GOSPEL OF MARK – ROBBY GALLATY – Program 11
By: Dr. Robby Gallaty
|By: Pastor Robby Gallaty; ©2010|
|Jesus reveals himself both God and man in the story of the storm at sea.|
Sovereignty in the Storm
The title of the message this morning is this: “Sovereignty in the Storm.” This morning, church, we’re going to look at a familiar passage. In fact, you probably have heard a sermon about this passage before. Maybe as a Sunday School teacher or leader you’ve even taught on this passage of scripture before. It’s the story of Jesus sleeping in the boat when the storm is surrounding the disciples. You are familiar with the story. This morning from the word of God, I want to submit to you that Jesus Christ is sovereignly in control of everything in this world so that you and I will be faithfully and fearlessly motivated to serve the Lord in any situation, in the good times and in the difficult days of our lives.
If you have your Bibles, you want to see this. Turn with me to Mark 4:35. “On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’” Now, that is important. We’re going to answer that in a second.
“And leaving the crowd, they took him [they took Jesus] with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling [with water]. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’ And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Be still! [be silent, peace]’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’ And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”
What’s neat about this story is, when you study the gospels, sometimes the same story is found in other gospels. And in this case, we see the same story in Luke 8 and in Matthew 8. And so we’re going to bring in those two texts in order to help us. But I want to answer two questions this morning before we get into the meat of the sermon. The first is this: why is Jesus leaving the Jewish area of Galilee? And secondly, where’s he going? First of all in the text, it says Jesus told the disciples, “Let us go to the other side of the lake.” The reason Jesus is leaving is—you have to go back a couple of verses, even a couple of chapters—Jesus came to the Jewish people as the savior, as their messiah. And they didn’t recognize him. In fact, they called good evil. They said, “Jesus, the power you have is not from God. It’s actually from,” who? The devil, right? This is of Beelzebub. And so they rejected Jesus. The Pharisees, the scribes, the religious leaders. They didn’t want any part of Jesus. And so Jesus tells the disciples, “Let’s get into the boat, let’s travel across the water and we’re going to go to the pagan region”—next week, you don’t want to miss this—“the pagan region of the Decapolis.” Jesus goes to find one man to prove one point for all of mankind. By the way, just a plug; don’t miss next week. It’s going to be exciting. But let’s get back to this week.
On the way, on the journey to the other side, Jesus uses this moment as an object lesson. He’s going to teach the disciples something pretty amazing, and let me share with you what we’re going to learn today. We’re going to see the sovereignty of God in the text. Secondly, we’re going to see the humanity of Christ. Then we’re going to see the distress of the disciples. Fourthly, we’re going to see the authority of Christ and, finally and certainly not least, we’re going to see and disclose to us the identity of Jesus.
Let’s look at the sovereignty of God. If you’re taking notes, write down sovereignty of God. After a long day of ministry, dealing with the confrontations and the arguments with the scribes and Pharisees, Jesus is just slap worn out. I mean, he is beat. Friends, you know sometimes in the ministry you can be worn out after a busy day of work. And Jesus is worn out. And he goes into the stern of the boat and he says to the disciples, “Listen, I’m just going to take a nap here and I’m going to rest and you guys wake me up when we get on the other side.” How many people like to take naps? This is your proof text for that. But Jesus liked to take naps, right?
They get into the boat and they experience a storm. Now you may be saying, “Well, how did the storm just come upon them?” This was commonplace in that time because of the geography of the sea. See, when you’re in the Sea of Galilee and you look around like Kandi and I did when we went there, you’ll notice that the whole area is surrounded by mountains, this enormous mountain range. And because of the mountain range, the sea could turn in an instant to a storm because of the intense changes in temperature. And so it was not uncommon to see winds and waves to come up on the disciples. They were used to that.
But as we’ll notice, this day is different. In fact, in Matthew 8 it said the storm came on them in an instant. In Mark it said it rose around them. In Luke it says this windstorm came upon them all of a sudden without warning. I love the word Matthew uses. In Matthew 8:24 he uses the Greek word—get this—“seismos,” seismic, where we get the English word “earthquake.” This storm was a Hurricane Katrina-type storm. This was not a normal storm.
