Storms and Faith

Mark 4:35 – 5:1

Life is a choice between two unmanageable powers.  The storm that is unmanageable and doesn’t love you.  Or a God who is unmanageable, but knows each hair on your head and loves you.

Sermon Audio

Sermon Manuscript

Tonight we continue in our study of the Gospel of Mark.  If you’ve been reading along, you’ll notice that …

Mark is trying to tell us WHO Jesus is … is He really this Messiah that was promised to the Jews.

And so let’s just jump right in …

Mk 4:35–36 

35 As evening came, Jesus said to his disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” 36 So they took Jesus in the boat and started out, leaving the crowds behind (although other boats followed).

If you weren’t here (off doing something else you deemed more important), or you have a bad short term memory like me … Jesus had been out in a lake, sitting in a boat, and teaching in parables to the crowds that had gathered on the shore.

And so so that evening came, Jesus is ready to move on to teach to the people on the other side of the lake. This lake is the Sea of Galilee.  It’s a freshwater lake nestled into the hills of Northern Palestine (I know you know that already).

It’s important to know a little about this lake, because much of Jesus’ ministry occurs in this area, in part because much of the development in those days was around the lake, and the ease of travel from port to port.  It’s a small lake (8 mi x13 mi), about 1/10th the size of Lake Okeechobee.

The other important thing about this lake for our story this evening, is to know that the surface of this lake is nearly 700 feet below sea level, making it the lowest freshwater lake on earth.

The climate is semi-tropical, with moist-warm-air.  (us Floridians would fit right in).  But around the lake are hills and mountains, some of which rise nearly 10k feet into the air … which hold cool-dry-air.

And if you’ve taken 4th grade science, you’ll know what happens when warm-moist-air, meets cool-dry-air … violent storms, that arise without warning.

37 But soon a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat, and it began to fill with water.

This is a serious storm. This story has become very familiar to many of us, and so we’ve lost the image of what it’d be like to be in this boat/storm.  That’s why I showed that video from the perfect storm.  I want us to get our minds into just what these disciples were experiencing.

This is a horrific storm, and your boat doesn’t even have an engine, like the one in the movie, and it’s a small boat … the typical size of a fishing boat was around 25 ft in length, about the size of all the recreational boats here in SWFL.  (picture)

And remember, these are fisherman.  They’ve got sea legs.  They’re not wearing a little patch behind their ear to avoid motion sickness.  They’ve seen storms before.  They’re familiar with this lake.

But this one must have been exceptionally bad … because these men think they are going to die.


38 Jesus was sleeping at the back of the boat with his head on a cushion.

My family discussed this text over dinner on Monday, and we’re all like HOW is Jesus sleeping through this?  I mean I get it, our kids when they were young, the boat was like a rocking cradle.  5-minutes, and they were out.  Jesus is tired from teaching all day.  Remember he’s fully human and fully God.  Maybe the calm sway of the ocean just knocked him out.  One of my kids asked if I thought Jesus was snoring.  IDK.  (Lake Aurora guys?)

… The disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?”

So, try if you will to really envision this scene.  The men have probably been fighting the waves, and doing things necessary to survive.  They’ve been through this before.  They’re falling down.  Nearly being tossed out of the boat.  All of a sudden the boat begins filling with water.  It’s losing buoyancy.  Wave after wave is crashing over the bow. (front of the boat for you land lubbers)

Where is Jesus? John, go wake him up.  This isn’t how it’s supposed to end. Why isn’t he waking up?  He’s not going to be any sort of King, if we don’t even survive this storm? 

The text says the disciples (plural) woke him up.  Remember, this isn’t the black pearl or a cruise ship.  It’s a small boat.

Did they try throwing something at him?  Jesus! Don’t you care what is happening.   

39 When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Silence! Be still!” Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm.

Sleeping beauty has awakened.  He doesn’t speak to the disciples.  He simply scolds the wind, and says to the waves … Silence! Be still … Sit down!  Be quiet!

