April 17, 2016
There have been lots of sleep studies done through the years – to include, how much sleep a person actually needs. Did you know, for example, there is a National Sleep Foundation? I’d never heard of it, but they provide the following chart to answer the question, how much sleep do we really need? Generally speaking, it starts high and diminishes through life. So, you can see, newborns, 0-3 months, need 14-17 hours of sleep a day. Which I suppose is where the saying, “sleep like a baby” comes from. Of course, if you sleep like a baby, that also means you wake up every couple of hours to eat and change.
But again, back to the chart. You see teens, when your parents make you go to bed, they’re not just being mean. They know you need about nine hours of sleep per night. And college students, you still need an average of eight hours a night, so those late nights probably aren’t really helping. And then, as we grow older, the time goes down ever so slightly – when you get to be a senior, over age 65, you only need 7 or 8 hours a night.
God created us to need sleep. It’s crazy if you think about it. If you average 8 hours a night, and live to be 75, you will have slept 25 years of your life. But, if all of that is true – and it’s on the internet so it has to be true – how well do you sleep? What is it that keeps you awake at night? What is it, right now, that wakes you up with fits of stress or anxiety? What challenge are you facing, in what storm do you find yourself that disrupts your sleep? That brings worry?
Hold onto those questions, we’ll come back to them. Turn in your Bibles to Mark 4. As you’re turning, it’s critically important we remember Mark’s purpose and flow of the letter to this point. Mark has been proving that Jesus is indeed the Christ, the very Son of God. Actually, Jesus is the One proving it through His words and His works. We remember, no one ever taught like this man – He taught with authority. And in fact, authority has also been a thread running through this gospel. Jesus taught with authority, He demonstrated authority over demonic forces – they bow in His presence. He claimed authority over the Sabbath – He’s the Lord of the Sabbath. He even claimed the authority to forgive sins.
And then there’s His works – both miraculous and undeniable. He delivered people from demonic possession and physical sickness, and by forgiving, He delivered people from their sin. But even with those words of authority and works of miraculous power, not everyone accepted Him. In fact, with His rising popularity, there has also been rising opposition – and that, from the religious establishment. Again, since His works were undeniable, they accused Jesus of being in league with Satan. They heard the same things everyone else heard, they saw the same things that everyone else saw, but denied them.
And so Jesus began teaching in parables. To those who refused to believed, though seeing they would not see, and though hearing they would not hear. And they didn’t get the parables – the truth of the parables was concealed from them. But to those who do believe, Jesus explained the parables – the truths and mysteries of the kingdom, to strengthen and deepen faith. So, some of the mysteries or truths of the kingdom we learned were these. First, our responsibility is to sow the seed – to broadcast the word of God everywhere we go, to all kinds of people. After all, the lamp, that is Jesus, hasn’t come to remain hidden under a bowl or under a bed. We’re supposed to share the truth. And as we share the good news, some will believe, and some won’t. Those who do believe will receive even more. Those who refuse to believe, even what they have will be taken from them.
Not only that, we see that despite the fact that many won’t believe; despite the rising opposition, the truth will stand and the kingdom will expand. God’s kingdom will grow miraculously and magnificently, even if we don’t know how. It’s our job to share the news, it’s His job to save people from their sin. And in the end, despite the rising opposition and increasing hostility toward the faith, the kingdom will be immense and magnificent. People from every tribe, tongue, kindred and nation will come rest under its branches.
So this is the content of Mark’s gospel so far. Here’s the question – can you rest in that knowledge? Can you sleep? Despite the rising opposition in our own country; despite the ridicule and shame and hostility and persecution; despite the foolishness of the message believed; can you rest in the midst of the storm, knowing that God is with you in it? Which brings us to our text – Mark 4:35-41 – read that with me.
What is it – what anxiety, what stress, keeps you up at night? I believe there are two things we need to learn from this text. Number one, Christ is increasing the evidence, raising the bar, and Mark recorded it for us. Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. We saw Him do some rather spectacular miracles in the first three chapters. He drove out demons, He healed people of every imaginable disease – Peter’s mother-in-law, the leper, the paralytic, man with the withered hand. Then He took some time to teach in chapter 4 – one of only two sections of teaching Mark’s gospel. He gave us the parables of the kingdom.
