Who Is This?
Text: Mark 4:35-41
Proper 7, B
35On that day, when evening had come, [Jesus] said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 36And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. It had been a long and tiring day for Jesus. Hours and hours in a boat bobbing by the shore. He had taught the great pressing crowds about the kingdom of heaven. Even at the close of day the crowds were so thick upon the shore and in boats all around that the only way to leave them was to take the very boat that had served as his pulpit and head out for the far shore of the lake. With little ceremony and no chance to prepare for the trip they pull away from the multitudes and Jesus lays down in the back utterly exhausted.
37And a great storm of wind arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion; and they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care if we perish?" It is a testament to just how tired Jesus was. The winds are screaming through the rigging, waves, like ravenous jaws, are crashing down over the boat, threatening to swallow it whole – the little vessel quickly filling with water. And yet Jesus sleeps. Exhausted, yes, but comfortable and secure in his father's hands, Jesus is not the least concerned by the ravages of wind and waves. He is at peace.
By way of contrast, how long do you think that the once-fishermen-now-disciples fought with all their skill and every ounce of their strength? At what point did they come to realize that THIS was the storm that would finally send them to a watery grave and there was nothing they could do about it? How long until they despaired because despite all their skill as sailors there was nothing they could do about it? How long did it take for them to run out of every other option and so at last finally turn to Jesus? And when they did, why was it with indignation and accusations? "Teacher, do you not care if we perish?"
“Teacher” they call him, for that is all they see in their time of travail. They have pigeon-holed him in their hearts. A great man, a superb teacher, yes – but so what? Passion for the Scriptures is great when you are in the synagogue, but out here they needed a passion for life and its preservation! Can you hear the unspoken accusation of their hearts as they view him sleeping while they fight for their lives? All day long you speak on and on about the glories of the kingdom, but what good are stories and parables when my boat is sinking?
But this Jesus is so much more than simply a teacher, isn't He? 39And he awoke and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 41And they were filled with awe, and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?" One little word “Silence” and the winds die down in an instant. One single word “Muzzled” and the gaping jaws of the deep are snapped shut, the waves disappear, and only calm remains. Where only seconds ago the world was in pandemonium, now there is an eerie peace. An equally overwhelming peace. A peace that in some way is more terrifying than the storm it has replaced.
The question of whether or not Jesus cares is instantly left in the wake of a new and more urgent one. “Who is this?” Who is this man before them? He is certainly not just a teacher! It is no ordinary man that gets the last word in a debate with the very forces of nature.
So, just who is this? Isn't it obvious? He is GOD! Was it not God who in the beginning said: (Genesis 1:9-10) Let the waters under the heaven be gathered together unto one place, and let the dry land appear: and it was so. Is it not God who in our OT reading rightly asks Job (Job 38:4,8-11) Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who...shut in the sea with doors, when it burst forth from the womb...and prescribed bounds for it, and set bars and doors, and said, `Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed'?
Who then is this [Jesus], that even wind and sea obey him? The very question itself already provides the only possible answer. He is GOD! He is the very same God who created those winds and waves in the very beginning by His Word. He is the God who sets the limits of all creation with but a Word. He is the God who controls them with a single Word. He is the one with all power and authority in heaven and on earth. He is the one who not only cares very much for his disciples, but is the only one with the final word in all that will befall them in their lives.
The question for us 21 century disciples is not so much “Who is this Jesus?” This mighty miracle and the whole of the recorded Scriptures answer this without reservation. The question for us is rather “Who do WE think He is?” or better put “Who do we treat Him as?” For the historical account found in our Gospel also serves as a metaphor for our own lives. We too are storm-tossed on the sea of this life, constantly and fearfully beset by difficult moral issues, challenges to our faith, and so many hardships of both body and soul. Where there is smooth sailing today, without warning, we can be in danger of being capsized and going under in the next.
Do we struggle on alone, hoping to keep our head above water? Do we rage in vain against the injustices of this world? Do we give in to despair and give up hope altogether? Do we find ourselves only turning to God when every other option has first been tried and failed? A Christianity of last resort. Have we like so many before us, compartmentalized Jesus, pigeon-holed him in our life to something far too small and insignificant to make any real difference, and then blame Him when He doesn’t seem to do what we don’t actually think He can or will do anyway? Jesus is a nice guy for the weak-minded. Jesus as a great example of all that I can one day be. Jesus ... if you have nothing better to do for an hour or two on a Sunday morning. Jesus – a nice story for children, but what really can He do out there in the real world?
So, Just who is this Jesus anyway? He is the one who asks us, as He did those men in the boat: 40Why are you afraid? Have you no faith? Faith comes not from what is seen, but from what is heard. Faith comes through God’s Word. Whether you see Him at work in your life or not, He is always there and He is always working for your salvation. Protecting, guiding, healing, directing, loving and forgiving you always. He has said so.
And that means, that even in a time of panic and disease He has promised that not even death itself will have the final word in your life. Jesus Himself guaranteed it! He faced down death and soundly defeated it once and for all time with a truly powerful word “tetelestai!” “Finished!” Let the devil, the world, and even our own sinful and failing flesh rage around us as much as they will. In the end – on that last day, our Lord who sometimes in this world appears to be sleeping, will step to the fore and all, even they, will be forced to obey. This is the faith that sustains us through the storms of life. This is the hope that cannot fail, for this is the Lord of heaven and earth who rides the waves of this life with us. And He is not the least bit concerned. This is the truth that brings great peace and calm to or fearful and troubled souls.
Who is this Jesus that even the winds and the waves obey Him? He is your God, and you would do well to remember that always! For no matter what else happens, He is the one who has the final word! And a more gracious and wonderful word you will never hear!