Notice, He doesn’t brace himself.  Roll up his sleeves.  Alright guys, stand back.  I’m about to go 12-rounds with this storm. 

He doesn’t wave a magic wand and and shout some incantation Expecto Patronum (millennial)

If you’re a Gen-X’er and didn’t get that … By the Power of Grayskull.

Baby Boomers … I got nothing.

He does the same thing he did when He casted out the demon back in Chapter 1 … he simple speaks.  Silence.  Be Still.  As if speaking to a child …

Even more astonishing, the wind and the waves obey him like a child (not any of my children, but those of you with children who listen and obey).

And we’re told, suddenly the wind stopped, and there was complete calm … which at first glance sounds like a redundancy. If you’ve ever been out on the water in a storm, or near the beach, you know that after the storm passes, it takes a long while for the waves to finally settle back down.  This storm has waves everywhere in this small, shallow lake …

But Mark says … the wind stopped, and the water immediately went flat calm.  Water as smooth as glass.  A SWFL boaters dream.  Why is this noted?

Because if just the wind stopped, the disciples could see well maybe that’s just a coincidence.

I was dropping off my youngest at school this week, and you have to check them in & out with this super slow computer (I think it’s like a Tandy or Commodore).  You input your passcode, hit OK a few times … and then the DONE button … and depending on the day, sometimes after you hit DONE, it can take a LONG time for the check out tag to print out.

A lady comes up behind me, getting impatient because she’s thinking I’m doing it wrong, and she’s like sometimes you have to hit the done button again … which is not the case, I’ve already tried that … several times before … but she’s being a little pushy and hits the button, and wouldn’t you know it … immediately the tag prints out.  Total coincidence, but now she’s walking away thinking she’s smart and really showed me something.  (it’s taking every ounce not to trip her as she was walking away … pray for me)

If Jesus had just rebuked the wind, maybe it could have been a coincidence.  Afterwards the disciples would have been like … Isn’t it funny that Jesus thinks his words actually stopped it?  That Jesus thinks he’s so smart. 

 But not only does the wind immediately stop, so do the waves.  And the water instantly gets so calm you can see your face in it … Just because Jesus speaks 3-simple-words.  Silence.  Be Still.

Remember back to our teaching on the Sabbath, when Jesus says to the Pharisees, I’m not just someone who can instruct you on how to rest, I am rest itself.

Mark has included this story because he’s remember he’s addressing the WHO question.  Who is this Jesus?

By calming the storm, Jesus isn’t demonstrating that he’s someone with power, but that he is power himself.  He’s saying …  Anyone or anything, in the universe that has any power receives its power on loan from me. 

This is a huge claim.  (huge doesn’t do it justice, unfortunately I have a small vocabulary).  This is someone with infinite incomparable power.  Power over the spirits.  Power over the elements.  Power over nature.  And ultimately power over death.

I was a biology major for most of my time in college, and over my 3-years as a biology major, I learned that sciences only argument to life is that this world is the result of a monumental storm.

Violent forces of nature.  Volcanos.  Cosmic explosions.  Survival of the fittest.  We’re here by accident.  Biology is a storm.  Physics is a storm.  Astronomy is a storm.  Human history is one big violent bloodbath storm.

And when we die, that’s the end our millisecond in the vastness of the cosmic storm.

I read an article recently …  how nature could end the earth …

  • Asteroid Impact. Gamma-ray burst.  Collapse of the vacuum.  Rogue Black Holes.  Giant solar flares.  Volcanic eruption causing massive climate shifts.
  • Reversal of the earth’s magnetic field.
    • Apparently Every few hundred thousand years the Earth’s magnetic field dwindles down almost to nothing for perhaps a century, then gradually reappears with the north and south poles flipped. The last such reversal was 780,000 years ago, so we may be overdue.

