One Living Hope

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The Servant King Revealed – Mark 4:35-41

Introduction

Who is God, anyway? That’s the question that all of us ask, even Christians and non-Christians alike. Who is He? It is easy to answer today because we come with our best faces but when you face something unthinkable, or when you are commuting to work, or in the moments of difficulty, or when God is responding to you that is unexpected- you ask that question – who is He?

Recently, in March, Bill Gates[1], , was interviewed and they asked him the question – do you believe in God? And he answered – “The mystery and beauty of the world, earth, nature is amazing but there is no explanation of how it came about. I think it makes sense to believe in God but exactly what decision in your life you make differently because of it, I don’t know”

A bright, successful Gates sees God’s work in creation, in nature but he is left with him asking the question – Who is He and how does that impact our lives?

And when we read the gospel of Mark – it really unpacks that question: Who is Jesus and what did He come to do for us? You can see in the pages of Mark so far as people asking the very same question – where the spiritual world (demons) know exactly who He is but the people are asking who is He? Look:

  • Mark 1:24 & 27                  Mark 4:41
  • Mark 2:7 & 12                    Mark 5:7-8
  • Mark 3:11                            Mark 8:29-30

And the passage text for today, Mark is slowly unveiling who Jesus is and what He came to do by having the disciples asking the question- who then is this? This question becomes our question and it is in this context of the storm that Mark is inviting us to see the true identity of Christ, and there are three important points that the text is addressing:

First,

I.  Jesus leads us to see the storms of our lives and it’s devastation [vv. 35-37]

Maybe this is not something that we want to hear at the get go – it is not something that I want to hear- that Jesus leads us into storms. Look at v. 35 with me – on that day – what a day it was – the day that began as they listened, as they heard stories about the Kingdom of God, Jesus had a full day lecturing – teaching. They were meeting personally and privately, as Jesus instructed them; And on “that day v. 35, reads, on that day, when evening had come– it was Jesus who said – let us go to the other side. And leaving the crowd, they got into the boat and left- picture them rowing their boat on a quiet evening– Jesus was with his men, who knew the sea, they were well-experienced fishermen- they KNOW the sea. Everything is calm, then, suddenly without any advanced warning, no weather channel to brief them, they were hit with a violent, dangerous, sea storm. It was so violent, think a hurricane + a tsunami, it’s a furious storm. Listen to this one description as I came across, when preparing: – Given the location of the sea- the sea has violent winds, these come without any warning, they can make the sea into a roaring tempest in a matter of seconds; even in today’s technology, people refuse to sail in this particular sea because of it’s violent mood. And this day, right here, it wasn’t in a good mood at all. That’s how grave and dangerous it really was – it terrified them to the utmost.

But why did Mark place this story right after the teaching of the parable? Why is Mark telling this specific story? Now, in the ancient times, people way back in the day, they often associated sea/water/lake as something very dark- the roaring of the sea – ancient culture have symbolized “sea” as something very dark, satanic in its nature, its death. Listen to William Lane: There are cosmic dimensions here…that are actually emphasized in this story, where the sea is understood as a manifestation of the realm of death where it is illustrating the continual and prevalent hostility against God Himself. What we are going to see in Mark- that he is concluding Jesus’ teaching of the parables and moving into a short stories of miracles, from Mark 4:35 to 5:43. All illustrating, showing, and revealing the identity of Christ; you are going to see and read of how Jesus is totally sovereign over the opposing forces of nature, demonic realm and diseases. He is superior to every threat that comes –including death itself. And– you will find that there is this lingering shadow- the shadow of death permeating & filling each scene of these chapters as (the disciples meet death in a violent storm here, Jesus will meet a man who dwells where the dead is buried, tormented by demons, will meet a woman discharged with blood for 12 years, she has suffered much, spent all that she has, worse she near drew death, and Jarius daughter – who does die and Jesus confronts death and has authority over the storm, the demonic power, over sickness, and death[2] …