Now I want you to see the point here. Here’s the point. The Christian life sometimes is filled with storms, right? I mean, the Christian life is filled sometimes with difficulties, with trials, with tribulations, with times of persecution and the reason for that is this: it’s through that time of difficulty that God shapes in to who he wants us to be. Don’t miss this. If you don’t go through trials and tribulations in the Christian life, you will never be all that God wants you to be. If someone told you after you give your life to Christ that it would be a bed of roses, that the Christian life would be easy, then you’ve been lied to. In fact, sometimes it’s just the opposite. The Christian life can be difficult. Well, Robby, why is it so difficult? This is why. It’s through trials and tribulations that God uses that divine instrument to help us to be humble, to get rid of pride in our life, to get rid of arrogance in our life, to get rid of self-sufficiency in our life. And we see in the story this morning, that’s exactly what happened.
Now I know in a group this size there could be some that are saying, “Pastor, right now I’m in the middle of a storm.” You have to trust in the Christian life that no matter what happens as a believer, God is working everything out for the good. Now, that doesn’t mean your greater good. Paul says God works everything out for the good. The sad reality is this: there may be some things in your life through trial and tribulation that you may never understand the reason for in this life. But be encouraged; one day you will. One day you and I will understand with full revelation why God allowed things to happen, why God purposed things to happen in our life. Sovereignly, God is in control of the storm. And look what one author said, one poet. “I asked the Lord that I might grow in faith, in love and every grace. My more of his salvation know and seek more earnestly his face. It was he who taught me thus to pray and he I trust answered my prayer. But it has been in such a way that has utterly drove me to despair.”
You know, sometimes we are in despair in the Christian life but we know that whatever happens, God’s in control. In 1870, the man Ira Sankey was put on the map. I don’t know if you’ve ever heard of Ira Sankey. He’s the great soloist, he’s the great singer, he was the great evangelist that traveled the world with D.L. Moody. You’ve heard of D.L. Moody. D.L. Moody heard him speak at a Sunday School convention and said, “This man is gifted. I need you to travel with me.” And so he asked him, “Do you want to travel the world and sing and I’ll preach?” 1872, they traveled the world. And by 1875 when they came back to the States, they were international figures. Everyone knew D.L. Moody and Ira Sankey.
Ira Sankey was hanging out with his family for Christmas. They were riding on a steamboat up the Delaware River for Christmas and someone spotted him on the deck. “Are you Ira Sankey?” and he said in a humble way, “Yes. Yes, I am.” “Do you mind singing for us for Christmas? I mean, what better way to sing!” And he said, “Well, I’m not here to sing.” “Well, please, Mr. Sankey. Can you sing for us?” And he agreed. And he was getting up to sing and he was about to sing a Christmas song. And at the last minute, the Lord changed his heart, his mind, to sing one of his old favorite songs that he’s always sung. In fact, he’d sung it as a child, he said. It was William Bradbury’s Savior, Like a Shepherd Lead Us. As he began to sing, the people listened and they were spellbound. No one said a word.
At the end of the song, they were impressed with this man’s gift that God had given them and someone came out of the shadows and said, “Mr. Sankey, I have to ask you. Were you in the Union Army in 1860?” Mr. Sankey, puzzled, said, “Yes, I was.” He said, “Let me ask you a question. Can you remember if you were doing picket duty in 1862 under the starlight of the moon?” He said, “Actually, yes, I was.” The man said, “I wasn’t part of the Union Army. I was part of the Confederate Army and I have to tell you this.” He said, “When I saw you standing at your post during the war, I raised my musket and took aim at you. I was standing in the shadow completely concealed while the full light of the moon was falling upon you, Mr. Sankey. At that instant, just as a moment ago, you raised your eyes to heaven and you began to sing. And I thought, ‘Let him sing this song to the end. I can shoot him afterwards.’ But the song you sang was the song you just sang now. I heard the words perfectly. “We are thine, Do thou befriend us. God, be the guardian of our way.”
He said, “As you sang, you began to stir up words of memories in my life. I began to think of my mom, who is a God-fearing woman who brought me to church and taught me about God. You brought me back to that time in my life. And when you had finished your song, it was impossible for me to take aim again at you. I thought, ‘The Lord, who is able to save this man from certain death must surely be a great and mighty God,’ and my arm on its own accord dropped limp to my side.”
You may be thinking, “Ira Sankey. Wow he was in a situation, unbeknownst to him, where he almost died that day. He would have never gone on to be the great evangelist to lead hundreds of thousands to the Lord.” You may be saying, “What a coincidence, Pastor, that is.” By no means. Friends, God, through his sovereign plan, arranged for Ira Sankey on that day, on that night to sing that song to challenge the heart of a man who was watching in order to spare his life. Here’s the point. There is nothing that can happen to you and I that God will not allow to happen to us. Your days are numbered. You will never die before your desired time. You will never perish before the desired day. There’s not a sparrow that falls from the sky without God allowing it. God is concerned about us, dear brothers and sisters, and that is encouraging, to know that God is in control of everything. But that’s not the point of this message. That’s a great point but that’s not the point.
