5th Sunday after Pentecost
Rev. D. K. Schroeder
Mark 4:35-41 Sermon
July 9, 2006
Hymns (from The Service Book and Hymnal):
160 "Praise My Soul The King Of Heaven"
204 "Father We Praise Thee, Now The Night Is Over"
338 "Eternal Father Strong To Save"
531 "Jesus Saviour Pilot Me"
198 "Saviour Again To Thy Dear Name We Raise"
A WORD FITLY SPOKEN
TEXT (vs. 39-41): “And [Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and thee was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’ And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?’”
The state of Minnesota is known for numerous things. When Minnesota is mentioned, people often think of things like mosquitoes, humidity, Norwegians, snow, ice fishing, deer hunting, Lutherans, and tuna fish casserole. Anyone who has ever listened to Garrison Keillor and the Prairie Home Companion have heard the home-spun humor surrounding the fine folks who live in this northern state.
The state motto for Minnesota is simple: Ten thousand lakes—and actually there are more than that. With that in mind, Minnesotans engage in a lot of water-related activity. There are beautiful parks and recreation areas all over the state, the majority of which have some connection with a body of water.
When I lived in Minnesota, one of the things I enjoyed was visiting these various parks and bodies of water. As I spent time in those quiet and pristine areas, I appreciated the beauty of God’s creation and the absolute wonder of it all.
One summer, a friend of mine and I decided to go on a little camping trip into the north central part of the state. We went to a place called Cass Lake, which is about 20 miles east of Bemidji, about 6 hours north of Mankato where I lived at the time.
Cass Lake is a rather large lake. Out in the middle of the lake is an island of several hundred acres. And on this island is another lake, called Lake Windigo. It is an entirely separate spring-fed lake, distinct from Cass Lake. This is the only lake within a lake in the entire northern hemisphere, and it has made it into the Guiness Book of World Records.
Anyway, my friend and I decided to rent a small aluminium rowboat to get out to Star Island, where we would set up camp for three days. It was over a mile out to the island; but we were young and strong, so a mile or so of rowing shouldn’t be any problem for us. So we loaded our gear into the boat, put on our life jackets, and set out for Star Island.
Things were going pretty well. We rowed and rowed for quite a long time. The shore of our departure was distant in the horizon, and we could see Star Island coming up ahead of us. We were probably half way or so, when the sky clouded up with ominous looking black clouds. We heard the sound of distant thunder, and we knew what was about to happen. We rowed feverishly, one person on each oar, to try to get as much distance covered before the rain hit.
But we weren’t fast enough. It began to pour down rain on us. The water got real choppy and it rained so heavily that we couldn’t see either the shore of our departure or Star Island at all. We had water in the boat, and we were rowing with all our might, hoping that we were still heading in the right direction.
It was scary; real scary. What if lightning were to strike us? Would that little aluminium boat act like a lightning rod? And to top that off, I’m not a very good swimmer at all. What if our boat capsized? What if it filled with water and sank? What would happen to us if we were bobbing around out there in the middle of the lake? Would someone come and rescue us? Would that bright orange life vest be enough to compensate for my lack of swimming ability? Were we doomed to be another drowning statistic?
As I read our Gospel lesson for today, which are the concluding verses of Mark chapter 4, I vividly picture my little experience out in the middle of Cass Lake in Minnesota. What was it like for those disciples on that boat in the middle of the Sea of Galilee? Were they as afraid there as I was in Minnesota?
As the story related in Mark’s Gospel unfolds, I would have to say they were every bit as afraid, and probably more so. So let’s look at what our text has to say.
To start off, Jesus and his disciples had a very strenuous day. Jesus had been teaching the multitudes who had gathered on the shore of the Sea of Galilee. There were so many people, that he had to get into a boat and go out on the water so he could address them.
And so when evening came, Jesus was ready for a break. He wanted to be alone with his disciples and away from the crowd of people. He was definitely tired, but he also knew that there was someone on the other side of the Sea of Galilee who needed his help. Jesus himself was the one who told them that they needed to go to the other side. And with all of this, there would be another lesson to teach the disciples.
Jesus was tired after all of the day’s activities, and so he curls up with a pillow in the stern of the boat to catch a few winks of sleep. And while he was asleep, a sudden squall comes upon them.
Now the disciples who were with Jesus were seasoned and experienced fisherman. The Sea of Galilee, which in reality is nothing more than a huge lake, had been noted for experiencing these sudden storms. The lake was surrounded by high hills; and because of this, storms of this nature would happen with some degree of regularity.
Since the disciples knew the lake and these storms, they would have known how to handle their vessel under adverse circumstances.
However in this case, the storm was so furious that the rain and the wind and the waves put them in a very perilous situation. They were losing control of their boat. These seasoned and experienced men, who had spent much of their life on the lake, were frightened. They were very frightened. We might even borrow the terminology from the shepherds in the Christmas story, and say that these disciples were “sore afraid.”
But there was Jesus, curled up on his pillow, and fast asleep. Jesus was sleeping right through a perilous and frightening situation, seemingly oblivious to what was happening.
The situation was getting worse, and the disciples were almost at the panic stage. So they decide to wake up Jesus and have a little talk with him.
