by Roger McCay
29 December 2019
Sermon Passage: Mark 4:35-41
Link to Sermon Audio
Hurricane Ivan, which hit Monroeville in 2004, left quite an impression upon the people of this town. I’ve heard many stories about folks hunkering down during the storm, listening as trees broke and tumbled down before the gale-force winds and driving rain; stories of the incredible, widespread damage; and the long clean-up, recovery, and rebuild. Many of you here have shared with me your story from that difficult time. And, seeing how, even now, the stories persist, it is evident that this storm effected this town in a very traumatic way.
In the face of the terrible wrath of nature, we feel helpless; everything is thrown into uncertainty; death comes near; and we quake. So it was for the disciples, caught in that terrible storm, at night, on the sea of Galilee—helpless; uncertain; facing death; full of fear. In life, we encounter all sorts of storms—more often storms that have nothing to do with the weather. During these times, we can experience the same emotions as one caught in a terrible gale.
I think we can all agree that this past week has been a horrific storm. Jamaya, that little covenant child, whom we rejoiced in when she was born; loved during her short life; rejoiced in even more at her baptism just a few weeks ago; and whom we smiled at with love, during her contributions to the Christmas Eve service. Jamaya’s being shot on Christmas Eve, after the service, followed by her fight for survival over Christmas Day, and her passing on Thursday; all this has been a horrible ordeal for everyone, most especially her family. Even now, looking towards her funeral, the storm is still blowing, and we grieve.
There are so many storms in this life. Many here have been through very difficult ones over just the past few months, and you think of them now. In these storms of life, it is easy to sometimes wonder if God is just asleep, and/or he just doesn’t care. The Psalmist cried out just this in Psalm 44:23-26:
23 Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! 24 Why do you hide your face? Why do you forget our affliction and oppression? 25 For our soul is bowed down to the dust; our belly clings to the ground. 26 Rise up; come to our help! Redeem us for the sake of your steadfast love!
And so, with the Psalmist, we sometimes wonder, “How can a loving God allow us to suffer so?”
This is an entirely understandable impulse. Job wondered the same thing. But, God’s answer to Job, and Jesus’ rebuke of the disciples in our passage today shows us that we have to be careful when we question God during our storms. It is absolutely okay to question. The laments throughout the Scriptures are full of such questions. And, God patiently answers these questions in his Word. But we err when we are accusing in our questions, rebuking God. And we err when our question arises from unbelief. In contrast to accusations, rebukes, and unbelief, while enduring the storm, it is faith in God that helps us find the right posture to take before the Lord of the Storm.
So, let’s look closer at this account here in Mark 4—vv. 35-36.
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.
So, here is the scene. Jesus, after preaching for most of the day, from a boat, in the Sea of Galilee, to the crowds on the shore by Capernaum, ordered his disciples to transport him to the other side of the sea. The disciples obediently set out, starting in the evening, going into the night, with numerous other boats following. Exhausted, Jesus made his way to the back of the boat, and went into a sound, peaceful sleep.
Then came the storm—vv. 37-38.
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?”
The storm hit them hard, with gale-force winds and huge waves. The boat was quickly filling up with water, and, to the experienced fishermen, it looked like they were going to sink—dire danger. Their fear unnerved them. They were helpless; powerless; facing imminent death. Yet, in the midst of it all, there was Jesus, sleeping peacefully. To the disciples, it seemed like Jesus was unconcerned with their plight, that he didn’t care.