And these men say to Him. “Don’t you care that we are perishing, that we are going to DIE.” I mean, this is bit too much right; wouldn’t you want to protect those whom you love from trials and difficulties but Jesus does the exact opposite. Sure, there are plenty of times when we find ourselves in difficulties – and those times are because of our sin, selfishness, or pride but what we see here, we see Jesus leading the ones He called into the storm. And how do we even define what a storm is; Storms are anything that happens – a difficulty, a trial, or a suffering, anything that happens in your life, unexpectedly, suddenly, outside of you, outside of your control that shakes your to the core and the only thing that you see is death – it’s anything but life, all that comes to your vision is death, where you see no hope, it erodes your calling to Christ, and in the end – you’re left with questioning does God love me, does He care for me. That’s the storm. Maybe you might be trying to find a job because you planned very carefully of how your life will play out and now you are jobless, or it could be a financial crisis that you are now in where loans, bills, mortgage are eating away your money, or it could be your health that’s failing you suddenly, or family tragedy – it could be anything- and sometimes, Jesus will lead his followers through very dark valleys and difficult places.

Why in the world does, He, sometimes, lead us into storms? What does he want to reveal? I remember when my oldest daughter was born, we were extremely joyful to see her, we were so happy; happy being 1st time parents but when she turned 1 year old –there were days when I saw my wife crying endlessly because her skin was covered with eczema, and we didn’t know what to do. That was a huge difficulty for us; after I was done with school, trying to find a job was the next thing but that became quite difficult, with a new house, 2 kids when, at one point, our checking balance was only a $1000; asking the Lord, how are you going to provide. I’m sure you have many, many more stories like these but see Christianity is not about walking the fields of gold but its singing the gospel in the valleys. Christianity is not about saving your life because you will lose it. But it’s about losing your life to be actually found[3].   J.C. Ryle[4], an old Anglican Bishop says this: See, if we are true Christians, we must not expect everything smooth in our journey to heaven. We must count it no strange thing if we have to endure sickness, losses, and disappointment. Free pardon and full forgiveness, grace along the way and glory in the end—all of this our Savior promised to give us but he has never promised that we shall have no difficulty/affliction, He loves us too well to promise that. But by our difficulties/afflictions, He shows us our emptiness, our weakness, and then draws us into the throne of grace.

See your difficulty, your struggle in life, your storm, right now, is God’s way of telling you that you are empty- that there is this great emptiness- you are running to something else to fill it up; that there is this great weakness, that you are trying to be strong – see, the storms, the difficulties that you are experiencing in your life- it is God’s strategic way of showing you that you are really empty, you are weak but at the same time, only to be drawn to something better, to the heart of God Himself, only to be drawn to the throne of grace. Through the storm, you will come to see, know and trust in the Lord in ways that you did not do before.

It’s like this story that I read-I am not sure if it’s true but it really pictures well- that there is a story of a shepherd & sheep. A shepherd will be leading His sheep but what the shepherd does is that he will take his rod and break the sheep’s leg and the sheep will have to rely on the shepherd to get better. See when storms hits, when difficulty comes, those things expose who you really are, how we function, what we are made of- the fear, the blame, the pointing of finger against God – your bitterness, your anger, your joylessness, those comes out. What the storms of our lives shows us is that we are still running on empty, it’s God’s way of breaking our leg yet it is His remarkable favor towards us by showing that you have been trying to control and run your life- all the bitterness, the anger, the joylessness that comes out in the storm and it tells us that we have lost something that we have held onto more tightly than God Himself. It exposes what we are made of, and what we cling to. In the boat, you are realizing that your security is in something else when the storm strikes- it could be the security of your work (vocation) or ministry or your relationships or your money that give you the security that you are looking for; because storms shakes your core, your foundation to expose what you are really made of and what you are clinging to.

When you look these disciples, even after being called into a life long relationship with Christ – they still are in need to be saved, rescued, redeemed & changed. That is the same for you and me. God has to break our legs for us to realize who or what we are relying on- those who have been saved still need to be rescued by God on daily basis. And that means, sometimes, the storms of life that God leads us into is actually saving us when it feels like He’s killing us. But that is exactly the place where He shows us His unlimited power- of what He can do in and through us.

