What would it be like if you had an amazing, out of the box, kind of faith?
The kind of faith that no matter what happened you trusted God.
The kind of faith that when things are really, really, really bad . . . you go, “Well, there’s nothing I can do about that but I trust that God will see me through it”.
The kind of faith that when you faced a huge temptation and you’re like, “I don’t know how in the world I’m going to avoid this because everything inside of me wants to go that way but I have absolute faith that God is bigger than this and I’m trusting that he’ll get me past it.”
What would that kind of faith even look like?
No fear about your kids, no fear about your relationships, no fear about school, no fear about your finances. It’s not that everything goes your way, but you just had this unbelievable faith that God was with you, around you, working through you, seeing you through.
Can you imagine what life would be like if you had that kind of faith?
Today, we are beginning a new sermon series entitle, “Rooted; Grow deep. Live tall”; Throughout this series, we’re going to be talking about rooting yourself in God’s grace so that when the storms of life try to knock you down, you’ll be able to stand tall.
And in light of the past few weeks, I couldn’t think of a more appropriate passage to kick us off.
READ Mark 4:35-41
There was no one that could draw a crowd like Jesus. A typical rabbi would have a synagogue in a small town that would attract somewhere around 20-30 people.
But Jesus, he didn’t have a synagogue but instead he would walk from town to town on roads that weren’t paved in sandals that weren’t closed – sometimes it would take a couple of days just to get to the next town.
And everywhere he went, thousands of people followed him. Some are hurt, some are tired, and some have few have demons that need to be cast out. They want to ask him questions. They want him to pray for them. They want him to plant a church, teach a bible study, or meet their “urgent” needs in some way.
And this has been going on for a lengthy season . . . so as you can imagine . . . Jesus is exhausted.
There’s only a limit to how far you can press yourself. Even though he deeply loves people and desperately wants to be with them, there’s a limit to how many people you can serve before you are completely spent.
So he tells the disciples to pull up the boat that had served earlier as a pulpit and to take him to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, perhaps knowing that the crowds would meet him there eventually . . . but by going this route to the other side, he might actually get a day off because the sea of Galilee is 12 miles across and they’re in a row boat so it’s gonna take a while.
Now this isn’t a big boat . . . it’s a fishing boat . . . really only intended for a couple of guys and their nets. So thirteen men on a boat of that size would have been a really heavy load and they would have been really cramped.
Now, on these boats was a small place in the stern that if someone wanted to, they could tuck themselves in there to get some sleep. Jesus is so exhausted that this little spot looked like a hotel so he goes underneath to get some sleep. And the disciples begin rowing the 12 miles across the lake; perhaps taking turns, six at a time.
Now, you have to understand that the disciples are exhausted as well. They too have been preaching and teaching, and feeding, and tending to, looking after thousands, taking care of the elderly, tending to the children. People are dehydrated, they’re hot, they’re hungry, some are grumpy, some perhaps fell and rolled their ankle, got injured. There are conflicts to mediate. The disciples are exhausted too.
But they know that if anyone needs rest, it is Jesus because he’s the master, he’s the teacher, he’s the one that everyone is looking to for leadership and so they row.
Now, the weather on the Sea of Galilee can be quite quirky. Here’s why . . .
- The sea itself lies 680 feet below sea level where the air is semi-tropical ... warm and moist.
- But surrounding the sea are hills that reach some 2000 feet high ... here you can have cool, dry air.
- When these two contrasting air masses collide near the surface of the water ... the result can be a terrible storm ... a storm that suddenly appears out of nowhere. Kind of like some of those sever Florida thunderstorms but even more severe.
The Hebrews felt so helpless in the unpredictable waters that for them, the sea represented evil and chaos. In fact, the Hebrew word “Sea” derives from the name of the evil god in the Babylonian creation story. It carried connotations of evil, a mysterious and threatening force opposed to God.
And when they wanted to stress God's authority, they spoke of God's power over the sea; which is why in Genesis the Spirit of God hovers over the waters, as God the creator . . . brings order out of chaos.
So Jesus is sleeping and the disciples are exhausted, taking turns rowing into the complete darkness of the Sea when without warning, this storm smashes into the little craft with an angry fury. One moment they are peacefully rowing to the other side of the sea ... and the next they find themselves in a life and death battle with a horrible storm as waves are crashing over the side of the ship.
As you can imagine, these guys were freaked out and in fear of their lives, the disciples rush to the back of the boat - and find Jesus sleeping!