Someday the sun will go out.  There won’t be even a memory of your existence.  No one to remember how you’ve lived your life.  No Legacy.  In the end it won’t matter if you were Mother Theresa or Adolf Hitler because in the end, it all ends.  Our galaxy sucked up on a black hole.  Poof.  Never existed.

That’s a pretty bleak outlook on life …

BUT … if Jesus is who Mark claims he is, there’s another way to look at life.

If Jesus is the Lord of the storm, then no matter what shape the world is in …

… or if we want to carry that forward … no matter what shape your life is in tonight … there is safety, and meaning to life.

Those are our two options …

1 – If it’s all just one big storm, then nothing means anything.

There’s no point at all to life.  Just enjoy the few minutes you have.  Kill those you don’t like.  Take what you want. Do what you want.  There’s no point to kindness, love or sacrifice because one day we won’t even be a memory.

2 – Or … Jesus is who Mark is claiming he is …  then there is all the meaning, all the hope, and all the security we could ever want.

40 Then he asked them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?”  

41 The disciples were absolutely terrified. “Who is this man?” they asked each other. “Even the wind and waves obey him!”

Before Jesus calms the storm.  The disciples were afraid.  They assume they are going to die.

But after Jesus calms the storm, they’re more afraid.  Absolutely terrified.   Why?

Let’s back up … back when the boat was about to go down, the disciples wake Jesus and say “don’t you care that we’re about to drown” 

Have we not all felt like this at some point or another in our Christian walk?

Jesus, don’t you care.  I can’t keep my head above water.  I’m sinking.  The ship is going down.  Are you asleep Jesus?

And then Jesus says what?

My bad guys, I shouldn’t have dozed off there.   I totally understand your fear.    

No.  He says …

Why are you afraid?  Do you still have no faith?   

Why am I afraid?  Because I’m staring death in the face.  I never expected to find myself in this situation. 

Why I am afraid?  Because I thought you loved us … I thought you had power … and in our time of greatest need, you’re asleep.   

It’s rhetorical.  Jesus knows the answer to His question.  But he asks anyway as a reminder to his disciples …

I do allow the people I love to go through storms.  But I never sleep nor slumber.  I’m your shepherd.  There’s no reason to freaking out.   

But back to the question.  Why were they scared during the storm (that part we all get), but now they are absolutely terrified?

Because now they recognize that Jesus (the one they’ve been following/hanging with) is infinitely more powerful than that storm … AND … He is also infinitely more unmanageable than the storm.

They are terrified, because they have less control over Jesus, than they did over the storm.

See … We know how the story ends.  Jesus pouring out his love on the cross.  But they haven’t made it that far yet.

Maybe some of us haven’t made it that far yet … I just can’t get on board with this Jesus stuff.  It’s a cute story.  He seems like a good enough guy.  I like all his talk about love and helping the poor.  But I’ll take my chances.

Fine.  Then you’re at the mercy of the storm.

Well it’s not always storming.   I can handle the storms.

Really???  You can handle the storms?  No you can’t!

Nature is going to wear your butt out.

I say this frequently now, at 41, I feel like the pilot has already announced that my body has begun it’s initial decent.  Nature has taken a toll on my body.  Two back surgeries.  I’m doing that long arm reading thing I used to see “old people” do.  Our bodies are depreciating assets.  In this world, nature always wins.

My mother-in-law (who listens every week online, hello Pat and Jim) is fighting a battle with Parkinson’s.  Nature is ravishing her body and mind.

Nature is violent. It’s indifferent.  You can’t control it, and it doesn’t love you.

But you say … but Jesus isn’t under my control either.  He lets things happen that I don’t understand.  I watch the news and I see such horrible things.  I’ve experienced such terrible suffering in my life. 

It’s true.  We can’t control Jesus, no more than we can control a hurricane.  He doesn’t do things according to our plans. He allows things to happen that we don’t understand.