I want you to see, secondly, the humanity of Christ. No, many people overlook the humanity of Christ. Many people get to heart of the next point but they miss the humanity of Christ. Notice what Jesus is doing. What’s even more remarkable than this storm that’s raging at the sea is the fact that their fearless leader is sleeping! I mean, “Jesus, what are you doing? When we need you most, you’re sleeping in the middle of the boat!” The winds are overwhelming. The waves are capsizing the boat and Jesus is sound asleep like a child in the middle of the boat. And what this shows us is something amazing, church. It brings us into the incarnation of Christ. Robby, what do you mean by the incarnation of Christ? The incarnation is an incredible doctrine about God becoming man. How God, who created the universe, wrapped himself in human flesh and came to earth on a rescue mission. How the creator becomes the created. How the ruler becomes the servant. That’s the doctrine of the incarnation.
Now, you’ll probably say, “Pastor, that’s kind of puzzling. I mean the doctrine of incarnation. How can God be all man; how can Jesus be all God at the same time?” Is anybody puzzled by that? If you aren’t, you’re not thinking enough. It’s pretty puzzling. I mean think about it. But it has to be so. Jesus has to be all man and all God and I’ll prove it to you for a number of ways.
First of all, Jesus has to be all man. John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word. The Word was with God. The Word was God and the Word,” verse 14, what? “became flesh.” So he dwelt among us. We know that. He had to become human because it says he was our great representation of obedience. He was an example for us to follow. In this text, we see that Jesus got sleepy. It’s okay to take a nap now and then. Jesus got sleepy in his humanity.
Secondly, we know from the Bible that Jesus got hungry. Do you remember in the wilderness when he was being tempted? It says the devil came to him after a 40-day fast and it says Jesus was what? Hungry. He was thirsty. Remember when he was hanging on the cross at the end of his life, he said by his own words, “I thirst.” He was thirsty.
But that’s not only Jesus in the body. Jesus experienced emotions. In the Garden of Gethsemane, he even said, he said, “My own soul is sorrowful even to the point of death.” He experienced emotion. When he walked and saw his good friend, Lazarus, dead in the tomb it says Jesus Christ—get this—actually cried. Can you imagine that? The creator of the universe actually cried.
He experienced pain when they beat him in the high priest’s courts in front of the corrupt leaders and the corrupt politicians. They beat him. He experienced pain as they put the crown of thorns and the drove the spear in his side. But more importantly, I believe he experienced isolation as a man on the cross when all his followers deserted him. Jesus Christ is not only our example. Not only is he our representative. Jesus is the mediator between God and man. He understands us so he mediates between God and man.
But that’s not the reason. The main reason that Jesus Christ has to be a man—don’t miss this—is he is the substitutionary sacrifice for all the sins and to pay the penalty for all the sins of humanity. A man has to go to the cross and pay the price to be the substitutionary sacrifice for men and women. That’s what Jesus did.
But he wasn’t just all man, he was all God. And in his divinity He was sinless. Now we know no human being could be sinless. That’s what Paul says. He was tempted like us in every way yet what? Without sin. We see that. Jesus had to be the salvation of the world and we know God is the only one who can give salvation so he had to be all God. In order to be the mediator between God and man he had to be all God. But that’s not the most important reason. The reason he had to be all God is he, as an infinite being, paid the penalty against an infinite God. And when you and I sin against an infinite God, we need someone to pay the penalty for that and we need someone to bear the brunt of the sins of the world. If God were to put the sins of the world on a mere man who wasn’t all God, it would have crushed him into oblivion. But because Jesus was all God, he bore the sins of all the world so that you and I might be saved.
Now, you may be saying, “Well, I understand that.” See, to the disciples, Jesus did not have to convince them he was a man. They knew he was a man. In fact, they knew he was a man so well, they didn’t understand that he was God. But the problem with us is this: you and I look at Jesus as being what? All God. And we have a difficult time understanding Jesus and his humanity. And so the answer is this: Yes. He’s all God and, at the same time, he’s all man.