 

 

Which brings us to the second point,

II. And that is the place where He shows us His unlimited power and His faithful care [vv. 37-40]

Here are these disciples – completely scared out of their mind because of this great storm- a hurricane-type storm, as even the waves were breaking into the boat- and the water was filling the boat. The waves broke over the boat- these waves hit the boat with such force so that it was nearly swamped. You are actually sinking. It was a life-threatening situation for them. They feared for their lives. Now what we read next is something very remarkable. Listen! What was Jesus doing in v.38?  He was in the stern of the boat, the rear of the boat, sleeping!! And these fishermen, who knew the sea, they worked with sea before, they were terrified and immediately woke up Jesus and began to rebuke Him, began to blame Him- “don’t you care that this storm will bring death to us”, “do something;” And what Jesus does next- is that he woke up and HE rebuked the wind and commanded the sea “Silence”, “Be Quiet”. And what we find is that the creation itself listened to the CREATOR. You have the subjects listening to the King of the universe. [v. 38]-The wind ceased and there was a great calm. Listen to William Lane here – “The force of the sea was muzzled as Jesus subdued it with his sovereign word of authority.” This is the Ruler of all nature, HE SPOKE the word and it happened. In the OT – God alone had the power to still storms (Psalm 107:29) and Mark is informing us in and through this story – what Jesus did only GOD can do. He SPOKE- the wind and the sea recognized that voice. The voice of their Creator spoke and there was an enormous peace/stillness. Jesus is showing His unlimited, unrestrained, unmanageable power – you just cannot manage or domesticate Jesus to the way that you want Him to be. He is much bigger but to these disciples they faced a great storm in their heart: See, the external, physical storm was a vehicle, an instrument to show what is really in the core of their hearts: The real storm in their hearts as well as ours is to think that God doesn’t have the power to save you, to help you. God is powerless, very limited, very restricted. That’s the real storm in their heart- God is powerless, why are you so absent, why are you so indifferent here, it seems like you don’t care…the real storm is that we think that God doesn’t have the power to save me or help me.

Isn’t this the heart of every human – we fail in seeing God’s unlimited power for our lives. You can walk with Christ all your life, you can understand the gospel, you could be even called out of darkness and sin into the kingdom of His Son – yet, and even still, no matter what your disposition may be – whether you know God or not – we are fully capable in limiting God’s power for our lives.  When everything seemingly is going wrong, when you are sinking, facing death, when God seems to be absent or asleep, you doubt what He can do for you. Ever been there before! But notice, the place where Jesus desires us to see His unlimited power for us. [v.38] But he was in the stern, he was in the rear of the boat… He is in the stern of our lives- he is with us. I mean, look after He silences the natural elements, he turns to His boys and tells them in v. 40 – why are you so afraid? The word is poorly translated- it’s not the word that associates with “fear” these disciples did not have a phobia, where there is a type of anxiety that you are experiencing fear (claustrophobia)– no, that’s not the word that Mark uses in which Jesus is describing the human heart – though they probably did have phobia but Jesus is asking something else, He’s saiying: “why are you running away from me”; why are you running to the hills; “why are you so timid in what I can do for you”; “why are you lacking confidence in me”; “why are you seeing the bigness of the storm and seeing how small I am”; This is how Jesus accurately depicts the human heart – we run away, we think that God is indifferent, we see the storm and the vision of Christ from the eyes of our hearts gets blurred.  Instinctively, I ask all the time, when I’m going through difficulty/storm – what did I do wrong. I become so self-absorbed. Because I think that I have this storm in my life (whatever that is) because I did something wrong and I need to fix it. We try to build a world that we can control. (Think how you parent) Why? Because we find safety in our ability to control our circumstances/other people; the storm reminds us that we are not in control. That we are running away from Him, that is showing how much I am lacking my confidence in my Savior. And yet, we find Jesus is in the stern of the boat while the storm of their heart rages on. See, when we see that Jesus is with us– that is the place where we see His unlimited power on display.

We have a God who is big, He is above space and time, transcendent – sovereign, “He holds the sea with the palm of His hand”, the God who lives in an unapproachable light, the God who does not have a beginning, existed before time ever came to be yet knowing all of our thoughts, familiar in all of our ways –we have a God who is in the stern of our lives. “He is before all things and in Him all things hold together[5].” He is with us- He’s immanent. He’s near.