But unlike the storms, Jesus says … yes my power is unmanageable, but I love you.  I’m not indifferent. Let me show you … and he does so on the cross. 

So where you gonna go?  It’s a choice between two unmanageable powers.  The storm that is unmanageable and doesn’t love you.  Or a God who is unmanageable, but knows each hair on your head and loves you.

In FAITH, I’m gonna go with God.

FAITH is what allows us to make that decision between those two choices.

FAITH is what allows us to sing as we did earlier …

In the eye of the storm, you remain in control.  In the middle of the war, you guard my soul

You alone are the anchor, when my sails are torn.  Your love surrounds me, in the eye of the storm

Faith is the antidote to fear in our storms.

But don’t you sometimes wonder … If there is so much at stake, our eternal life with God, or eternal damnation, why faith?  Why doesn’t God just show himself to us?

When we’re doubting and unsure, how hard would it be for him to reach out and speak our language, maybe give us a little miracle (water to wine, vegetables to gummy bears).

I know I have the questions, so I assume many of you do to …

  • Why did God leave so much doubt?
  • Why is salvation dependent upon faith?
  • If God made us with the cognitive faculties to reason, why did he fail to provide us with objective and verifiable evidence of his existence?

Too often in the religious environment, people try to act like faith and reason are the same thing, but they’re not.

We can read books, arguments, that try to build a case for God based on intellect.  But the truth is, I’ve read a lot of those, and they’ve often times done more damage than good, because it’s often very weak or even inaccurate science and elementary arguments.

I’m a logic and data guy.  If you make a claim, I’m going to want you to show me.  Prove it.

But faith is this intangible thing.  It’s non-sense.

We have five senses: touch, taste, hearing, smelling and seeing.  Faith isn’t one of those five.  And so it’s a non-sense.  (I know you knew what I meant)

We can see color, shapes, art.  We can hear sounds, music, communicate.

But if we’re blind, it doesn’t mean the sights don’t exist.  If we can’t hear, it doesn’t mean those sounds don’t exist.

If we have no faith … it doesn’t mean that there isn’t something more out there, and that God doesn’t exist.

God is beyond our senses.  We need faith, because the reality of what it means to be alive, goes beyond our senses.  It goes beyond this natural world.

When our relationship with God was severed in the garden, our capacity to experience God with our senses was broken.  But FAITH restores that and brings us back to life.  It gives us a means to experience God.

And thankfully for us, it’s not the strength of our faith that saves us, it’s the object of our faith that saves.

If you’re falling off a cliff, and on the side of the cliff is a branch that is strong enough to hold you, but you don’t know how strong it is, are you going to look at that branch and say …

That branch looks a little puny.  I would have made that branch with at least an 8-inch circumference.  That’s not exactly where I would have placed that branch.  How do I know I can trust that branch?  What if that branch is a figment of my imagination? 

… and as you fall, you have just enough time to grab that branch … do you try to grab that branch, or do you fall to your death?

You grab the branch … because it’s your only hope.  Even the most logical person would grab that branch.

I pulled up the definition of faith on Google.

  1. Complete trust or confidence in someone or something.
  2. Strong belief in God or the doctrines of religion

WRONG!  At least wrong from a Christian point of view …

Heb 11:1,3

1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for, will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see …. By faith we understand that the entire universe was formed at God’s command, that what we now see did not come from anything that can be seen.

Mt 17:20 I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move.

A mustard seed is pretty small.

So if my faith is the size of the smallest of all seeds, I can say to a mountain to move from here to there, and it will move?

There’s no mountains here … here’s a stool, let me give this a shot.  Move.  Move.  (Sit still.  Be quiet.)

Apparently, my faith isn’t even as big as the smallest of seeds.  Show of hands, how many thought that stool would move?  At least I’m not alone.