How could Jesus be asleep? Doesn’t he care if they drown?
But Jesus isn't asleep because he doesn't care. He is asleep because he trusts in God's caring.
Just a few short hours ago as they set sail with fair winds and calm seas, the disciples were not anxious about whether Jesus cared. But . . . like us - and UNlike Jesus – they often times identify caring with circumstance.
- If circumstances are good then God is good and cares for us.
- But when circumstances change for the worse?
But Jesus responds to their fear and orders the wind and sea to be quiet, to be still. The literal translation of this phrase means “shut your mouth”. He is telling the storm to “stop shouting”, “shut your mouth”
And the wind and the waves . . . they obey.
But it isn't the storm itself that is the main problem. It is what the storm is saying to the disciples -- the message it is giving them -- and what they understand through it.
Remember, the sea represents evil and chaos. And so as they’re in the middle of the sea in complete darkness with waves are crashing over the side of the boat . . . and they are totally freaked out and paralyzed by fear . . . they want to know, “why is this happening to us?” “We are doing good things . . . for God . . . and we’re good people, so why are bad things happening to us?”
Jesus quiets the voice of the storm – this paralyzing voice of fear - so that the disciples can hear his voice, and he asks; “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?"
- How come, after all you have witnessed, your faith has not grown?
- How come you have seen me perform these miracles of healing and you still are unable to see me for who I really am?
- Here we are in this storm and you’re worried about your safety even though I am here with you.
You are not alone; you have been and will forever be held in the loving hand of God -a God who sometimes calms the storms and a God who sometimes gives us strength to grow through the storms.
The disciples were terrified at what they had just experienced but rather than asking, what I think is the obvious question . . . . “How did he do that?” . . . they asked themselves “Who is this that even the winds and the waves obey him?"
We thought he was a holy man, a rabbi, perhaps even a prophet. Like many today, he’s a good man, a moral teacher, and a wonderful example of how to live a good life but this far exceeds anything we had previously ascertained about this man, Jesus . . . who is he?
You see, this story isn’t about what Jesus did. It is intended to make us ask, "Who is this Jesus?" Who is this Jesus that even the winds and the waves obey?
- Only God has the authority over the sea.
- Only God has the authority to overcome the evil that opposes Him.
- Only God has the authority to bring order out of chaos.
To the wind and the waves, Jesus says “Quiet, Be still, and shut your mouth” . . . and they obey.
Who is this Jesus? This is a great question.
It was the word of God that caused all that is to come into existence out of nothing, what theologians would call “ex nihilo”. It says it this way in Hebrews 11, “out of nothing, everything was made”.
- God didn’t start with matter, God started with himself existing eternally, and he created time, space, and matter.
- And the rhythm of creation is this, God spoke and it was so. God spoke and it was so. God spoke . . .
- He spoke the world, and the wind, and the waves into existence.
- And scripture tells us that that very word of God became flesh and made his dwelling among us.
- And so when he entered into his creation and he stands up and speaks . . . creation obeys him because he is the author of creation. This is a familiar voice.
The same one who spoke this world into existence just gave it a command to obey him . . . and it does!
And for the first time, the disciples recognize, “This is God. This is God among us” and he’s in our boat, he’s in the midst of our chaos, and he has authority over this paralyzing fear.
Sometimes it seems like we are in the midst of a great storm . . .
- storms of fear
- storms of uncertainty
- storms of change
- storms of doubt.
Sometimes our lives can feel so chaotic, like everything is crashing down on top of us and we’re not sure how we are gonna get through this one.
Sometimes the crashing of the waves and the pounding of the rain is so loud that we forget that Jesus is in the boat and we think we have to do it all on our own.
Sometimes the voice of the storm seems to shout "Jesus is asleep! God doesn't care! You must be a real loser! What did you do to deserve this?"
But listen closely . . .
In Jesus, You are not alone; you have been and will forever be held in the loving hand of God -a God who sometimes calms the storms and a God who sometimes gives us strength to grow through the storms.
Jesus says to the storm – to the voice of fear, inadequacy, guilt or abandonment
"Quiet -be still – shut your mouth"
And he invites us to hear the voice of God reminding us what has been true all along – I AM God
God -who is able to accomplish in us far more than we can ever hope for or imagine, who has sent his son to be the authority over the wind and the waves, and the authority over the evil that separates us from God, and to bring order out of chaos as he ushers in the kingdom of God.
And so let us pause in the midst of our lives that can sometimes be chaotic and listen for the voice of God