See the beauty of Christianity as opposed to other religions – when something wrong happens, or when we have done something wrong- God is seen as a being FAR away from us- and what we need to do is to get things right before God, clean up our lives a bit so that He can come to us but the beauty of Christianity, despite how much we run away from Him or timid or lack confidence in Him-we have God who is in the stern of our deepest and most fiercest storm of our lives- He is with us. See the gospel is the “power of God” unto life everlasting. Why? Because at the cross, we have a God who touched us with His life despite who we are, despite our sin, only He can touch the stern of our deepest difficulties and bring great calm-ness; no matter what kind of storms come our way, we can go through with poise.

See this miracle does not promise to us that He will quickly still our storms but this miracle does promise of His assurance that He is with us when we are in the midst of a storm. Loved ones, Never think that you are alone, never think that no one knows me, not even God knows what is happening to you, or that nobody knows how you are feeling. The Lord Jesus knows exactly how you feel, what is happening around us, knows every wave that falls on us, knows the rate of our hearts, our innermost thoughts, our emotions– that tiny boat bearing Christ in the stern is a picture that He is with us till the very end, even through the fiercest storm/difficulties and death- He is with us.

But not only that— He also appeals to us—His faithful care. Look at v. 40: After he said, why are you so afraid- why are you running away from me- he says, have you still no faith? – The faith there is a noun– that means Jesus is saying – where is your faith? It’s not saying the faith that you need to exercise, it’s not expressing action(verb)like to write, to climb, to think, to have faith…but it is a word for a person…it’s a naming word, it’s noun. It’s saying where is your faith rather than saying you still don’t have faith? It’s not talking about the strength, or the quality, or the effectiveness or the amount of faith that you have but it is talking about the object in which you place it. Faith depends upon its object. Listen to Tim Keller[6] say this, which I really agree: Jesus is asking this question because He is prompting them to see that the critical factor in their faith is not it’s strength but it’s object. See if you look through Scripture, even taking Abraham as an example – who was a champion of faith or model of faith – if you know his story, you know his faith is not every impressive. He’s an utter failure! Even after God calls him, they had to travel to Egypt but lies to Sarah and throws her under the bus twice to protect himself (Gen 12 & 20), even waiting for 11 years for a promised child- Abraham slept with his servant to get a child, he didn’t tell Sarah – honey, I’m not going to sleep with our servant girl, we have to trust God, we need to believe His promise to us. He agreed with his wife that it was a good idea to sleep with her. His faith was so weak; and he was presented in the OT as average, ignorant, confused, passive and cowardly man yet in the NT, he is presented as a champion, as a model of faith (Romans 4). And similarly, these disciples, who ran away from Him, lacked so much confidence in Him, rebuked him, blamed and doubted Him. If you really do care, you wouldn’t let us go through this, if you really love us, care for us, we will not go through this great storm. And Jesus responded– “don’t run away from me. The only thing that you need to look at is ME because it is not about the size of your faith; it’s about the size of your GOD.” The more you look at Christ– the more your faith in His love and care will grow. His faithful care is the very reason why he was in the boat, indeed the whole world; He will die on the cross because He cares for us too much. Loved ones, with Jesus in the boat – we will never, ever sink. Only that kind of perfect love can cast out fear[7] as we face the fiercest storm of our sin and darkness.

 

Which leads us to the third point – that:

III. We are led to the safest place in the world; being known by Christ [v. 41]

After v. 40- of everything that had happened so far – the great storm, the great calm and all – v. 41- And they, who, the disciples, were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him.” Notice that these disciples were filled with fear-, which means phobia- you, are terrorized, completely alarmed, it’s an all-together life-shaping alarm because of Jesus’ powerful act on display, it’s incomprehensible- it’s all together unmanageable. I mean, you would think that after Jesus stilled the storm, they would “high-five” each other; pat each other on the back, brimming with happiness & celebration. But they went from being scared stiff to petrified. Why?

