June 21, 2009
Proper 7 (B)
Mark 4:35-41

At the close of a long day spent teaching from a boat at seaside, Jesus sent away the multitudes and bade His disciples shove off for the distant shore. A weary Jesus was soon fast asleep on the steersman’s cushion in the rear of the little boat. Soon one of those great and sudden wind storms known to roil the waters of Galilee had the boat and the disciples in crisis mode. Waves were dashing in, threatening to swamp the frail and heavily loaded vessel. Jesus slept on until the disciples shook Him awake with “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38).
I don’t know what they expected of Him at this moment. Maybe like the mariners in the ship with Jonah, He could at least get up and pray! I’m confident they did not expect what they got. “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’”
Both wind and waves hushed to an eerie calm. As they rowed the rest of the way home, they asked each other “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41).
Let the text answer that question. First, we may say with confidence:

I. He is a Man.
While the word translated man by the KJV does not appear in the original text, it is a good and honest question. Literally, “Who then is this one?” It is a question that does not doubt that Jesus is human. We do a real injustice to the incarnation if we make Jesus less than a man. He sleeps because He is tired as anyone would be at the end of the long day of ministry to the multitudes. Do not insult the sacred text by supposing Jesus only pretended to sleep. But I hasten to add that:

II. He is more than mere man.
Out of the hot desert sands to the east of the lake, violent winds were prone to rush down the ravines and onto the cooler water, whipping it up into a violent storm. That whole world of water and wind, eight miles across, exploded into torrential downpours and erratic breakers. Soon the disciples drop their bailing gourds and goat-skin buckets and hang on for dear life. All but Jesus! He is still asleep. Because He is a weary man, He can sleep. Because He is more than mere man, He can sleep in the midst of the storm. But there is one more step to take to answer this crucial question, “Who is this?”

III. Indeed, He is God in the form of man.
He is the God-Man. God incarnate; He is undisturbed at the threatening storm. “No sea can swallow the ship where lies the master of ocean and earth and skies!”
He is not afraid of the storm as other men are. He can sleep when the wind blows.
The disciples had been filled with terror in the storm; the calm made them more afraid. Notice the two-fold question that Christ uses in His firm rebuke. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). The fear in this question is a cowardly terror and not the word in the next verse where they “feared a great fear.” Fearful and faithless are twins. The ground of their fear was their lack of faith.
Don’t you know this experience gave them something to think about? The moon’s yellow disc barely shimmered in their wake as they fell into rhythmical rowing through the calm. Do you think they might have chanted some of the psalms? Perhaps Peter started a verse from Psalm 65.
“You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, … who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations” (Psalms 65:5-7).
A middle-aged woman was among passengers caught in a terrific storm on Lake Michigan. She alone seemed unafraid. She explained. “I started out to visit my daughter across the lake. I would very much like to see her; I have not seen her in over a year. But I have another daughter in Heaven I have not seen in some years. I suppose I will visit one of them soon, and it might as well be one or the other.”

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