Let’s go back to our story tonight … Jesus says to his disciples, his closest followers, those who have first hand seen heard him teach, cast our demons, heal lepers, paralytics and the blind …

Guys, why are you afraid.  Where is your faith …

But watch this …  let’s move forward to chapter 5 …

1 So they arrived at the other side of the lake …

Chapters and verses where added many years after these manuscripts where written, as a way for folks to easily find sections of scripture, and communicate to one another to where they were reading.  And even more recently, most translations have gone back and added headings to various sections of scripture … The section heading tonight was “Jesus Calms the Storm” … the section heading for Chapter 5:1 is “Jesus Heals a Demon Possessed Man” … and because of all these verse, chapter and headings markers, we can sometimes miss an important piece of the story …

The disciples almost drown; they go through the most serious storm of their lives.  They question and doubt Jesus.  They doubt his power.  They doubt his Kingship.  They doubt his goodness.  They probably even doubt his love for them.

Teacher, don’t you even care.  Their faith hits an all-time low.

… yet they arrive where they were heading.  They arrive on the other side of the lake.

Jesus doesn’t abandon them.  He doesn’t say … wow, I really picked the wrong guys.  I sure wish I’d picked some guys with a little more confidence, courage, faith …

He continues walking with these men. He continues to use them to further his Kingdom.  He gets them across the lake to safety.

So as we try to wrap up and tie this all together tonight…

How’s your faith?  Non-Existent?  Better than ever?  Smaller than a mustard seed like mine?  This stool will be here after the service if anyone wants to come try to move it with your faith.

We’re all at different places in our faith.

Some of us are places where we’ve seen God completely change our lives.  Carry us through storms.  Snd through those circumstances, God has grown our faith.

Some of us are falling off the cliff, and perhaps overthinking an opportunity to just reach out and grab that frail little branch, that might just save our lives.

Most of us in this room tonight are somewhere between.

We should be careful, not to judge others or ourselves by the depth of our faith.

1 – Because Paul says, even if I had such faith that I could move mountains (or chairs), but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.

2 – Ultimately, faith is a gift from God.

If we don’t want to believe, chances are we won’t.  But if we do want to believe and have faith, or grow our faith … all we have to do is ASK.

Later in Mark, Chapter 9, we see a story of a little boy who is possessed by an evil spirit, and and the Father brings this boy to Jesus and asks Jesus to heal the boy … IF HE CAN.

Jesus says … what do you mean, if I can?

The father immediately cries out …

I do believe, but help me overcome my unbelief!

This statement is quickly become one of my favorite verses in all of scripture.

I do believe, but help me in my unbelief.  I’m a mess God.  I have doubts.  I’ve been trying to grow faith myself, but I can’t.  Help my unbelief    

Help My Unbelief // Barnabas Piper (son of John)

God is infinite, beyond our understanding— He chose to reveal Himself in ways that spark more questions than answers.  Instead of making Himself smaller, God invites us into a larger faith. One that has room for questions, failures, and mystery.  Belief in an infinite God by finite humans is an act of exploration … a process of learning—and then embracing—what we can’t learn, but can trust.  Discover the God who not only desires our belief but actually welcomes our curiosity.

Let that be our prayer tonight …

Jesus, help us overcome our unbelief.

If you want to believe … and you’ve been trying to work it out by reasoning and logic, or coming to church hoping that a sermon will move you … if you’ve been trying to somehow muster up faith yourself … STOP

Stop looking inside and go to Jesus …  Jesus help meHelp me believe.  Give me faith. 

If you’re in the middle of a storm, and your ship feels like it’s going down … Or maybe you feel like the ship has already sunk, and wondering why you’re even bothering treading water on the surface …

Jesus, help me to not fear.  Help me to know you are there.  That you’re not asleep.  That you haven’t forgotten about me. 

That cry to Jesus for HELP … When you say I can’t do it… That’s the beginning of faith.

Written by Brian Culbertson

Sinner turned Saint because of Jesus.

One comment

Leave a Reply