I believe R.C. Sproul[8] really helped me to see the why: listen to what he says here: What is important about this story is that the disciples fear increased after the threat of the storm was removed. The storm made them afraid but what Jesus did to still the roaring sea made them more afraid. They met something more freighting in Christ than they had never met in nature. They were in the presence of the holy. It’s one thing to fall victim to the flood or some sort of illness but it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

The only thing that is more threatening than the great storm itself is the powerful and holy God Himself. This miracle is about the greatness and the glory of Jesus Christ and these disciples got a glimpse of His majesty, His power and of His glory as He unveils Himself. They are discovering who He really is because this storm points to another storm- it points to a storm that can utterly destroy us, it can drown us to death. You know what that storm is: The storm of God’s wrath towards sin and death and “Jesus[9] was thrown into the only storm that can sink you and me. The storm of what we owe of all the wrongs that we have ever done. That storm will not be stilled- not until Christ is swept away.”  Jesus was swept away so that the storm of God’s anger can be stilled. Jesus gets the great storm. And we get the great peace forever. BUT there is a price for God’s peace- the price is having the Son of God plunging into the storm of God’s wrath for our security, for our safety of all time – the greater storm has been stilled/subdued for us. What makes you think that He will not be with you in the storms of your life that you are facing, even right now? But for us to experience safeness or to have unspeakable comfort in affliction, for us to delight in repentance and transformation – it’s not only about being gripped by the peace that He gives us- though that is important because He removed the barrier, He made peace, canceled all the record of wrongs.[10]

But for us to experience true security – we need to know that we belong to someone. God created us for intimacy – to be known and loved fully by somebody. Sometimes we can be fully known but not really loved. But sometimes, we are loved but not known. But when we are fully known and fully loved – that’s a life-changing experience.

As a parent- I realize more and more how much I know my kids – recently Abu did something very bad. We were at the FedEx; I was making copies of things and I told her to chill and wait for me. Well, after the copies, we got home & we were chilling but my other daughter brought something to us that was foreign to our household– we know the things in our house, so it had to come from outside somewhere…and Seona, brought this unfamiliar M & M candy to us – and both my wife and I – where did we get this candy from. And we knew Seona couldn’t have access to the candy so we asked Abby – and what she told us next – reminded me of my own sin. She said that while I was making copies at Fedex, she saw these M&M candy and so, when she saw it, she wanted it, and so she took it. She stole it. Both my wife and I looked at each other- I was even reminded of the things that I have stolen- and both of us looked at her- went towards her and embraced her; and began to share with her about God, sin, consequences, love, grace and our own mistakes as well. And after that, we decided that it would best for her and for us to go to that Fedex, the same day and return it to them and confessing that wrong. IT was very nerve wrecking for Abu – too scared to let others see who she really was, to know the worst things about her – she went and told the manager, who was moved to tears herself by her admitting to it, that she took it without paying and apologized – and later on, she came to us both and said – mama, dada, do you still love me. Even in that 5-year-old mind – she discovered that it was her lowest moment of her life- and someone knows about it, her parents knows her lowest moment yet she needed to be comforted by our love for her, not only she needed peace but a sense of belonging to someone.

And in the same way, there is this unspeakable comfort, in knowing that God is constantly taking knowledge of me (you), of who I am, and watching over me for my good. He knows the worst things about me. That he sees more corruption in me than I see in myself. That for some unfathomable reason, he wants me to be his friend and desires to be my friend, and has given His Son to die for me to realize that I am fully known and fully loved[11]. As Rich Mullins would say, “Sometimes you try to impress God with all the right words, right things we do, I just don’t think it is an easy thing to impress God Almighty, but here is the thing that we often forget- we don’t have to impress Him, He’s already knocked out about you, he already loves you more than you can imagine.”

This is the safest /challenging/comforting place in the whole world in the midst of the storm– to be fully known and fully loved- to know that you belong to Christ, to be known by Christ, who loves you, who gave himself for you. And that is the only place we can be that will bring us true and life long change, hope, security and renewal.

Let’s pray:

 

[1] http://www.rollingstone.com/culture/news/bill-gates-the-rolling-stone-interview-20140313?page=5

[2] R.T. France, NIGTC- Gospel of Mark

[3] Matthew 10:39; 16:25; Luke 17:33;

[4] http://www.gracegems.org/Ryle/mark04.htm

[5] Col 1:17

[6] Tim Keller, Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God

[7] 1 John 4:18

[8] RC Sproul- Mark

[9] Tim Keller – Jesus the King: Understanding the Life and Death of the Son of God

[10] Ephesians 2 & Col 2

[11] JI Packer, Knowing God

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