What’s the most powerful thing you’ve ever seen? This week the Falcon Heavy rocket blasted off from the Kennedy Space Centre in Florida, powerful enough to carry the weight of five London buses into space. Speaking personally, I’ve watched sports cars roar around Brands Hatch race track, and I’ve seen RAF fighter jets soar overhead at the Southport air show. And as a child, I almost watched the Space Shuttle blast off from the launchpad. Sadly the lift off was aborted just forty seconds before launch – very frustrating for one young boy from England!
Today in Mark’s Gospel we see a different display of great power. We see the power of God in action in and through the Lord Jesus. In the opening chapters of Mark’s Gospel we have already seen Jesus’s amazing power to teach and to heal, his power to cast our demons and to call disciples. But today we see his power over nature for the very first time.
So please keep your Bible open at Mark 4 and the calming of the storm. In my brief sermon this morning, I want us to appreciate i) the scale of this miracle, ii) the significance of this miracle, and iii) the right response to this miracle. But first, let me pray: Heavenly Father, as we come to your Word in Mark this morning, help us to see your power at work in the person of Jesus Christ. In his name we pray, Amen.
- “Completely calm” – The scale of this miracle
Even today, fishing remains one of the most dangerous jobs. Statistically, fishermen are among the people most likely to be killed at work. It must be terrifying to be out at sea and caught in a storm – to be surrounded by towering waves and gale-force winds – far from the safety shore. It must be absolutely terrifying to think that your small boat is about to be overwhelmed by the waves or capsized by a storm.
Mark’s Gospel tells us today that this is exactly what Jesus’ disciples went through one evening on the Sea of Galilee. You may remember that many of his twelve disciples were experienced fishermen, men like Simon Peter, Andrew, James and John. Yet even these hardened men were frightened by the fierce storm that suddenly threatened to overwhelm them. Apparently the geography around Galilee makes such sudden storms very common. So we should believe what Mark says in verse 37, when he tells us that “a furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped.’
I love the surprising detail that follows in verse 38. It says “Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion.” It’s a lovely little piece of incidental information that strongly suggests we are reading eyewitness testimony. Testimony we can trust as true. Astonishingly, Jesus was sleeping in the midst of a storm. All around him chaos and confusion reigned, yet he himelf was completely calm. So calm he’d settled down for a snooze! But not for long, because we’re told that his disciples woke him and said: ‘Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?’ How could Jesus be so clam when all their lives were under threat? How could Jesus be so clam in the face of those might winds and waves? Surely he should be shrinking in fear just as they were? Not a bit of it! Verse 39 tells us Jesus simply “got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm”.
No doubt many of us have known this story since our childhood. Its one of the most well-known miracles of Christ. But please don’t let your familiarity with this miracle make you miss its scale. The magnificent scale of this miracle should make us sit up and take notice. With merely a word, this man Jesus has told the assembled forces of nature to keep quiet. With a few words from his lips, Jesus has harnessed the power of a storm – just like a parent might soothe a crying child or quiet a barking dog. Jesus words to the storm brought immediate and total compliance. Immediately the wind died down and the sea become completely calm. Every molecule in the water and in the air suddenly stopped moving and become obedient to the command of Christ! The forces of nature had just met their match.
- “Who is this man?” – The significance of this miracle
Confronted with a miracle on this scale, the watching disciples are understandably amazed. “Who is this?” they ask themselves – “even the wind and waves obey him!”
This amazing miracle cries out for an explanation. How could Jesus do such a thing? What is the significance of what those disciples had just witnessed? Well, anyone familiar with the Old Testament would know that God alone can command the wind and the waves. Only the Creator of nature can totally control it. In our psalm today, Psalm 65, verse 7 says only God can still “the roaring of the seas, the roaring of the waves.”
And we see God display this power throughout Old Testament history. For example:
- In Genesis chapter 1, God creates the heavens and the earth just by his word.
- In Exodus, God has the power to part the Red Sea so the Israelites can escape Egypt.
- And in the book of Joshua, God splits the river Jordan so his people can enter the Promised Land.
So by calming the storm on the sea, Jesus was doing what only God can do. He was displaying the power of the Creator in his own person. He was showing himself to be gloriously and fully divine. You see, the significance of this miracle is that it backs up Marks’ claim back in chapter 1 verse 1. The significance of this miracle is that it provides yet more evidence that Jesus is the “Christ, the Son of God“. This miracle makes it clear that Jesus was not a lunatic or a liar – but the Lord. It shows he wasn’t mad or bad – but God. Christians (as well as non-Christians) can sometimes make Jesus too small in our mind. It is easy to think of him as just a life-coach, a wise man, a good teacher. Please don’t make that mistake. Jesus’s power and identity is far beyond that of any human politician or prophet. He is God’s Word with us – the divine Son in human flesh. That’s the real significance of this miracle on the sea.
- Fear and faith – The right response to this miracle
So how should we respond to this revelation? How should we react to this awesome display of power on Lake Galilee.
One option is fear. That certainly seems to have been the initial reaction of Jesus’ disciples. Verse 41 tells us they were quite simply terrified! A few seconds earlier they were terrified by the storm, now they were fearful of Jesus. Compared to him, they must have felt very, very small. Now in one sense fear was the right reaction to Jesus. The Bible repeatedly teaches that the “fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom“. There is such a thing as a healthy fear of God – a healthy awe at our Almighty Creator. After all, God is powerful and we are weak compared to him. More importantly, God is perfectly good and holy, and we humans are far from it. Humility, reverence and repentance before God is always right and wise.
But we should not be paralysed with fear either. If we are Christians we should not have an unhealthy kind of fear of the Lord. Because if we are Christian believers we know that God loves us. We believe that God sent his Son into the world to save us, not destroy us. We have experienced Jesus’s power to forgive us, not to condemn us.
So fear is one reaction to Christ. But the best response is always faith. Because that’s what Jesus himself says he’s looking for in verse 40 today. He says to his disciples: ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ To have faith is trust something or someone. To have faith in a chair is to trust it with your weight. To have faith in Jesus is to trust him with your life. Having witnessed Jesus’ power and goodness, the right response to the evidence is to trust him as your Lord and Saviour. That was the lesson the disciples had to learn, and it’s the lesson for us to learn too.
- You see, confronted with a world of diverse opinions and ethical dilemmas, the right course is to trust Christ and let his words lead us through life.
- Confronted by our own sin and selfishness, the right response is to trust Jesus as our sole and sufficient Saviour.
- And confronted by death and disease, the right reaction is to trust Christ alone for eternal life beyond the grave.
So as I finish, please don’t just be amazed by Jesus’ miracle on Lake Galilee, or simply dismiss it as a story. Let it move you to healthy fear and faith in the Lord. Let’s pray: Lord Jesus, we praise you for your power and goodness – power and goodness that you displayed on Lake Galilee that day. May your Spirit be at work in all our hearts today. Help us to come to you as our Lord and Saviour, with both healthy fear and faith in our hearts. In your name we pray, Amen.