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â€œOn that day, when evening had come, he said to [His disciples], â€˜Let us go across to the other side.â€ And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.â€
It had been another long day for Jesus, as so many of them were. And if they were long days for Jesus, they were also long for His disciples who traveled with Him. Two weeks ago at the District Convention, Synod President Harrison was present but just for Thursday evening. He had to leave at 4:30 Friday morning to catch a flight to the Nebraska District Convention. And it was the job of the â€˜Assistant to the President,â€™ Rev. Jon Vieker to get him there. A long day for the Synod President is also a long day for those who travel with him.
â€œLet us go across to the other side.â€ There were people on the â€˜other sideâ€™ of the Sea of Galilee that He needed to see; a man possessed by demons, Jairusâ€™ 12 year old daughter who had died, a woman who had been bleeding for 12 years. Their prayers to God were heard. And God was about to give His answer.
Oh, and there was a storm just over the horizon moving this way. He saw it. Today, we have a weather app that tells us about an approaching storm and predicted wind speed and wave heights. Experienced sailors would have refused to set sail. But this is before â€˜weather.com.â€™
So when Jesus said, â€œLet us go across to the other side,â€ the disciples, who had probably already had enough for one day could only say, â€˜Letâ€™s go.â€™
Mark adds that little detail that they take Jesus to His next stop â€œjust as He was.â€ Iâ€™m not sure all that that means but it at least means that they didnâ€™t take Jesus back to the hotel to freshen up and have some dinner before setting sail. That may be Markâ€™s way of explaining why, shortly after they depart, Jesus grabbed a cushion and arranged it so that He could lay his head down on it and, before you know it, Heâ€™s asleep.
In the Old Testament, to â€˜sleepâ€™ in the face of trouble is a sign of faith and trust in Godâ€™s care. In the face of trouble from his enemies, the Psalmist writes in Psalm 3, â€œI lay down and slept; I woke again, for the LORD sustained me.â€ (Psalm 3:5) And again in Psalm 4, â€œIn peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O LORD, make me dwell in safety.â€ (Ps.4:8)
Later, these same disciples would ask Jesus to teach them how to pray. And Jesus would say, â€œwhen you pray, say, â€œOur Father in heavenâ€¦ deliver us from evilâ€¦â€ Jesus is the perfect EXAMPLE of faith and trust in God the Father who will â€˜deliver us from all evil.â€™
â€œAnd a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.â€
Maybe it wasnâ€™t the â€˜storm of the century,â€™ but when itâ€™s YOUR BOAT that is filling with water, it really doesnâ€™t matter that there have been worse storms on record. Itâ€™s really not helpful to tell someone in the midst of a crisis, â€˜it could be worse.â€™
I think that itâ€™s perfectly reasonable to allegorize this text, if only because the Scriptures do. When David is being hunted down by Saulâ€™s army, he writes, â€œthe waves of death encompassed me, the torrents of destruction terrified me.â€ (2 Sam. 22:5).
This is not just about sailing on a stormy sea. This is also about living in a fallen and dangerous world where the unexpected can happen at moment. I donâ€™t know anyone, no matter how smooth and easy their life appears to be, who hasnâ€™t experienced REAL danger and REAL catastrophe to one degree or another. Maybe it was a â€˜near-deathâ€™ experiences and death missed them. Sometimes however, THERE IS SIMPLY NO ESCAPE.
â€œBut he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.
When the ancient pagans faced a crisis, they always figured it was because the gods were sleeping. The gods were in control of the natural elements and things got out of control when they took a nap. Kind of like a two year old when youâ€™re not watching. Nothing good ever happens.
So when disaster struck, the pagans tried to awake the sleeping god â€“ a rain dance to wake the rain god, war dance to wake war god, sex with a prostitute to wake the god of fertility.
The disciples of Jesus however are not pagans. They know to Whom they are to turn in time of trouble. The one true God is not up in heaven taking a nap while all hell is breaking loose down below. He is down below with His people in the midst of the chaos.
Even while the Son of God is asleep, God the Father is wide awake. The Psalmist writes, â€œHe will not let your foot be moved; he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.â€ (Psalm 121:3-4) Even while the Son of God is asleep in Josephâ€™s tomb, God the Father never sleeps.
Isnâ€™t the Trinity a beautiful thing?
The disciples do what God has told His people to do in the midst of trouble. The Psalmist writes, â€œCall upon me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you, and you shall glorify me.â€ (Psalm 50:15). We could learn a lot from the disciples here.
â€œAnd they woke him and said to him, â€˜Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?â€™â€
Itâ€™s not that He fell asleep in the boat that irritates them. Itâ€™s that He doesnâ€™t seem to be at all frazzled by the situation theyâ€™re in. He is at peace in the midst of the storm.