Now Mark says, on that day – we assume it’s the same day as when He taught the crowds from the boat. Remember, He had told the disciples in chapter 3 to make a boat ready. In chapter 4, because of the press of the crowds, He got into the boat in the sea, sat down and began to teach them. Now, after the teaching, at the end of the day, when it was evening, He’s still in the boat, and He tells His disciples, let’s go to the other side – that is, the other side of the Sea of Galilee. We’ll look at that more closely in a moment.
Jesus is done teaching for now, and so Mark returns to the miracles. But Jesus ups the ante. The next four miracles, found in chapters 4 and 5 are spectacular – greater than anything He’s done yet. And in the midst of those miracles, He’s demonstrating His authority. Look at those next four miracles:
- He calms a storm, demonstrating His authority over nature (4:35-41).
- He drives out a legion of demons, demonstrating further authority over the forces of evil, no matter how numerous they are (5:1-20) – and though this world with devils filled, should threaten to undo us; we will not fear for God has willed His truth to triumph through us.
- He heals a woman with a hemorrhage for twelve years – by her merely touching His clothes. The authority isn’t quite as clear in this one – but we read she’d spent all her money on doctors, and they weren’t able to help her. But Jesus could (5:25-34).
- Finally, He raises Jairus’ daughter from the dead – demonstrating His authority over death (5:21-24, 35-43).
So get all that – Jesus has demonstrated His authority over demons, sickness, sin, the law, nature and death. That’s the first thing we learn – our Jesus is great – He is in fact God. So, what is it that is bothering you that our Lord can’t handle? If you’re sick, He can heal you. If you’re demon-oppressed, He can deliver you. If you’re sinful, He can forgive you. If you’re in a storm, He can calm you. And even if you die, He’ll raise you again.
Here’s what we’re going to do this morning. I’m going to teach this text, then we’re going to end with a prayer time. I will ask our prayer team to come and we’ll spend some time praying with and for you – praying to the God of the universe to care for you – so you can rest in Him.
You see, that’s the second thing we learn from this text. Yes, there will be rising opposition to our faith. Yes, there will be those who oppose, ridicule, shame, berate, persecute and hate you. Yes, we live in a broken world, and the challenges will be great. We will face significant storms in this life. But here’s what you need to know – we serve a Christ who promised to never leave us nor forsake us. He is with us in the midst of life’s challenges. We need to allow our faith, our trust to increase, and trust that He’s here, that He’s in control, and we can rest in Him. We can even sleep in the midst of the storm.
Which brings us to our text today. Jesus has just finished a long day of ministry. He’s still in the boat, and says to the disciples, let’s go over to the other side. That is, to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – the eastern shore. We read they take Him just as He is – that is, they apparently don’t go back to shore – they just take off. And we see there are those who decide to follow. Mark speaks of a flotilla of boats full of disciples who decide to follow Jesus. By the way, in 1986, a well-preserved hull of a fishing boat was uncovered in the mud around the Sea of Galilee which dated to the first century. It’s estimated the boat would have been about 27 feet long, 7.5 feet wide, with 4.5 foot sides. There would have been four oars, two on each side. There would have been a covering over the bow and the stern. Interestingly, they would have held up to 15 men, so likely Jesus and the Twelve were in this one boat in this flotilla of boats.
Can’t you see them now? They’re all out in the boats, following Jesus, feeling pretty good about themselves. In fact, if you listen carefully, they’ve all started to sing together, “I have decided, to follow Jesus, no turning back, no turning back. Though none go with me, still I will follow, the shore behind me, the waves before me, no turning back, no turning back.” And they watch the people on the shore getting smaller and smaller, and they’re feeling better and better – we’re with Jesus. We’re the committed ones. We’re the true disciples.
And behold, there arose a fierce gale of wind. You still want to follow? You see, I’m going to break the text down into two parts:
- First is the Promise of Storms – storms will come.
- But second, there is the Promise in Storms
The promise of storms, the promise in storms. Let’s start with that first one. Now, you should know, storms happen all the time on the Sea of Galilee – meaning, a storm should not come as a surprise. I did some reading about it. The Sea of Galilee is 700 feet below sea level. The mountains that rise around some parts of the sea rise as high as 9,000 feet above sea level. They say that the winds sweep down the valleys onto the surface of the Sea of Galilee, and quick, violent, sudden storms aren’t that unusual. But I think this one was special for a couple reasons:
First, this storm appears to be of unusual proportions. Remember, some of these disciples were experienced fishermen – Peter, Andrew, James and John. They had fished their whole lives on this sea. They had seen storms before, they had lived through them before. But I believe this was a different. Mark calls it a fierce gale of wind – the word could speak of a hurricane. Matthew’s account uses the Greek seismos, which was used of an earthquake. It’s the word from which we get our word “seismology,” the study of earthquakes. This was a great storm – so great, that the waves swamped the boat – breaking over the boat – and threatened to sink them. The point is this – this was a great storm – and there was a point to it. Jesus was in the process of doing something with these disciples. Would they still follow? Would they trust?
