Mark 4:35-41 (Fourth Sunday after Pentecost/Proper 7—Series B)
“The God Who’s In Control”
Lutheran Church of Our Redeemer, Enfield CT
June 21, 2015
In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Our text this morning is the Gospel lesson recorded in Mark 4:
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 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?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 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?”
If you were expecting a sermon about how Jesus “calms the storms of life,” you’ve come to the wrong text. That’s not what the Gospel lesson from Mark 4 is about. It’s about Jesus calming a real storm on the real Sea of Galilee and the cowardly, faithless reaction of Jesus’ disciples. It’s about who Jesus is and who we should trust Him to be.
Cowardly and faithless. That’s really what Jesus says to the disciples after the event. “Why are you cowardly? Do you not yet have faith?” It’s not a matter of the disciples simply being afraid in the midst of the storm. They acted cowardly. They acted as if they did not yet have faith when they did, at least a mustard seed-sized faith. The disciples did eventually come to Jesus, knowing that He was special and could help. But they certainly didn’t ask the Lord with faith. They woke Jesus up and said to Him, “Teacher, is it not a care to you that we are perishing?” “Hey, Jesus, wake up! It’s not that you don’t care about the trouble we are in right now, is it? It sure looks like you don’t care. You’re sleeping; you’re not worried about a thing while we’ve got waves coming over the side of the boat, and WE ARE GOING TO DIE!”
Cowardly and faithless. The disciples do wonder about their welfare, even though the Lord of Creation is present with them. Jesus, true Man, is also true God, who made heaven and earth. He is the very God who, as we heard in Job 38 this morning, “shut in the sea with doors . . . and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed.’” (38:8, 10-11) So the Lord of Creation was not concerned about the storm as He slept in the back of the boat. He who in Mark 2 is able to forgive sins, and who throughout the opening chapters of this Gospel has been casting out demons and healing the sick is God, the Lord of Creation who quiets the elements with a, “Shut up! Muzzle it!” And the elements of creation obey immediately. It is then that Jesus says those words, “Why are you cowardly? Do you not yet have faith?”
The disciples do appear to have faith. They follow Jesus, listen to Him, and come to Him for help. And yet, they acted cowardly and failed to trust in Him. They do not seem to have a faith that rests confidently in Jesus, such faith which St. Paul illustrates when he writes to the Philippian Christians that he is strong with respect to all things in Jesus who strengthens him. (Phil. 4:13) In the midst of the storm on the Sea of Galilee, the disciples did not trust confidently in Jesus during their situation.
Jesus’ first disciples were not His only disciples with this difficulty. Don’t you and I, Jesus’ 21st century disciples, not also wonder about our welfare, even though Jesus has promised to be with us through the Holy Spirit “even to the end of the age”? Don’t you and I act cowardly and faithless at times, not confidently trusting the Lord of Creation who is in control?
The cashier hands you back an extra $20 in change. “Hey look, the cashier gave me an extra 20 by mistake!” Your friend responds, “Aren’t you going to take it back inside?” “No, it’s not my fault he gave me too much change. It’s their problem.” Cowardly and faithless. We act dishonestly and strive to better ourselves at the expense of others. We fail to always trust that God our Father will give us all things that are needful for this body and life.
As Lutheran Christians, we acknowledge publically in this place that the Bible is indeed God’s inspired Word, without error. It speaks God’s truth to us. But how easy it is for us to compromise what we believe when we Christians seek to be politically or socially correct! When we fall in step with contemporary society and let other people set the standards for life and morality, we act cowardly and faithless. We fail to always stand upon the Word of truth and so we accept standards other than what God says so that we please people as we go along with the crowd, or even make ourselves feel good, because we don’t like the hammer of God’s Law breaking us to pieces as we experience guilt over our sinful misuse of His holy Word.
Cowardly and faithless. That’s what we are when you and I fail to always speak up for Christ and proclaim the truth of His Word regardless of what society or other people would have us do and say. How many missed opportunities have you had to stand up for your Lord and for the Christian faith in your school, or workplace, or out and about in the world? How many times have you shied away from speaking the truth of Christ in love? How often have we, the Church, acted like an ostrich with its head in the sand when we should have been announcing, “Thus says the Lord, who loves the world so much that He sent His only Son, so that the world might not perish because of its sin, but be saved through the forgiveness of sins won for the world by Jesus Christ, so that the world might leave behind a life of unbelief and wickedness contrary to God’s Word.”
