House Church

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 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?” 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. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 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?”
— Mark 4:35-41, ESV

Here’s what happened; Wednesday I go to church, right? Just a normal day preparing for Wednesday evening. And the wind is going crazy as you guys know, and I got there and told Patty Gralka I’m surprised that we still have power; that's good; we’ll just have to keep in mind if the power goes out we’re going to have to let everyone know that church will be cancelled, and not three minutes later the power went out after I said that; we were scrambling to call everyone and everything. Many of y’all got a call I’m sure, got a text about Wednesday.

I come home because we called everybody and we still have power at our house until about 4 o’clock and then the power goes out here. We spent Wednesday afternoon through yesterday afternoon living on my parent’s couch and not having power. I don’t know how many of you guys…Did any of you guys lose power? You guys did? How long? (3 days) Oh about same as us. So you understand this, that was just another reminder that we are living east of eden. Isn’t it?

Some of you guys didn’t lose power; obviously you’ve probably lost power before you know what that’s like. But, even if you didn’t lose power the past couple of days; some of you, some of us, all of us I would dare say, were experiencing some storms, living east of Eden. Some of you guys are dealing with some sickness, maybe it’s the flu stuff that hasn’t gone away for anybody or maybe it’s something a lot more serious than that. Maybe there’s some relational pain from families from divorce or hurt that’s going on; some persecution because of the gospel, maybe at work or from your family. Especially because of the way that culture is redefining marriage. I know a lot of you guys have had conversations where people are looking at you now like you’re evil or something because of what you believe about marriage.  

I know some in this room, even in the last week have experienced death of family members or even close friends. These are all reminders to us that we are living east of eden. That things are not the way they are supposed to be.

In this broken world, we are familiar with the storm; with hurt and with pain. I had a sermon prepared for church today with Hebrews 11 because that is where we are, and I’m sure we’ll pick that up next week. This morning or last night when we called to cancel church for today, and we decided that we were going to do this, this is the first passage that came to mind because 4 days ago we all experienced scary winds. Historic power outages for DTE. Whether you lost power or not, you know someone who did. People, here in Michigan were experiencing that together, so it seemed appropriate.

As we read the account, you’ll notice that it reads like an eye-witness account. If anybody is reading Mark, or if has read through Mark recently or for your daily bible reading, the book of Mark is basically Peter telling mark his memories of being with Jesus. The gospel of Mark is basically the memoirs of Peter; you can see that as you read the gospel of Mark; especially in this story, there’s all these little details that give you the impression or preach to you that Peter remembers as he was there. It’s almost like you are looking through the lense of his memory.

He says, we went onto the boat and there were other boats. I remember, I remember looking out and seeing other boats. He doesn’t just say Jesus was asleep; he says Jesus was asleep on a cushion. That sticks out to him! He’s telling this to mark years later, like man this was going on, he was sleeping on that cushion. You can feel this eyewitness account. He even relays the harsh tone they had with Jesus. Jesus, do you not care that we are going to die here?!

It seems very likely, of course, that Peter didn’t make this story up, because if his was making this story up, you wouldn’t be telling a story where you’re rude to Jesus if you believe Jesus was the risen Messiah; if he was making this up, he wouldn’t be making himself look like a jerk to Jesus. There are these elements in it where you can hear Peter’s memory in the story that’s being told.

Jesus in Mark 4; he’s telling these parables and then we get to this section and Jesus says let’s get into the boat and let’s go to the other side. Because Jesus is wanting to move forward. This is another thing when reading Mark, every story has the word immediately. They do this immediately, immediately, immediately. Mark’s narrative is fast-paced. Jesus is on the move. The kingdom is going forward. We need to do this, we need to do this now, we need to this immediately. So he says, we’re going to the other side to preach the Kingdom. It’s a good reminder to us this morning that the Kingdom of God doesn’t exist in our church building. Does it? I mean the Kingdom of God is the people of God and we gather for worship. We don’t want to undermine or downplay that.

But we gather in order to be sent. This morning, church, we’re gathered around the Word, around the Table; we do this so that our lives are shaped, our loves are formed, so that we can go out and teach your children how to follow Jesus. You can go into your marketplace, whatever that is, and you can be a witness for Jesus there.

That’s what Jesus is doing; he’s going out. The gospel is shaping all of our lives. This is a reminder here that Jesus was on the move, the Kingdom is moving.

They go out to the sea, and a storm arose (verse 37). They are on a boat and a storm arose, the waves are breaking onto the boat.

I have never been over to the Middle East. Has anyone in this room ever been to Israel or anything? Okay so we’re on the same boat on that one. I haven’t ever been either.