A second reason this was unusual and perhaps came as a surprise is the same reason so many of us are caught by surprise at storms in our lives today. We somehow think that if we’re with Jesus, it’s going to be smooth sailing. Come on, I have decided to follow Jesus – what’s the deal with the storm? Where are you God? Haven’t I committed my life to you? What’s going on?
Get a picture of this in your mind. A flotilla of boats. They’re all following Jesus, the miracle worker. They’re starting to wonder, could this be the Messiah? They’re feeling pretty good – several of them have been healed, the rest saw it with their own eyes. They’ve left the shore. Life is good. Life is grand. What’ll happen tomorrow? Whatever it is, it’ll be great. And a fierce storm arose. There aren’t supposed to be storms when you follow Jesus, are there?
Go with me on this. They began doing the things that experienced seaman do – they began battening down the hatches, tying down the sails, lashing down the cargo. They maybe started rowing – gotta ride this baby out. Which is exactly what we do. The weather starts getting rough, the tiny ship is tossed – if not for the courage of the fearless crew, our minnow would be lost. So, we take matters into our own hands. We can take care of it – we start rowing, we’ve seen storms before. But this one looks to be a big one, so we start rowing harder. And after awhile, it appears we might be in trouble, we might need help. Then, we turn to the Master for help, but not till we exhausted all our measly resources.
It doesn’t say that in the text, but I suspect much of that happened here. They worked, they bailed, they rowed like crazy. But it was pretty much hopeless. Pretty soon, the other boats begin gathering around, yelling, “Where’s Jesus? What’s He doing?” And the answer came back, He’s sleeping! Would that bother you? Wake Him up – maybe He doesn’t know what we’re facing here. By the way, this is the only time we read in the gospels that Jesus was sleeping. Oh, He was fully man, so I’m sure He slept. But of all times to be sleeping, this doesn’t appear to be the best time. Unless, of course, He can rest in the midst of storms because He knows who’s in charge.
You ever feel that way? You’re in the midst of an unbelievable storm. The waves are crashing in around you – you feel like you’re about to drown. And you wonder what God is doing. You wonder if He’s asleep in the boat, oblivious to your circumstances. And you begin to scream and hollar, God, don’t you know? Don’t you care? Don’t you know that I’m dying here?
Which is exactly what the disciples did. They surrounded Him. Get this picture in your minds, too. The howling of the winds, the crashing of the waves, the water splashing around and on Him didn’t wake Him up. I don’t think a little nudge was going to wake Him up either. Excuse me, Jesus, we have a situation. No, they gathered around Him with panicked voices, yelling, “Jesus, save us.” Hear this – while the noise of a life-threatening storm did not awaken Him, the cries of His people did. He heard them – He always does.
Now, before we go to our next point, what do I mean by, the promise of the storm? I believe we have a tendency to expect the Christian life should be easy – Jesus should take care of all my problems. But, the Scripture actually promises the opposite. There is the promise of the storm. Jesus is always in the business of refining us, reforming us, taking us deeper. Peter said it this way, “In this you greatly rejoice, even though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been distressed by various trials, so that the proof of your faith, being more precious than gold which is perishable, even though tested by fire, may be found to result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ….Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though some strange thing were happening to you; but to the degree that you share the sufferings of Christ, keep on rejoicing, so that also at the revelation of His glory you may rejoice with exultation.”
Storms have a way of knocking off the rough edges and increasing our faith. James calls them trials which mature our faith. The fact is, storms should not surprise us, they’re promised.
But that’s not all that’s promised – there’s also the promise in the storm. What is that? We see that in verses 39-41.
What is the promise? We have the promise of His presence. Yes, it’s true they left the shore. Yes, it’s true they were in the boat. Yes, it’s true they were facing a storm of unbelievable proportions. But it was also true Jesus was in the boat with them. He was so unconcerned with the storm He was asleep. Not because He didn’t care, but because He was carefree. He knew He was in the hands of His Father, and it was not yet His time to go. And when it was time, He would go – just like you and me.
