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Who Is This?

June 20, 2021
By Rev, David French

Today’s Gospel reading is not just a nice story about Jesus the Miracle Worker saving His followers from a watery grave. It’s also God teaching us about the nature of Jesus as the Christ and the nature of sinners. Today’s examples are the ones with Him in the boat.

It’s been a long day of teaching for Jesus, and as is often the case after a busy time of ministry, Jesus decided it was time to get away with His disciples for some much-needed rest and relaxation. In this case, He elected to take a cruise to the other side of the Sea of Galilee.

The Sea of Galilee is about eight miles across from east to west at its widest point. Under normal circumstances the crossing would only take a few hours, but on this crossing, a storm comes up. Even though several of the disciples were experienced fishermen, we’re told that they were frightened. Now to those who make a living from the sea, that means something. This wasn’t just a passing storm. There was more to it than that.

And yet we find Jesus asleep in the front of the boat. He apparently fell into a sleep so deep that even the storm didn’t wake Him. Now other than His actual death, there is no better demonstration of the humanity of Jesus than the sleep of exhaustion. Every human being on the planet knows what it is to grow tired and fall asleep. Yes, like the rest of us, even the great miracle worker can become exhausted after a long day with the crowds and just need to sleep like every other human being ever born.

But then the disciples wake Jesus and ask for help. We don’t really know why they woke Jesus. There was fear, of course, perhaps as simple as another set of hands to help bail the water out of the boat. Whatever the reason, they woke Jesus and asked for help, but their reaction shows they certainly did not expect what happened next. Jesus woke up and has a word with the elements. The word “rebuke” in the text means that Jesus scolded the wind and the water rather harshly. The wind and the water became calm.

Now, you and I could yell, scold, rebuke, beg, cajole, or even reason with the weather until we’re blue in the face, and nothing will change. Jesus, on the other hand, scolded the weather, and the weather reacted. It reacted, of course, because Jesus is not just your regular tired human being. He is also the God of all creation. Jesus’s control of the wind and the waves with just a word reminds us that He is truly God. And so by the time they’re halfway across the sea, Jesus has reminded His disciples that He is both true man and true God.

The disciples, on the other hand, were terrified. The original Greek says that they feared a great fear. No wonder, they were in a boat being swamped with someone who just spoke to the wind and the waves and they obeyed. Then He turns to them, forcing them to think about their faith and what they believe. And they began to look at Jesus differently, asking themselves in a deeper way, “Who is this guy?”

That’s actually one of the constants in Jesus’s life. People often ask who Jesus is. Today, we see that the wind and the waves know who Jesus is. In other parts of the Gospel, we learn that diseases, birth defects, and injuries know who Jesus is. Even demons and death know who Jesus is. But, when it comes to humanity, Jesus is a great mystery. But that’s what sin does, as Isaiah reveals: “The ox knows its owner, and the donkey its master’s crib, but Israel does not know, my people do not understand” (Isaiah 1:3).

And that goes back to the beginning, back to Eden. Remember Adam saying, “I heard the sound of you in the garden, and I was afraid” (Genesis 3:10). Adam had sinned, and the presence of the holy and almighty God terrified him. It’s the same for all people who, in the holy presence of Almighty God for the first time, clearly see their sin.

That’s why Jesus had to be both man and God. If Jesus were only God, He could not take our place under the law and live a holy life for us. He could not suffer the penalty we have earned for our sin. If Jesus were a man, and nothing more, then His perfect life and sacrificial death would earn the salvation of one and only one person, Himself. The rest of the world would be lost. It is essential for our salvation that Jesus be both God and man because while man owes the debt, only God can afford the price.

We need the salvation that Jesus provides because the storm on the Sea of Galilee is just one instance of the many disasters that the sin of humanity has brought into this world. The destruction that storms bring is an expression of the curse that came when sin entered the world. Our sin not only brings sickness and death to us, but even the world is cursed. The Holy Spirit inspired Paul to write to the Romans: “We know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now” (Romans 8:22). Floods, fires, hurricanes, tornadoes, hail, lightening, earthquakes, and all the other natural disasters are the result of the curse that sin brought into the world.

These so called natural disasters are not the only storms that our sin has brought into the world. There are other storms in our lives as well. There are the medical storms of infections, heart disease, diabetes, strokes, cancer, and so forth. There are the relational storms of broken families and friendships. There are the financial storms of plant closings and layoffs. Ultimately, there is the storm of death that comes to all of us sooner or later. We may try to deny the existence of sin in our lives, but these storms, both private and public, say otherwise.

It is in the incarnation of Jesus Christ – the fact that the Son of God assumed human nature – that we see God’s loving plan to deal with sin. In Jesus Christ, God assumed human nature to save humans from their nature – their sinful nature. For our own sin doomed us to perish – not just from this earth, but also from the blessings of God’s presence with us. “But the blood of Jesus his [God’s] Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7). Christ’s human nature allowed Him to be the target of God’s wrath as He hung on the cross. Christ’s divine nature allowed Him to endure that wrath for all people in all times and places. So it is that God took on human flesh and saved us from our sins.

We have complete confidence in that salvation that Jesus earned for us because death was unable to hold Him. For Christ did not remain in the grave, but after He conquered death, He rose from death never to die again. After He rose, He showed Himself to His disciples. He encouraged them to examine the marks of the cross in His body. He talked with them and ate with them. He interacted with them in very human ways. At the same time, locked doors and windows were no barrier to Him as He appeared and disappeared at will. In His resurrection, He demonstrated that He lives forever as both God and man in one person. And so it is in the person of Jesus Christ who slept through a storm and calmed the sea that we put our faith, believing and receiving through Him our heavenly Father’s promised gift of eternal life.

In His name, Amen

Tags: Mark 4:35-41