But it’s interesting on the Sea of Galilee, this wouldn’t be uncommon so I read and hear; this storm would happen because of whatever the ecological system is where the Sea of Galilee is.

In his commentary on the book of Mark, N.T. Wright talks about how if you go to the Sea of Galilee even today, in 2017, if you are in the parking lot there are signs at the Sea of Galilee that say “Crazy storms come through here. Be warned. Your car could be damaged. Just a warning to you that the Sea and where it’s located, these storms are a very common thing.”

This would not have been an uncommon thing for there to be storms. But we know this wasn’t just a normal storm, this was a bad storm. This is how you know it’s a bad storm, when fishermen are afraid, that’s a bad storm. Because these dudes were living on the seas; they dealt with storms. I don’t know if any of you watch that Extreme Fishing or that, Deadliest Catch. I don’t really watch it, but I know there are times when they are out there and these crazy storms happen. But that’s the life. If you’re signing up to be a fisherman, you’re signing up to deal with storms out on the water. But this says even these lifelong fishermen are afraid of this crazy storm.  

So they come to Jesus, in verse 38, they say, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? Do you not care, Jesus? You are sleeping bro, we are about to die in this storm and you are sleeping.”

They start freaking out. “How can you let this happen to us, Jesus? Don’t you love us, Jesus?” You got to remember, they had seen Jesus heal people. They had seen Jesus take lepers, take people that were sick, that were dying, and heal them.

They had seen Jesus cast out demons. Even though they didn’t completely understand what was going on with Jesus, they understood he had some kind of magic happening. They knew there was some kind of power going on with Jesus. Jesus had called them to follow him, and they listened, they obeyed. They had been following Jesus, and yet they find themselves in the midst of this storm and their first reaction is, I don’t think you love me anymore. They immediately assuming Jesus doesn’t love them because things got difficult.

This would have been pressing to the believers who first read the gospel of Mark in Rome, because they themselves were experiencing persecution. They had chosen to follow Jesus, in the early Church, now they were beginning to experience hate. Their religion was becoming illegal. People were hating, people were calling them weird, some of them would eventually die, some were betraying Christ, families were breaking up.

So when people read about the disciples in the storm; this is not unfamiliar to them. They were finding themselves asking, “Does Jesus love us?” Jesus said that he died for our sins, and that he was bringing the kingdom, yet here we are in Rome 30 years later and everything is bad. Christians are dying, people hate us. This is not our best life now. They were asking those questions. Mark was encouraging the church. In fact, he is encouraging the church this morning.  When hard times come, when people hate you, when families are broken up because of the gospel, this is how you can know Jesus is still with you.

Sometimes we can find ourselves rebuking Jesus in the same way the disciples were. Now none of us would ever say that, because we are good Christian people. So we would never openly rebuke Jesus, especially in front of people, cause that would not be good, but we do it in our hearts sometimes.

Some of you would remember I guess, some of you would be too young, but most of you would remember when 9/11 happened. And don’t you remember people asking, “Where’s God?” with something like that.

Or during Hurricane Katrina - Where is God?

Again, we probably wouldn’t say that, but man when the power’s out for three days, you can find yourself, “C’mon Jesus. What’s going on, man? Don’t you love me? Give me some power.”

Or maybe something a little more serious, like when you lose someone you love. What’s going on, God? Why? Or when you experience persecution. Mike shared with me a couple of weeks ago people at work look at him like a freak because he believes in a biblical definition of marriage. That’s common. If you haven’t experienced that, it’s going to come. There’s no other alternative. The question is, how do we respond?

We can’t expect our lives to be without tribulation. The question is, do we call the intentions of God - do we call into question God’s intentions when that stuff happens?

I have a great quote from Elisabeth Elliot here, she says this, “God is God, and since He is God, He is worthy of my worship and service. I will find rest nowhere else but in His will. And that will is necessarily, infinitely, immeasurably, unspeakably beyond my largest notions of what He’s up to.”

God is God, and of course, we are not. And so sometimes, in the midst of whatever storm is going on - that has to be the answer. We need to exchange our fear for our faith.

And so in verse 38, Jesus wakes up and he rebukes the wind. I love the way the Jesus Storybook Bible said it, he just got up and said “hush” and the wind listened.

The ESV says Peace Be Still, and then this most outrageous claim - and the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

Jesus doesn’t wave a wand or twitch his nose, but with His Word he calms the storm.

Tim Keller says, “Jesus not only calms the sea by power, Jesus IS the power that calms the sea.”

And when early Jewish Christians and those disciples in the boat would have seen this and heard this, they would have thought upon reading this or upon actually standing there and seeing it; there would have been notions of there is only one person that can command the wind.