Listen, this is the promise in the storm. Every time we face a storm that threatens to overwhelm us, we can know we don’t face it alone. As believers in Jesus Christ, He is in the boat with us. If we choose to follow Him, we can expect the storms to increase – be we also have the promise of His presence. That’s good news.
But notice something else. Jesus stood up, rebuked the storm, then rebuked them for their lack of faith. Jesus, don’t you get it? We’re about to die here. You ever say that to God? How much more do you think I can take, God? Do you even know where I am? This is important – Jesus didn’t just stand up and calm the storm – He wanted to build faith. In other words, He expected them to have faith in the middle of the storm – not just after He took care of it.
Will you think about that for a minute. God expects our faith in Him to sustain us through the trials of life, not after everything has subsided. Wow, God, that was really neat what you did. No, He wants us to trust Him in the storm – God, I trust you are going to do something great. And even if you don’t, even if I drown in this trial, I still trust you. Like Shadrack, Meshack and Adednego – we will not bow down and worship your idol, King Nebuchadnezzar. And if you throw us into the fiery furnace, our God is able to rescue us. And even if He doesn’t – we still trust Him – and we still won’t bow. That’s faith in the face of the storm. That’s what Jesus wants from us. That’s how He wants to take us deeper.
There is one last thing I want you to notice before we close, verse 41. Remember, we’ve been saying that God is using these miracles to declare that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.
He got up, rebuked the winds and the sea, and it became perfectly calm. Literally verse 37 says it was a great gale of wind, and verse 39 says it was replaced with a great calm. The tense of the verb speaks of an immediate miracle. The winds were howling, the waves were crashing. Jesus spoke – Mark tells us He said, “Hush, be still.” Literally, be muzzled – in the common vernacular of our day, put a muzzle on it. And it did – immediately. It became perfectly calm. From white caps to a sea of glass, instantly. There could be no doubt this was a miracle. As a result, the disciples were very much afraid – literally, they feared a great fear. From a great storm, to a great calm, to a great fear. You see, they had gone from a great fear of what was going outside the boat to what was going on inside the boat. They went from being afraid of the storm, to terrified of this man who could speak, and calm the storm.
They began to realize, Jesus was something different. He was something other. “Who then is this, that even the winds and the sea obey Him?” This is the first of many times in Mark the question is asked, “Who is this?” The disciples asked it. The people asked it. Herod will ask it. Even Jesus will ask the disciples, who to the people say that I am? And then He asks them, who do you say that I am? Who am I? Finally, the centurion answers the question, Truly, this was the Son of God.
Who is this man? The disciples may have known the words of Psalm 107:23-30 which says, “Those who go down to the sea in ships, Who do business on great waters; They have seen the works of the Lord, And His wonders in the deep. For He spoke and raised up a stormy wind, Which lifted up the waves of the sea. They rose up to the heavens, they went down to the depths; Their soul melted away in their misery. They reeled and staggered like a drunken man, And were at their wits’ end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, And He brought them out of their distresses. He caused the storm to be still, So that the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad because they were quiet, So He guided them to their desired haven.”
Who calms the sea like that? God Himself. Mission accomplished. Jesus was God in the flesh.
Which brings us to our conclusion. Some of you are in the midst of a storm right now. I know that for a fact. You’ve told me. And if I know of some, there are at least that many more I don’t know about. And you’re not sure how much longer you can hold on. The waves are swamping your boat, and you feel like you could go under at any minute. And you’ve cried out, God, are you sleeping? Not only is He not sleeping, He wants you to be able to sleep. To rest under the shade of the branches of the kingdom.
Some of you are in relational storms. God, are you sleeping? Some of you are in the storm with your finances. Some of you are in the storm at school. Some of you are facing the storm at work. Some of you have given your lives to ministry – at the Purse, with some ministry in the church, and you’re in the middle of a firestorm – it’s not supposed to happen this way. And you’re not sure you’re going to make it. The waves are pounding away at you, and you feel like you’re going to drown. You’re wondering where God is.
Can I encourage you this morning with this truth: Jesus is the Lord of the storm. He’s right there with you. He’s in control. He’s taking you deeper, strengthening your faith. He just wants to know – are you still going to follow Him? Can I encourage you with this truth – if you’re in the middle of the storm right now, it might not be because you’re doing something wrong – it might just be you’re doing something right. So whatever you’re going through right now, would you say these words to yourself – Jesus is the Lord of my storm.