And rather than interpret that as COMFORTING, â€˜listen, if Jesus isnâ€™t worried then neither am I, because after all, He is God,â€™ they interpret it as NOT CARING.
â€œDo you not care that we are perishing.â€
Make no mistake about it, we are all perishing. We may perish violently in a storm at sea or in a car crash or a falling balcony or by a gunman in church during bible study. We may perish peacefully and painlessly while we sleep. But we are all perishing.
Our sin brought death into the world and into our bodies. And no miracle of science or technology, no government legislation or social programs, no righteous deeds or good works can protect us. THERE IS SIMPLY, NO ESCAPE.
â€œDo you not care that we are perishing,â€ they ask Him. Iâ€™d be willing to bet that there was a day when they really regretted asking Him that question.
Yes, He cares that you are perishing! He was â€œconceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified, died and buriedâ€¦â€ JUST SO THAT â€œWHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM would NOT PERISH, but have eternal life.â€
To â€œPERISHâ€ means more than â€˜TO DIE.â€™
â€¢ To â€œperishâ€ means that after you die you remain ETERNALLY DEAD in your sins
â€¢ and ETERNALLY DEAD to Godâ€™s love for you
â€¢ and ETERNALLY DEAD of any hope of ever escaping this hell where death is always having its way
â€¢ and it NEVER GETS WORSE
â€¢ and NO ONE CARES.
â€œDo you not care that we are perishing?â€
Jesus said, â€œIt is not the will of my Father who is in heaven that one of these little ones should PERISH.â€ (Matthew 18:14)
Peter writes, â€œThe Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, NOT WISHING THAT ANY SHOULD PERISH, but that all should reach repentance.â€ (2 Peter 3:9).
It is because He cares that you are PERISHING, that God raised Jesus from the dead on the 3rd day. â€œFor, if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have PERISHED.â€ (1 Corinthians 15:17-18)
There are those who refuse to believe that God cares whether or not they perish. The cross and the empty tomb mean nothing. Paul writes, â€œthe word of the cross,â€ that is, the word that Jesus Christ has taken all of our sin upon Himself and taken the sting of our death into Himself and that God raise Him from the dead because now, death has NO DOMINION OVER US, â€œthe word of the cross, is folly to those who are perishing.â€
But for all who will believe this word, â€œit is the power of God to salvation.â€ (1 Cor. 1:18). The cross and the empty tomb are the confirmation of Jesusâ€™ promise, â€œI give them eternal life and they SHALL NEVER PERISH, and no one will snatch them out of my hand.â€ (John 10:28)
Was it because God didnâ€™t care that those who brought their sacrifices into the temple were murdered by Pilateâ€™s soldiers or that the tower in Siloam fell on those 18 or that the balcony collapsed or the gunman opened fire? â€œNo, but unless you repent, you will all likewise PERISH.â€ (Luke 13:3,5)
â€œDo you not care that we are perishing?â€
Yes, He cares. And now He gives them a sign of His care. It is not the final sign or the definitive sign. His cross and empty tomb are the sign of signs in which we know that He cares that we are perishing. But here in this boat, He gives them an appetizer before the main course.
â€œAnd He awoke (thatâ€™s resurrection language! Itâ€™s the same word as in â€œand He arose.â€) and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, â€˜Peace! Be still!â€™ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.â€
From a â€˜GREAT STORMâ€™ to a â€˜GREAT CALM.â€™ Thatâ€™s a pretty good picture of the transition from this life in a fallen and dangerous world to the eternal life that Christ won for us. A GREAT CALM.
And by the power of His Word. â€œAnd God saidâ€¦ and it was so.â€ It was as though the wind and the sea recognized the voice of its Creator and repented of the evil it was doing.
â€œUnless you repent, you will all likewise PERISH.â€
â€œHe said to them, â€˜Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?â€ â€œDid you think that I do not care?â€ â€œDid you think I would let you perish?â€ And with those words Jesus goes from being the EXAMPLE of faith to the OBJECT of faith. In Him we see what genuine faith looks like. And in Him we receive the goal of faith.
What follows is even stranger than what has preceded. Now the sea is calm. But now an even more violent storm erupts within them. â€œAnd they were filled with GREAT FEARâ€¦ Thatâ€™s strange. We would have expected to hear, â€œand they were filled with great peace and the broke out the champagne and toasted Jesus.â€
From a GREAT STORM to a GREAT CALM to a GREAT FEAR.
And now they have a second question. The first was, â€œdo you not care if we perish?â€ The second question is, â€˜Who then is this?â€™
When you know the answer to this question, you wonâ€™t have to ask any more.