Listen to Psalm 107:23-32; ESV

What Mark is telling us here in this passage is that Jesus is the Lord of the storm. When the early Jewish Christians would have read this they would have made the equation, only YHWH, only the God who created the heavens and the earth, only the God who led the people out of Egypt of slavery through the exodus who made the covenant with Israel. Only this God can calm the wind. Jesus is YHWH. That’s the equation that’s being made. Jesus is sovereign. Jesus is sovereign over the storm here, he speaks hush and the wind listens. Jesus is sovereign when the state of Michigan loses its power. Jesus is sovereign when you have lost your grandma. Jesus is sovereign when the pain and the sickness and the migraines won’t go away. Jesus is sovereign when there’s persecution from family, friends, and co-workers. Or when someone  you love gets divorced. Jesus is sovereign over these storms and he speaks peace to the storms.

Ever since the Fall of Creation in Genesis 3, the creation has been broken and nature longs for Eden. I read from Romans 8 earlier, Romans 8 says the creation is groaning for the revealing of the Sons of God, for redemption. And you know what’s interesting? If you read Gen 1-2, YHWH speaks to Adam and he gives him dominion over the creation. It’s only after the fall that the creation rebels against its Vice-King. Right?

Doesn’t YHWH tell Adam the ground is going to fight back? So it’s interesting YHWH creates the world, and He places his image there, for the world to obey it. Then as man rebels against YHWH, the creation says we’re not listening to you, because you don’t follow our king. And all throughout the story, throughout the Old Testament the wind only listens to YHWH, right? We just read that in Psalm 107, because it listens to its King. It doesn't listen to us, because we are rebels. Even once we are saved, there is brokenness. We are still broken waiting for resurrection.

But something changed 2,000 years ago, there was a man who was born and when He spoke hush to the wind, for the first time in thousands of years the wind listened. The wind listened to a man for the first time since it had listened to Adam. The Bible tells us that Jesus is the second Adam. He is the true man whose come to be the human that we were meant to be. To be YHWH’s image, his representative on the Planet. That’s what Jesus is. He has dominion over the creation. He’s come to restore Eden, to restore peace. He is the true human, the King of the Cosmos.

So then, He calms the sea, and now He’s got to try to calm the disciples. He looks at them and says, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Its interesting you read the passage and it’s like during the storm, the disciples are scared. They are fisherman and they are scared enough to wake Jesus up, and be like, “You’ve got to do something, man. This is wild.” But when you read Mark, and you notice this kind of throughout the gospel of Mark, when people get terrified, it’s almost as if the disciples are more scared of Jesus than they are of the wind. Because they say, “Who is this? That even the wind and the sea obey him?” They are more terrified of Christ than they are of the storm. If Mother Nature, as they say, is going to get them, they can accept that. But, if there is one who can control Nature, and he loves them, and they’re accountable to him, then that’s even scarier to them than the unknown of nature.

That is why, people, the intelligent world, are more drawn to naturalism than they are to Christianity. Because if it’s chaos and Mother Nature and if matter and it’s just wild chaos, well we can accept that. We can do what we gotta do, and if there’s something crazy that happens then we just have to deal with that. But if there is a God who spoke creation into existence, and he has called us to follow him and if we’ve rebelled against him and he sent his son to die in our place and we have to accept that, follow him, and obey him. If that’s true, then that’s even scarier. Because we are accountable then. Then it means there is truth. Then it means there is beauty. Then it means there is sin. And so people, I think, are more drawn to naturalism because of that. Because they still don’t understand who Jesus is. Who is this that the wind and the sea obey him?

But that answer is coming soon, if you keep reading Mark. A couple chapters later Peter will confess, Jesus is the Christ, son of the living God. That answer is coming.

So we have to ask ourselves now, this morning, because the Word is confronting each of us here. Why are we so afraid? Are we afraid at times? I think we would all agree that, yeah we are. Why are we so afraid? Tim Keller talks about (very helpfully) that when it comes faith, when it comes to trusting Jesus in the midst of whatever storm we’re faced with,

What’s not important is the strength of our faith. The strength of our faith is not important. Sometimes we feel that way, like we’ve got to be strong. Or like we have to have this rooted, deep faith that’s solid as a rock. And it’s almost like we’re trusting in our faith over against Jesus. But what Keller says, “What’s not important is the strength of our faith but the object in which we’re placing our faith.” So he uses this analogy, think about this. You are this cliff or whatever, and you are looking over the cliff or mountain. You slip and you fall and you’re falling down the cliff. You reach out and you grab a branch and it stops you. You are hanging onto that branch and the only thing that’s keeping you from plummeting to your death is that branch that you are hanging onto.

