The Perfect Storm

The Perfect Storm

Mark4:35-41 4:35-41 35That day when evening came, he said to hisdisciples, “Let us go over to the other side.”36Leavingthe crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There werealso other boats with him. 37Afurious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it wasnearly swamped. 38Jesuswas in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said tohim, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” 39Hegot up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40Hesaid to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have nofaith?” 41Theywere terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and thewaves obey him!” {{more}}   It has been interesting to watch theblame game during the recent disasters which hit the southern part of ourcountry. The mayor was to blame. No, it was the director of FEMA. No, it wasthe governor of the state. No, it was the people who refused to evacuate. No,it was the people who built the levees. No, it was the president. You knowwhat? It was a storm! And when a storm that size hits, no amount of humanintervention could have prevented what happened. There will always be enormousloss of property and lives. Storms will come and stuff will happen. Storms came in the life of Jesus as well. He and the disciples found themselvesin the middle of a ferocious squall out on the lake. This was nothing unusualon the Sea of Galilee; it is in a basin surrounded by mountains and notoriousfor furious storms. Rising just to the North over the lake is beautiful MountHermon. Mount Hermon is capped with snow, and sometimes the cold air from thetop of Mount Hermon rushes down the mountain and blows across the lake. Theforce of the cold air meeting the hot moist air around Galilee can beexplosive, as it was on the day in our story. Jesus and his friends are in themiddle of the lake when the squall hits. It is terrifying and it looks asthough they will not survive the storm. What happens next is something forwhich neither the reader nor the disciples are prepared. Allow me to point out some obvious and simple lessons from this story. Thefirst is: Storms will come. The apostle Peter reminds us in 1st Peter 4:12 it says,”Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, asthough something strange were happening to you.” There are many who do not seemto understand this. The disciples seemed to be shocked that they were in thisposition. After all, was not Jesus with them? Would not God protect hisMessiah, and therefore protect his followers? How then could this happen? Isometimes meet people who have the same feeling of shock when some storm comesinto their lives. Did not I do all the right things? Is not God supposed towatch out for his own? Does not he protect those he loves? How can this behappening to me? I am sure those are the questions which were marching throughthe heads of the disciples. I was reading in the book of Hebrews this past week and I came across afascinating passage. It was talking about Abraham and the wonderful promisesGod made to him, but then this verse popped out at me that says, in Hebrews6:15, “And so after waiting patiently, Abraham received what was promised.”Amen! I was reading it in the original language which puts it much stronger. Ituses the word macrothumia which can be translated “longsuffering.” That wouldmake it say, “And so after longsuffering, Abraham received what was promised.”God made a great promise to Abraham, but in order to receive it, Abraham had togo through longsuffering. This is life, even with the promises of God.Endurance and faith are the keys, and these things are only possible because ofthe promises and faithfulness of God. The Bible says in Hebrews 6:19, “We havethis hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.” Amen! There are some people reading this week’s message in whose life a storm israging. For some of you it is financial. For others it is a health issue. Stillothers are being swamped in the area of relationships. You havetried to be a good person and do the right thing, and yet you feel like you aresinking, and you want to know the same thing the disciples wanted to know:”Jesus, do not you care if I drown? Are you aware of what I am going through?”What is interesting is that when Matthew and Luke tell this story in their gospels,they leave out this question about whether Jesus cared about them and theirperilous situation. Matthew and Luke simply record the words of the disciplesas, “Lord, save us! We are going to drown!” I am sure that these words, andmany others, were said as they shouted in fear for their lives. Some Biblescholars conjecture that Matthew and Luke thought the words of the discipleswere extremely inappropriate. How could you say that to Jesus? But they did,and those were their true feelings. They were in a storm. They were frightened,and