But notice the third thing. Because if his humanity, it led to the distress of the disciples. I believe that’s why they got so upset. See, they didn’t realize that the God of the universe who started this storm and can end this storm was sleeping in their boat. The God who enacted the storm and could condemn or get rid of the storm was in the boat sleeping, and they missed that and they got distressed. They started to flip out. “Jesus, what are you doing?” Look at what it says in Mark. “Save us! We’re perishing!” And Matthew. I love Matthew. Go to Matthew 8:25. Let me show it to you. Matthew gives us an interesting insight here. Watch this. “And they went and woke him [in the midst of this storm], saying, ‘Save us, Lord [secondly], we are perishing.’”
In the same breath, they say “save us, we’re perishing.” Now why is this odd? I mean, you have to understand if you were one of the disciples in that time. You live with Jesus. You watched him with your own eyes and experienced the miracles. I mean, you saw him take the hand of Peter’s mother-in-law and she was healed. You saw him see the paralytic walk in with his four friends and Jesus says, “Rise! Take your bed and walk.” You saw that. You saw the man with the withered hand come in. Jesus said, “Stretch out your hand right before your eyes.” This man’s hand is healed. You saw him confront the Pharisees and the scribes. You saw him defend himself against them calling him the devil. And now you’re in the midst of the storm and you miss it! I mean how do they miss it?
Matthew tells us something pretty amazing. He says in the same breath the disciples say, “Save us. We’re perishing.” And I want to submit to you this morning that’s a spiritual contradiction. Did you catch it? Save us, Lord, is the language of faith. They’re asking the right person the right question at the right time; but in the same breath they say we’re perishing, the language of fear. Friends, fear and faith cannot co-exist in the same sentence. Fear and faith are spiritual opposites. They don’t go together. You either have fear or you have faith but you can’t have fear and faith. But that’s what they have.
It’s an interesting thing for us because I believe there are many of us today who would say, “Pastor, I’ve been there before.” Have you ever been there before where you’re in the midst of a storm, in the midst of a difficult thing in life and you’re saying, “I can’t handle it.” See, the question is not whether storms will come in your life. The question is not why the storms are coming. The question is not how the storms are coming. The question is where do you turn when storms come in your life? Who do you run to? Who do you embrace? Do you call your friend on the phone? Do you turn on Oprah to see if she’s got some interesting insight? Do you turn on Dr. Phil to see what he’s saying? Do you turn on the television or the news or run to the internet? Or do you get on your knees and say, “God, I need you to intervene. I am desperate for you right now. I need you to help me in this situation.”
Have you been in a situation when you’ve been utterly helpless, anybody? Don’t get so calloused in the world today that you become so self-sufficient that you don’t need God’s grace in your life, that you’re not dependent upon God’s Spirit, that you don’t need to trust the creator of the universe to work in your life every single moment of the day of your life. And that’s what God is teaching us. We can’t save ourselves. That’s what the disciples learned. We couldn’t save ourselves. Neither could they save themselves.
But let me show you the fourth area of the text, and that’s not the point. It’s amazing that God shows us this but Jesus goes on and says, “Listen, I want you to see the authority of who I am. Don’t remain in your stress. I want to show you the authority.” Now I want you to close your eyes for just a moment, and I want you to imagine if you’re there that day in the boat. I want you to imagine if you’re there. Let me paint the picture.
Imagine seeing the rain pouring down on you in the boat. The winds are fierce that day. The waves are crashing against the boat. Can you feel it? Can you hear it right now? It seems hopeless. It seems more helpless than you can imagine. One more wave and this boat is capsized and we’re done for. And then Jesus wakes up. Picture it. And he stands to his feet. And he says, “Peace! Be still!” And immediately there is silence. No one’s moving around. The boat has stopped rocking. And you all of a sudden start to hear—can you hear it?—the water lapping against the side of the boat again. When the creator of the universe speaks, the storm could do nothing more than remain perfectly calm. You can open your eyes. The winds have ceased. The waves were silenced. And as you looked out on the sea that day, it looked like glass. Jesus stood to his feet and he calmed the storm that day.
You have to ask yourself, how did the disciples miss it? I mean, you would think they would have gotten it up to this point. Go back to Mark 1. He’s been trying to show them this from the beginning of the calling of these guys. He’s trying to show them that he has authority over the world. Mark 1:13. Look at it. He has authority over the wild animals and nature. It says even the animals were with him. Look at the second part of that verse. He has authority over the angels. The angels were ministering to him. Look at verse 22. He had authority to teach for he taught them as one who had—circle it—authority. There it is again. And not as the scribes and Pharisees. Verse 34. He had authority over nature. He healed the sick. He had authority over the devil. He would not allow the demons to speak.