Does it matter the level of trust you have in the branch? Does it make any difference at all whether you think branch is going to hold or not? It doesn’t, does it? What matters?The strength of the actual branch. That’s the only thing that will actually save you.

That’s a gospel reminder for us this morning. Sometimes, our faith is strong, and sometimes it’s not. Right? If we can be honest with each other this morning, we can say, man, there are times when we’re caught up in our sin. There are times when we may get caught up in depression and be downcast, or be anxious. And what the gospel preaches to us is whether your faith is in a peak or a valley Jesus is still strong. Jesus still speaks peace to the storm.

Whatever storm that you find yourself in this morning, the gospel call to us is to grab ahold of Jesus. Grab ahold of Jesus when you lose a family member. When there’s brokenness and hurt and pain in extended family, if there is illness, if there is persecution, if there is financial trouble grab ahold of Jesus. Because Jesus is strong.

Another thing that’s interesting, as we read through this story here in Mark 5, is that it’s a little reminiscent of another story isn’t it? There’s another story in the Old Testament where there’s some people who are out on a boat and a storm arises.

There’s a guy named Jonah, and he is on the run from YHWH. Right? And YHWH starts chasing after him, so Jonah is hiding out in this boat. What’s he doing? He’s sleeping. Right? Jonah is sleeping and the storm comes and everyone on the boat starts freaking out. Don’t they? They’re like, Why is this guy sleeping down here? We need to get him up. We have sacrificed to all of our gods. Maybe he’s got a God that we can sacrifice to. They are both on a boat, both boats are going overtaken by the storm. If you read in the septuagint, which is the Greek version of the Old Testament, the descriptions of the storm are basically identical. Both in Jonah and in the book of Mark 4.

Both Jonah and Jesus are asleep; both are awakened to, “We are going to die!” Right? That’s the wakeup call that they get. And in both stories the sea is divinely calm. In the story of Jonah, once Jonah is thrown overboard, the sea and the wind is calm. In the gospel of Mark, Jesus speaks peace and the sea and the winds are calm. If you read the book of Jonah, you’ll notice that the sailors seem to be more scared after the storm is calmed, than they are before! In the same way the disciples seem to be more scared after Jesus calms the storm than they were before.

But there is one difference between these two stories, isn’t there? And I think Mark and Peter as they tell this story, they are bringing some contrast to make you think of the Jonah story. In the Jonah story, Jonah says, “If I perish, you will survive. If I die, you will live” Well, on the boat, Jesus doesn’t do that, does he? He just says, Peace Be Still and the storm is calm. But we know that the gospel of Mark isn’t fully comprised in chapter 4. We know the incident of Jonah actually pointed us forward not just to Mark 4, but to the whole gospel of Mark. The whole story of Christ.

Because on the cross, Jesus in fact says, “If I perish, you survive. If I die, you live.” That is the gospel for us this morning church. On the cross, Jesus took the eternal storm of God’s wrath on our behalf, so that we can live. On that cross / as Jesus died / the wrath of God / was satisfied.

We believe that this morning that Jesus took that hell that we deserve for our sin, and our rebellion, he took it upon himself in his death.

And just like Jonah was resurrected from the belly of the fish 3 days later, Jesus walked out of the tomb 3 days later and brought the new creation with him.

So now, as we face these storms of being displaced from home, of losing our Grandma or our Uncle, of divorce, of illness and pain, persecution, whatever’s going on guys - marriage trouble, problems with kids, whatever it is, we know that we have the One who took God’s storm for us - He’s here with us.

In our benediction this morning, Kevin’s going to read, Matthew 28. And Jesus says, “I am with you always, until the end of the age.”

As we gather together church, don’t be so modernistic as to believe that Jesus isn’t here with us this morning. He is! He is gathered with his people, his spirit is among us, he is with us in the storm. So, let’s remember that also we go to the Eucharist this morning. As we take the bread and the wine.

We obviously still don’t have power at church, or else you guys wouldn’t be here. Right? So I was at church this morning and the power is still out, but I’m glad we have it at home, and I’m glad that you guys were able to come and gather with us this morning.

It can be easy when we are displaced from home, sometimes, to look at Jesus like, “Well don’t you love me?” In the same way that the disciples did. But let’s remember the bread and wine preach a different gospel to us. They preach in fact, the true gospel to us, that Jesus is here. He brings true and unending hope to the storms in our life. Jesus muzzles the evil, the evil that terrifies us. The evil of the wind, Jesus says Hush, and it’s quiet. Like a rabid dog; he uses the power of his word, Jesus hushes that rabid dog of evil by his word.

When Jesus walked out of the tomb on Easter morning, Jesus had the residue of serpent skull on the bottom of his sandal.

His words to the church, are the same words to us this morning: do not be afraid.