a bit of a mess. Mark says he was sleeping on a cushion. He’s being tossed around on a boat. Let’s just face it; Jesus is not at His best. He’s at His weakest. And that’s usually when satanic attacks come. And yet Jesus doesn’t need a moment to gather Himself or get His coffee or anything like that. In fact, while we often have this image of Jesus standing up and (like a powerful wizard from a movie) lifting his hands and calling out “Peace, Be still” did you know that there is actually no indication in the text that Jesus ever even got up? Now it may say he rose in some of our translations, but I looked up the Greek words in all of the three Gospels that bear witness to this story and what I found is that (from what I understand) those words can mean that he just woke up; that He simply re-gained consciousness. And when you consider that the common windstorm on the Sea of Galilee could produce waves as high as 20 feet and that this was a much worse storm, I’m telling you, nobody is standing up in this boat. The protocol for a windstorm during that time was to take down the sail so that it would not be damaged and so you could more easily control the boat without having to fight the wind beating against your sail and to then move the boat in whatever direction you wanted it to go by oaring. And everybody on board would be doing this; everyone except for Jesus.
Barely Conscious-- So there is nothing in the text to suggest any dramatic bodily movement by Jesus. In fact, I think it was just the opposite. What picture do we have of Jesus here? I may be wrong, but I think it’s akin to what often happens in my house on a Saturday morning. The kids rush in bright and early and you kind of turn over and say, “Be quiet; I’m trying to sleep.” Jesus barely gains consciousness before He utters a rebuke to the storm that (to the disciples) seems absolutely insurmountable. And what we come to find out is that even at His weakest, most coffee-less moment, Jesus has as much authority over the wind and the waves as a parent over a child.
Muzzle-- Do you want to know the nature of the word behind Jesus’ rebuke? The phrase Be Still in the Greek is actually be muzzled. Jesus shut the mouth of the storm and muzzled it like a dog. And this actually I think supports J. Vernon McGee’s theory because if the storm was demonic in nature, he shuts this demon’s mouth just as he shuts the mouths of the other demons who are seeking to thwart His ministry. He also tells them to be quiet; to hush. And they (without fail) obey immediately. And this storm does the same. It says…
Mark 4:39b (ESV)-- And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Great, Great, Great-- Now storms usually subside gradually. Not the case here. Here Jesus speak a word and the storm ceases instantly. I asked my son last night as I read this story to him why the wind and the waves obeyed Jesus and he said that it was because Jesus was the Great, Great Great…. And that’s exactly right. He is the Great Great Great. He is God. And because He’s God, whatever storm you might be facing, I guarantee you that problem is not too big for God either. And while we never have to wake Jesus up, we do have to recognize His presence with us and invite Him into those situations we are facing. And when we do, He will move. So let us therefore be a people who recognize His presence and give every storm over to Him so that we might experience that same peace; that same stillness in our lives as well. Amen.
Rev. Cameron Ury graduated from Asbury University in 2007 with a B.A. in Bible and Theology. From there he continued his studies at Wesley Biblical Seminary in Jackson, MS. It was there that he met his wife Tanya, who graduated from WBS with her M.A. and M.Div. degrees. Cameron and Tanya got married in 2009. Cameron then graduated with his M.Div. degree with a pastoral concentration in 2011.
After shepherding churches in both Mississippi and Ohio, they joined the ministry team at Renton Park Chapel in January of 2018, where Cameron serves as Senior Pastor and Teacher.
Cameron is also the founder and host of Lechem Panim, a weekly radio show that airs on KGNW 820AM "The Word Seattle". The ministry of Lechem Panim is centered around leading people into the life-giving presence of God in and through Bible study, prayer, and active discipleship with the aim of ministering to a world that is in desperate need of the healing touch of Jesus Christ.