The Gospel of Mark starts with an important sentence, as verse 1 says, “The beginning of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The word Gospel translates as “The Good News”.
The Gospel according to Mark is commonly thought to have been the first written of the Gospels in the New Testament. The Evangelist presents Jesus of Nazareth as the “Son of God”, whose ministry was characterized by a succession of mighty works which, to those who had eyes to see, were signs of the presence of God’s power and kingdom.
Mark wastes no time in getting down to business, a single sentence introduction and not a digression to be found beginning to end. An event has taken place that radically changes the way we look at and experience the world and he cannot wait to tell us about it. There’s an air of breathless excitement in nearby every sentence. He writes, “The message is good, incredibly good; God is here and he’s on our side.”
It had been a long and difficult day for the Lord Jesus. The events began in Mark’s story. There were confrontations with the Pharisees, for Jesus had been curing on the Sabbath, which they considered against the Law. His family and friends thought he had gone a bit crazy; they tried to kidnap him. Jesus encountered great crowds of people as he taught the parables, and he spent time explaining the parables to his disciples. Large crowds continued following, so Jesus got into a boat on the sea to sit there and rest awhile offshore at the Sea of Galilee. He had often used that boat as his pulpit when he preached to the multitudes that had gathered to hear him. When the day was over, he called his disciples to set sail for the other side of the lake.
When darkness fell, the disciples were making their way across the lake. While they guided their boat, Jesus lay asleep in the rear of the boat. He was weary from the business of the day.
This is one of the clearest portraits of our Lord’s humanity in the Gospels. We can thank the Lord that he understands our weakness. He is able to sympathize with us when we get tired. Most of the disciples were used to being on the Sea of Galilee at night. We know they were fisherman after all.
This miracle is the first of four that may be preached in the coming weeks. These four miracles proved to the disciples and also to us that Jesus is Lord of all, Master of any situation.
That night in that storm the disciples found they were fighting for their lives. They experienced the Lord’s power to deliver them and lived to tell the story. If we were to climb in that boat as they cross the sea, their experience has much to teach us.
We may in our life journeys find ourselves drowning in or tossed about in storms that overcome us. There is great power in a windstorm coming suddenly with no warning.
The Sea of Galilee is an unusual body of water, quite small—13 miles long, seven miles wide, 150 feet deep, surrounded by mountains. It is susceptible to sudden storms with 24 ft high waves. Calm one minute, violent the next! As these men set out they were unprepared and not expecting a storm.
That’s the way life is too—fine on minute, the next minute the bottom falls out. A phone call, a doctor visit, an illness—suddenly life changes. We are either in a storm, coming out of a storm or headed into a storm—that’s life!
These seasoned were frightened by the huge storm. Where is God when you need help?
The disciples doubted His grace. They were perishing out there; the boat was swamped by the waves.
We are all in this little together; there will always be storms. We have the stories of others, so thankfully we can lean on each other. This faithful community supports us all.
The disciples called out, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” That ultimate cry of fear, doubt, abandonment is often repeated in stories of God’s people. Where is God in the midst of my distress?
Has God abandoned his people? A cry repeated in so many ways in the midst of the terrors and distresses of our world today. If he is so great and powerful a creator, if God really cares about this world, why do events in one’s life go so badly?
This is the situation of all of us cast adrift in storms of the world. Jesus did not chastise nor reason with the disciples nor seek to correct their poor theology or remind them of the whole tradition of god’s deliverance and care of the people of Israel. Jesus immediately arose, rebuked the winds forcefully, and there arose a great calm countering the great storm. Rescue is accomplished, the sea is calm!
The disciples and we are as hearers are called to recognize two vastly different worlds that we might inhabit. We are called to see the gulf between. The Kingdom of God, the presence and rule of God in our midst. Or we can continue to live in the world of fear and chaos seeing oneself alone without the power of God, a world controlled by the power of fear and disasters. Or, we can be open to hearing the message of Jesus in whom we are told that the kingdom of God has come into our midst and offers a whole new future for our world and our lives. The line between these two worlds is thin and risky. But between them stands the gift and power of the great news of God, Messiah, Jesus.
Perhaps the shaping of this season of Pentecost, the Good News of God’s kingdom, will shape our lives to turn from fear to faith. Remember the call and promise of Jesus, in the first verse of Mark’s Gospel: “The Kingdom of God has come near, repent and believe in the Good News.”
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Faith is trusting in the person of Jesus and the truth of his teaching. Then why do events in this world and in my life at times go so badly?
These are honest reactions of any of u when suddenly we are cast adrift in storms of the world without relying of God’s presence and care. Jesus did not chastise or reason with the disciples’ fear. He immediately woke up, rebuked the winds forcefully with his double command—“be silent, be still”. The wind subsided, there was a great calm.
As we journey with Jesus in this season of Pentecost, perhaps the power and presence of the good news of God’s kingdom will shape our lives in a turn from fear to faith.
Even after all the disciples had seen Jesus do up to this point, even after all the parables he had taught, even after all the innocent people he had freed from demonic oppression, the disciples still did not know who stood in their midst. They are so amazed at what they have just witnessed that all they can do is ask, “who then is this?”.
Who indeed is this Man? He who commands the very wind and sea to be silent?
We may think we escape Jesus’ probing question to the disciples. “Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?” And yet that question is one that this Man who even the wind and the waves obey puts before us still. Granted we may never face drowning in a seaborne windstorm, but the world we live in confronts us daily with violent behaviors and natural disasters. We are promised that God is always in the midst of us keeping us afloat in the midst of life’s storms. Why are you afraid?
We must answer that question for ourselves every day, remembering those promises that God is with us always. God does care; He cares more than we can imagine or even know. He won’t abandon us, desert, or leave us under any circumstances. His grace is with is. Everything is going to be alright. With God on our side, how can we lose?
Remember we are all in this together, on the sea in a small boat, on this journey. God is with us today and always. Peace, be still. AMEN.