Their talk would be two-pronged. They had faith and knew that Jesus could help them; otherwise they could have just let him sleep. So in waking them, they were showing their faith. However, it seemed to them that Jesus just didn’t care, so they proceed to scold him. Their conversation had the elements of both faith and rebuke.
They should have known better. They had witnessed Jesus demonstrate his power previously. Plus they knew the heart of the Saviour in how he dealt with people. So they should never have doubted for a minute either Jesus power or his compassion. But they did.
Proverbs 25, 11 says, “A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in settings of silver.” Jesus certainly demonstrated this. He had the ability to be able to say exactly the right words at the right time, and this situation was no exception.
Verse 39 of our text says, “And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” With just three simple one-syllable words, Jesus has the whole situation under control.
But then he has some more words that were fitly spoken. He rebukes, or scolds the disciples in verse 40: “He said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?’”
The disciples were forced to face their own spiritual weakness. They should have known that regardless of whether Jesus was awake or asleep, he was in control of things. Even though they called him “Rabbi” (which means “teacher”), yet they still hadn’t really taken his teachings to heart. This was an experience from which they would learn a valuable lesson. Jesus showed his Godly power over the forces of nature, something nobody else could ever do. In verse 40 we are told: “And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?’”
They needed this lesson in faith, especially considering the situation which was ahead of them on the other shore. As it is explained in the verses just following our text for today, in Mark chapter 5, they were headed to a place called Gerasenes, a place with a mixed population of Gentiles and Jews. There they would find a man who was severely demon possessed. This was not some form of mental illness, but a situation where demons, servants of Satan inhabited a particular man. This man was literally in agony as the demons tortured him—at least 6,000 or so. He lived in a cemetery, and under the power of the demons, he was so powerful that he would even break through solid steel shackles and chains. He could not be restrained or subdued; and everybody was very much afraid of him.
But when Jesus arrives at Gerasenes, the demons recognize that someone much more powerful than even Satan had come into their midst. Jesus had the power to get rid of the demons and put this poor man at peace.
And so that’s what he does. He casts the demons out of the man, and allows them to go into a herd of pigs. The pigs subsequently run into the water and drown. With a word fitly spoken, the demon possessed man is healed.
Here we have a two-pronged lesson in faith. First of all, Jesus shows his true divinity by controlling the forces of nature. And secondly, Jesus shows his true divinity by subduing and defeating the power of Satan. “Who then is this?” the disciples ask. This is none other than God himself incarnate, the Messiah, the Saviour, Jesus Christ.
The storm at sea might have been an effort by Satan to keep Jesus from getting to the demon-possessed man on the other side. Perhaps he was counting on them getting scared and turning back without waking Jesus. Perhaps he thought they might all drown. Whatever the devil was thinking, he should have known that he couldn’t usurp or subdue the power of Jesus.
Things happen in our lives which threaten our faith. Storms arise and life’s waters get choppy. Finances get tight, debts seem to mount without any hope of relief, health issues threaten us, relationships hit the rocks, and the list goes on. In every way, Satan tries to convince us that we must be afraid, we must worry, and he wants to get us to the point where we are in a state of utter despair. Satan tries to get us to look away from God and to concentrate on our weaknesses rather than his strength.
And then we have the influence of sin in our lives which makes it all seem so much worse. We have not responded in faith as we should, we have gone our own way rather than God’s way, and we have fallen for the tricks of the devil so many times.
Doing battle with the devil and the forces of evil is not a pretty sight. Sin and death have threatened to ruin life. Sin separated Adam from Eve and made them shameful. Sin turned Cain against Abel. Sin creates golden calves of all descriptions. Sin creates things like pride, prejudice, and injustice. Sin in the world and in our lives is anything but pretty.
Our text for today demonstrates how much Jesus does care for his followers. He’s not going to go to sleep on us or sail away from the storms of this life. He wants to sail directly into those storms and rescue fallen mankind from sin, death, and the devil.
Through faith in Jesus our Saviour, he has come into our lives and rescued us. He has defeated sin, death, and the devil completely and absolutely. Amid the storms we experience, we can hear the words: “Peace! Be Still!” that our Saviour speaks to us. Jesus came to rescue us, to save us, and to reconcile us to God in heaven. We can be assured that we will arrive safely through the storm on the shores of heaven, where we will be met with the waiting arms of our Lord Jesus Christ.
The storm which I experienced while in that little aluminium row boat on Cass Lake in Minnesota did subside. It seemed like an eternity at the time, but it did let up. As the rain became less torrential, we could begin to make out Star Island off in the distance. Thankfully we had been rowing in the right direction. And as we stepped up on the shore, I don’t think that I’ve ever been so happy to see solid ground. I was one very thankful person.
That downpour on the lake was the last drop of rain that we saw that entire trip. The effort it took for us to get to Star Island and Lake Windigo was worth it too. We made it through the storm, and experienced a very beautiful and pristine area in Minnesota. And yes, I was a very happy camper.
Jesus our Saviour rules over all of creation, and has defeated every plan and scheme of the devil. Regardless of the various and sundry storms thrown in our direction during this lifetime, may our prayer be the same as the hymnwriter Edward Hopper: “Jesus Saviour pilot me, over life’s tempestuous sea.”