June 20 2021
Mark 4:35-21 & 2 Corinthians 6:1-13
Troubles. Conflict. Chaos. Confusion. A world that is unsafe and unpredictable. We might know something about all this.
Social scientists recently did a study about how trouble and distress can affect relationships. They did this using ants, red and black ants placed in a jar together. All was well and the ants were peaceful. They shook the jar and observed the results. The ants began fighting and killing each other. The red ants considered the black ants their enemy and began attacking and killing them. The black ants considered the red ants their enemy and began attacking and killing them. The ants were getting along before the jar was violently shaken. The stress of the shaking set them against each other.
This simple experiment might be unfair to the ants, but it is telling about how stress and conflict can affect relationships. When things go well we mostly get along. When trouble and chaos come and throw our world into turmoil we get stressed out. Then we look for scape goats—someone to blame for all our problems. Friends and neighbors, even husbands and wives or parents and children then suddenly can become enemies. You might know something about this.
Troubles can divide and separate us from each other. Troubles can also bring us closer together. Tough times can cause us to doubt the existence of God, or question whether God really knows and cares about us. Or, turbulent times can deepen our faith and confidence in God.
Jesus has just finished teaching crowds of people about the kingdom of God—what it is like, where and how it grows, and how it can affect and change us and our world.
It is evening. The sun is sinking low. Jesus has been teaching from the “pulpit of a boat” with other boats around Him. He says, “Let’s go over to the other side.” He does not expound on this. They don’t wait until morning to start out. They don’t check their weather apps on their smart phones. They simply start rowing to the other of this large mountain lake, the Sea of Galilee.
Mari, in his short hand style of writing cuts to the chase. A “mega storm” arises. The boats are taking on water due to the high waves driven by the fierce gale strength winds. Mega storm, according to one commentary, could be translated as a hurricane type storm with strong, violent winds and high tumultuous waves.
Most of the disciples are fishermen. They are familiar with water, storms and survival. Yet these stout men are realistic too. They panic. The Greek word Mark uses to describe their panic often is interpreted as cowardly or timid. Jesus was with them. But He was exhausted from the high energy demand of teaching to the crowds. He was fast asleep in the bow of the boat. How could He sleep through the tossing and pitching motion of the boat? Who knows! He was very tired, and He had no reason to fear. He trusted God. He trusted His own ability to handle tough circumstances! But the disciples were terrified and convinced their doom was at hand!
They wake Him and demand, “Don’t You care that we our death is imminent? We are dying here!”
Again, Mark’s writing style is short and to the point.
Jesus woke up. He rebukes the wind and waves with three words, “Peace! Be still!” “Be silent and be muzzled!” A literal English translation might be “Knock it off! Shut up!” And then in that moment, immediately, the wind was gone and the sea was calm.
Then He looked at His disciples who were still shaking with fear and terror and now were staring at Him in unbelief. He simply asks, “Why are you so cowardly? Do you still have no faith?”
Those disciples are like you and me. Each new situation is a new learning experience. When our circumstances change, when our health goes to pieces, when everything around us is in turmoil and chaos, we loose our sense of bearing. We loose our focus. We start believing the worst about each other, ourselves and God. We stop trusting. And we accuse God of not caring.
Mark’s purpose in writing his Gospel about this strange and awesome Man—Jesus—is to help us discover Jesus is God-in-human form, who has power over demons, all manner of sickness and even death itself. Jesus has power over the forces of nature. This man Jesus is God-in-human form! With Him in charge we have no reason to doubt or fear.
Now…Here are some questions to consider.
Was Jesus surprised by the storm?
Did Jesus cause the storm?
Did the devil cause the storm as an attempt to kill Jesus as he had done with King Herod?
How was the decision made to “go over to the other side?” Did Jesus know what was going to happen and used this incident to teach His disciples about trust?
Did Jesus trust God the Father and was therefore able to sleep without tossing and turning in fear?
One more question. Why find blame at all? Rather than asking why and trying to blame God, the devil, or own poor decisions, maybe we should accept storms as a part of reality on this side of heaven and recognized God’s presence and power with us in the storm. Sometimes things just happen for no reason at all. But God’s love and presence with us remains a constant truth.
(Side note: Nothing is said about the other boats and the other occupants. Picture yourself in this story. Imagine the peril of drowning at sea. Imagine your life passing before your eyes, and the sense that “this is it!” What goes through your mind? Then imagine the sudden change. The immediate response of the fearful forces of nature being quelled and stopped.)
Can you know, that no matter what your issues are, no matter what your circumstances, God really does know and care for you. You may feel alone, isolated and abandoned by everyone else, but God has not abandoned you. Trust God! Believe God is not letting you go.
Paul believed that. Even when he experienced troubles and difficulties that were piled high and were overwhelming. Yet he believed and trusted God and continued to do what God has called him to do.
The lesson for us? Don’t loose focus. keep on keeping on. Keep trusting. Keep on doing good. Keep on seeing the best in others, not the worst. Recognize that we are all in this together. Even our enemies are not our enemies. They too, need Jesus. Lord, help us to see that and act on that belief. In Jesus’ name. Amen.