they could not understand how or why this was happening. Here is what a storm in your life does not mean. It does not mean that God doesnot love you. It does not mean that God is angry with you, or that he is payingyou back for something. God is not toying with you. Sometimes the storms thathappen in your lives are self-made. But many times it is just that stormshappen, and trying to analyze what happened or assign blame is a fruitlessactivity. We live in a fallen world. And as Jesus said in Matthew 5:45, “Godcauses his sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on therighteous and the unrighteous.” Amen! In other words, good and bad happen toall. The important thing is whether or not we are prepared for them. A TV news camera crew was on assignment in southern Dallas filming thewidespread destruction of the recent tornado. The camera panned the area where,amid the devastation and debris, one lone house was still standing on itsfoundation. The owner was cleaning up the yard when a reporter approached himand said, “Sir, why is your house the only one still standing? How did youmanage to escape the severe damage of the hurricane?” “I built this housemyself,” the man replied. “I also built it according to the Texas statebuilding code. When the code called for 2×6 roof trusses, I used 2×6 rooftrusses. I was told that a house built according to code could withstand ahurricane. I did, and it did. It could be that no one else around here followedthe code.” This was a man who understood that storms were coming. It had nothing to dowith him, it was about the area in which he lived and the nature of storms. Hisjob was to be prepared. When the sun was shining and the skies were blue, itmay have seemed foolish to put the extra expense and trouble into building a tornadoproof house. But when the tornado came, it was anything but foolish, it wasquintessential wisdom. The important thing is not trying to understand all thevarious reasons why storms come, but to be prepared for them before they do. The second lesson of this story is: Jesus is with us in the storm. It you aregoing to be in a storm, the one person you want your boat is Jesus. Jesus couldhave stayed on the shore and let them take all the chances by themselves, buthe did not do that. Where they went, he went. The problem for the disciples was that he was with them, but he was asleep. Hewas asleep due to two things: 1) total exhaustion from ministering to thecrowds, and 2) total peace, knowing who he was and who his Father was. But theyinterpreted it as a lack of caring. It is interesting that this is the onlyplace in the entire Bible that we read of Jesus sleeping. Several times we readof him staying awake all night and praying, and we wonder how he did that. Heobviously had to sleep, but this is the only recorded incident of him sleeping.It is ironic because this is a time when you would think it was impossible tosleep. The disciples wondered how he could sleep through the storm, and how hecould sleep when they were in danger. They expected him to be attentive totheir needs even in his sleep. We have all been there, have not we? You are in the middle of a crisis and itseems like God is off somewhere taking a nap. You can almost hear him snoring.He does not seem very responsive to your need. At least we know that we are inthe same boat as the disciples. But what is Jesus’ response when he isawakened? After he rebukes the storm, he rebukes his disciples. He asks themtwo questions: “Why are you so afraid?”, and “Do you still have no faith?” Fearand faith are incompatible. You might expect that Jesus would be compassionatehere. “Why are so afraid?” the disciples might say. “Oh, I do not know, maybeit was the raging storm around us, the violent pitching of the boat, the waterswamping the boat so that it was starting to sink. Maybe it was that we thoughtwe were about to drown. Just stuff like that. Do not you think we had a rightto be anxious?” But Jesus was hoping that what they had seen him do in the past would provide astronger faith in the future, but that was not the case. So first Jesus had tocalm the storm, and then he had to calm his disciples. Has God ever doneanything for you in the past? Has he solved any problems or answered anyprayers? He is hoping that his faithfulness in the past will cause you to trusthim in the future. And here is the third lesson: Jesus will calm the storm. At the perfect timeduring the perfect storm he exercises his power over the storms of life. God isnever in a hurry, and the reason he is never in a hurry is because he knowsexactly what to do at exactly the right time. He does not go by our time. Atjust the right time, not the right time as far as the disciples were concerned,but just at right time, Jesus stood up and calmed the storm. Do not worry, Godhas you in mind. He knows and understands you and your situation. He cares foryou. His timing is perfect. The Bible says in Romans 5:6, “You see, at just theright time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly.” Amen!He is always watching out for us. Peter wrote1 Peter 3:12, “For the eyes of theLord are on the righteous and his ears are attentive to their prayer.” The fourth lesson is: It is only in the storm that we truly understand whoJesus is. I think the most amazing part of the story is the disciple’s reactionto Jesus. When Jesus asks them why they are afraid, it is the Greek wordmeaning fearful in the moderate sense. But when Jesus calms the storm, theBible says in Mark 4:41, “They were terrified and asked each other, ‘Who isthis? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” The Greek literally saysephobethesan phobon megan: “they feared with great fear.” Amen! They just thought they were afraid before. Theywere afraid of the storm, but they were terrified of Jesus. Their fear of thestorm was nothing compared with the fear they had when they realized who itreally was who was with them in the boat. It is one thing to be in the boatwith someone you believe was sent from God to be a great teacher and spiritualleader. It is quite another thing to be confined in a small space with One whomyou suddenly realize is the Lord of the universe. Your knees give way and youbegin to tremble. You find it difficult to breathe. Your insides are shakingand you cannot stop. It is interesting that this is thesecond time in the Gospel of Mark that Jesus has rebuked something and said,”Be still.” The first time was in the first chapter where Mark says in Mark1:23-25 “Just then a man in their synagogue who was possessed by an evil spiritcried out, ‘What do you want with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come todestroy us? I know who you are the Holy One of God!’ ‘Be quiet!’ said Jesussternly. Come out of him!” And the people respond in a similar way to thedisciples. They say, “What is this? He even gives orders to evil spirits andthey obey him” . Throughout Mark’s gospel the disciples, as wellas others, keep coming to new understandings of who Jesus is, and it is alwaysin the context of some crisis. This is true for us as well. We keep meeting Jesus in new ways as we meet himin new crises. We do not really understand who he is or the power he has untilwe see him in action. This is what Peter meant when he said in 1st Peter 1:6-7,”Though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds oftrials. These have come so that your faith of greater worth than gold, whichperishes even though refined by fire may be proved genuine and may result inpraise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed” Amen! It was terrible to be blind, but the blind man could not see who Jesus wasuntil he was healed. The deaf man could not hear Jesus until his ears wereopened. The affliction of the lame man brought Jesus to his side and he wasable to leap and dance so that he loved the Master and wanted to follow him.Sin had ruined Mary until Jesus delivered her and she was able to understandwho he was. Doubting Thomas was devastated by the events that led to the deathof Jesus. Everything seemed futile and depressing after that. But Thomasexperienced Jesus in a whole new way when he saw him after the resurrection andplaced his finger in Jesus’ hands and side. He fell down crying, “My Lord and myGod!” It is in those crisis moments that we really understand who Jesus is. Ifyou place your complete faith and trust in Jesus, you will have a greaterunderstanding of him, a deeper relationship with him, and a new love for himwhen the storm is over. You will see his power over darkness and the depth ofhis love for you. Jesus is telling us to live by faith, not by fear. In his book The Unnecessary Pastor, Eugene Peterson writes: “My two sons areboth rock climbers, and I have listened to them plan their ascents up amountain. They spend as much or more time planning their climbs as in theactual climbing. They meticulously plot their route and then, as they climb,put in what they call ‘protection’ pitons hammered into small crevices in therock face, with attached ropes that will arrest a quick descent to death. Rockclimbers who fail to put in protection have short climbing careers. Our pitonsor ‘protection’ come as we remember and hold on to those times when we haveexperienced God’s faithfulness in our lives. Every answered prayer, everyvictory, every storm that has been calmed by his presence is a piton whichkeeps us from falling, losing hope, or worse yet, losing our faith. Every pitonin our life is an example of God’s faithfulness to us. As we ascend in thekingdom of God, we also realize that each experience, each victory is only apiton a stepping stone toward our ultimate goal of finishing the race andreceiving the crown of glory.” Now you know how to survive the perfect storm.Amen!