How long, O Lord, how long will we, your disciples, live cowardly and faithless lives in the world? How long will you allow us to speak the things of the Word on Sunday, but live and speak against them during the week? How long, O Lord, will you let your people act cowardly in the face of gay marriage, abortion, assisted suicide, racism, and the myriad of other issues that stare Your Church in face, about which your Word is crystal clear?
Sisters and brothers in Christ, the Lord is in the “boat” with us. He is present with us through the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us as His temple. (1 Cor. 3:16) Christ comes to be with us in the very Gospel Word of the Scriptures, offering, delivering, and sealing for us forgiveness and life, strengthening our Baptismal faith. Jesus, the very Lord of Creation, who took on human flesh in order to live among us and to save us from sin by dying on a cross and rising again, comes to you personally with His own body and blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of sins and the strengthening of your most holy faith. He is with us just as He said! He gives us the very power of God in the Gospel that overcomes sin and makes us into new creations, over which He is Lord!
We do not need to wonder about our welfare, for Christ is with us. Christ is in you, the hope of glory! (Col. 1:27) You are able, in the power of the Spirit, to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness” in the assurance that “all these things will be added to you.” (Matt. 6:33 ESV) And those things are: clothing and shoes, food and drink, house and home, spouse and children, land, animals, and all that you have and need to support this body and life. Your God and Lord defends you against all danger and guards and protects you from all evil. (First Article: Small Catechism)
The Lord of Creation has also already taken care of your greatest need. Your sins are forgiven. Jesus Christ, true God and true Man, has redeemed you. He has shed His holy blood for you once, for all, on the tree of the cross, so that you “may be His own and live under Him in His kingdom and serve Him in everlasting righteousness, innocence and blessedness, just as He is risen from the dead, lives and reigns to all eternity.” (Second Article: Small Catechism)
Because you cannot believe in Jesus Christ by your own reason or strength, the Lord has poured out upon you His Holy Spirit who has called you by the Gospel, enlightened you with His gifts in Word and Sacrament, has made you holy, and keeps you in the true faith as found in the Holy Scriptures. Christ has called you to be members of His Holy Church. He daily and richly forgives your sins and empowers you with the Spirit who dwells in you to stand up and speak the truth of the Word even in the face of opposition from society and the world. (Third Article: Small Catechism)
There is no need for us as Lutheran Christians to be cowardly. There is no reason for us to act faithless. Christ the Lord is with us. The God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46) He is the God who made heaven and earth, who commands winds and waves. He is the God who loves you beyond measure, who has forgiven you all your sins through His cross, so that you might stand firm in the day of trouble. He says to us through the psalmist, “call upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.” (Psalm 50:15 ESV) God empowers you to always make the good confession of faith as you speak what God’s Word speaks, as you live as God’s Word empowers you to live, and as you trust ever more faithfully in the God who is in control, the God who suffered and died for you, Jesus Christ. So Paul encouraged Timothy, “But as for you, O man of God, . . . Pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, steadfastness, gentleness. Fight the good fight of the faith. Take hold of the eternal life to which you were called and about which you made the good confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you in the presence of God, who gives life to all things, and of Christ Jesus, who in his testimony before Pontius Pilate made the good confession, to keep the commandment unstained and free from reproach until the appearing of our Lord Jesus Christ, which he will display at the proper time—he who is the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords.” (1Tim. 6:11-16 ESV)
Jesus Christ is that King and that Lord. He is Lord of Creation. He is Lord of the Church. He is in control of His kingdom. The Lord Christ reigns and rules for your welfare, but especially for your salvation, which He Himself has won for you with His death and resurrection. Do not be cowardly or faithless in your lives. By the power and grace of the Holy Spirit, trust more faithfully that Jesus is Lord. Trust that the power and grace of the Holy Spirit is at work in you and through you so that you may be bold in your witness, faithful in your use of the Word of God, and firm in your resolution to stand on that Word of Truth as your confession of faith and your only guide and rule for life. God grant it for Jesus’ sake. Amen.