Do you see it? Authority, authority, authority. It goes on. Mark 2:10. Look at it. He had authority to forgive sins. Which is it easier to do? To say rise, take up your bed and walk or to forgive sins? To prove to you that I can forgive sins, I’m going to heal this man to show you that I have authority. Chapter 2 verse 28. He had authority over the Sabbath. The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath. So the Son of Man is even Lord. Circle that word. It’s authority. The Son of Man has even authority over the Sabbath.
Mark 3:15, it goes on. He calls the 12 disciples to follow him and he not only calls them, but he gives them authority to go out, to cast out demons, to prophesy in his name and to heal the sick. And then we see in this verse here, Mark 4:35, Jesus has authority over the weather. Pastor, how did the disciples miss it? I mean they’ve been with him, they’ve see it. They’ve slept with him. They’ve heard him. How do they miss it?
Friends, I want to submit to you a greater problem. How is it that people in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2010, maybe even in this church, miss it today? With the full authority of the word, with the complete New Testament and Old Testament scriptures, with the testimony of believers, with the speaking of the Holy Spirit. How do people today….do you know there are people with us this morning who have not trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior of their life? Do you know that? You could be sitting next to someone who doesn’t believe that Jesus was really a man who lived on this earth, who died on the cross, who was raised from the dead, who ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father and people who still don’t believe that, which is baffling to me.
But I don’t want you to see the authority of Jesus only because Jesus’ authority should lead us to his identity. That’s the main point of this passage. The passage is not that Jesus calms every storm in your life, because he doesn’t. The passage is not when you lose faith bad things happen, because we lose faith all the time. The point of the passage is Jesus is trying to show them who he really is. I mean, these guys are terrified and, basically, they say, “Who in the world is this man? Even the winds and the waves obey him. Who is this?” And Jesus flips the table and he says, “Why do you guys have so little faith?” See, the problem is not that they didn’t choose Jesus. The problem is that they had small faith. They should have realized that God is in the boat and when God’s in the boat, the one that created the storm can calm the storm. And they missed that. Jesus said, “Why do you guys have so little faith? Why do you miss it?”
Look what else he says. He says, “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you understand who I am? Don’t you believe my power? Haven’t you seen the miracles? Haven’t you seen the compassion for the poor and the less fortunate? Don’t understand what I’ve done? Don’t you guys realize who I am?” And what’s neat about the Bible is this. If you and I had a computer program that was able to take the New Testament and lay it on top of the Old Testament in order to show us the connections, it would blow our minds; the amount of connections of the New Testament pointing back to the Old Testament.
I want to submit to you this morning that this text is no accident; that through God’s sovereign plan, He planned this incident in order to disclose the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ from Psalm 107. Turn here. This is exciting. I want you to see this. Psalm 107 is the answer to the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ and I think that’s why Jesus is so upset with them because they missed it. Look at Psalm 107:23. Tell me if this sounds familiar.
“Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep [in the water]. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind….” Now here’s the question. Who raised the storm? God. God sends the storm. Watch this, “…[he raised] the stormy winds, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; hey reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’end.” Sound familiar to the disciples? “Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank [who?] the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!”
Friends, this is the point. When the disciples are asking the question, “Who is this man that even the winds and the ways obey,” they’re not asking a question. They’re giving an answer. They’re saying the only person that can calm the storms of the sea and the waves is one person and his name is who? God. And Jesus is showing the disciples, saying without saying anything, “I Am God.” Let me ask you, do you believe that? Because if you do, you’ll turn to Christ when bad things happen, right? You’ll recognize the identity of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now I believe many of you this morning could be in the midst of a storm. You may say, “Pastor, I’m hanging on for dear life. Been tough lately for me. I’ve been separated in family relationships. I’ve been isolated. I feel lonely. I’ve been depressed. Maybe I’m struggling with an addiction. Maybe I’m struggling with a secret sin in my life. Maybe I’m struggling in my marriage. Maybe I’m struggling at my job.” The Bible says those who are called according to his purpose, he will work everything out for the good. And you may not know that today, but there will come a day when you see the Lord Jesus Christ face to face and everything will make sense to you. I believe that’s why Paul said, “I’m sure of this, that he who has begun a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.”
Friends, where do you turn when bad things happen? I hope you turn to the Lord. This morning I think some need to turn to the Lord.