Who Then is This?
Text: Mark 4:35–41
We apologize that there is no video available for this sermon. Our videographer is recovering from a back injury.
Main Idea: Jesus is truly the Son of God because only God can still a storm.
I. The Test of Faith (Mark 4:35–38)
II. The Pattern of Faith (Mark 4:38a)
III. The Object of Faith (Mark 4:39–41)
What makes a miracle a miracle? What I mean by this is what is the difference between an incredibly rare natural occurrence and a supernatural work of God? Deserts that have been barren and desolate for decades bloom into beautiful flower gardens after unexpected rains. And cancer patients unexpectedly recover after 11thhour treatments.
The difference is that miracles are not statistical aberrations. Miracles are not good luck. Miracles do not have scientific explanations. Miracles are moments when God chooses to act within human history through the whole-sale violation of natural laws and thermodynamic principles—laws and principles that he ordained from the very beginning of creation.
And as we have seen in this gospel, Jesus doesn’t perform these miracles to puff up his ego, put on a show, or placate cynical observers who demand empirical proof. He performs miracles to disclose the kingdom of God, to display the mercy of God, and in our text today he is going to demonstrate that he is the Son of God.
Main Idea: Jesus is truly the Son of God because only God can still a storm. And it is in this very revelation that Jesus invites his disciples into ever-deepening faith.
The Test of Faith (Mark 4:35–38)
The Pattern of Faith (Mark 4:38a)
The Object of Faith (Mark 4:39–41)
So as we turn to the text, I want to begin highlighting the OT lens through which Mark is relaying this account. What I mean by this is that this episode, in many ways, parallels the story of Jonah.
- Jonah and Jesus sleep through an incredible storm (Jonah 1:5).
- Jonah and Jesus are awakened by seasoned sailors who are in fear for their lives (Jonah 1:6).
- In the case of Jonah: The sea becomes instantly calm after Jonah prays to God and the sailors throw him into the sea (Jonah 1:15).
- In the case of Jesus: The sea becomes instantly calm after Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea.
- In both cases the sailors are overcome with holy fear (Jonah 1:16).
- And in both cases, Jonah and Jesus conclude their journey by ministering to idol worshiping Gentiles.
The Test of Faith (Mark 4:35–38)
Let’s take a moment to link this text to its surrounding context before we dive into the storm. Jesus has been teaching in parables by the sea from a boat all day long.
Mark 4:1 Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land.
Therefore, when Mark tells us that the disciples took Jesus with them in the boat “just as he was” (4:36). He is telling us that they began their voyage across the sea of Galilee immediately after Jesus wrapped up a long day of teaching. Jesus didn’t go into town for fish and chips and crash out at a local inn. No. He orders his disciples to sail to the “other side” of the sea of Galilee; fully aware and in sovereign control of the imminent storm.
And at this point it is important to remember that, imperfect as they are, no one knows and understands Jesus better than the disciples. They have had front row seats to all his teaching, all his miracles, and they have an intimate relationship with Jesus himself. The disciples are the ultimate insiders. If anyone has reason to fully-trust Jesus in the midst of a raging storm it’s these 12 men.
If you are familiar with NOAH weather warnings, the storm in this account is not a small craft advisory. This is not a gale warning. But, this is at minimum storm force winds. Because, the Greek words behind “a great windstorm” here can denote a full-fledged hurricane. And unless you have spent time on the ocean it is easy to underestimate the perilous power of the wind.
Wind storm winds do two things the sea: (1) they generate very large waves [amplitude] and (2) they compress the interval [frequency] between these waves. Or to put it another way, strong winds dramatically increase the amplitude and the frequency of the waves. It’s one thing to sail over large rolling waves, it’s a completely different thing to be hammered by a violent onslaught of massive waves that break over your boat and fill it with water because the waves are so large and close together… and this is exactly what is happening to the disciple’s boat.
I have no doubt that the professional fishermen—Peter, James, and John—are frantically doing everything they can to hold things together. But, they are losing their battle against the storm. And the fact that Jesus is wholly-unaware of the danger, fast-asleep on a cushion drives them to a crisis of faith.
Mark 4:38b And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Now, I know that it’s easy read through this encounter and quickly jump to the Jesus’ miracle and the disciples lack of faith. But, if we do we miss something very important about Jesus himself. (we miss the pattern of faith)
The Patter of Faith (Mark 4:38a)
Just think about it for a moment. How many different times do the gospels record Jesus sleeping? The answer is one. Matthew, Mark, and Luke record this single event in the boat (Matthew 8:24; Mark 4:38; Luke 8:32). And in this we see two things about Jesus:
Jesus is truly human. He has been preaching all day and needs to recover his strength. Yet, Psalm 121 tells us that God does not slumber or sleep. In other words, Jesus is truly man and truly God. And in his true humanity he is tired and doing something that only humans do. But, as Dr. Meyer points out, this first observation only sets the stage for the second and far greater point.
Jesus isn’t sleeping through the storm merelybecause he is exhausted. He is sleeping through the storm because of his faith and trust in God’s good and sovereign care. Just think about it: Everyone goes through periods in their life where it’s impossible to sleep because of fear, anxiety, or anger. Day after day you drag yourself through your daily routine, you can hardly stay awake. But, when night comes, your exhaustion isn’t enough to overcome your fearful and anxious mind. Every moment in bed is an eternity as you imagine ever greater fears and anticipate imminent failure; All while feeling as if God has totally abandoned you.
And what we see here is that faith empowers what exhaustion can never induce—pleasant sleep in the midst of a raging storm.
I get this from the fact that, King David and Solomon both point us to this unique relationship between faith and sleep in the OT.
Psalm 3:5 [When David was running from Absalom he says] I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me. 6I will not be afraid of many thousands of people who have set themselves against me all around.
Psalm 4:8 In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety. [confidence in God’s faithfulness]
Proverbs 3:24–26 If you lie down, you will not be afraid; when you lie down, your sleep will be sweet. 25Do not be afraid of sudden terror or of the ruin of the wicked, when it comes, 26for the Lord will be your confidence and will keep your foot from being caught.
Jesus is asleep on a cushion because he trusted the Father completely, full-believing that God was more than able to “sustain” him and cause him to “dwell in safety” despite the raging storm. Jesus is providing his disciples with a pattern to follow…
But, the disciples, aren’t interpreting Jesus’ untroubled sleep as evidence that he is trusting in God. They think he is wholly-indifferent to their life-threatening situation. They think he is oblivious. They are more than annoyed by his apparent lack of concern. Their fear is quenching their faith and eroding their trust in the only one who is fully trustworthy. And we see this in the way that they wake Jesus up.
Mark 4:38b And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
In this, we see the origin of their fear. At this point in their walk with Jesus, Jesus is still a “teacher” they don’t understand who he is. Jesus is more than a teacher, he is more than pattern of faith in God. Jesus is the proper object of faith itself because only God can command the wind and the waves.
The Object for Faith (Mark 4:39–41)
Notice, that Jesus does not pray and ask God to still the storm because he wants his disciples to see that he doesn’t need to appeal to a higher authority. If you have ever been on the ocean, you know that raging storms don’t stop in a moment. Violent seas do not still in an instant. But, when Jesus says, “Peace! Be still!” nature responds instantaneously. The Sovereign Lord of creation is the only one to whom creation responds in absolute obedience. No incantations. No human sacrifices like Jonah. No awkward pauses, waiting for creation to submit. The OT—the disciple’s Bible— is very clear that this is the work of God alone.
Psalm 89:8–9 O Lord God of hosts, who is mighty as you are, O Lord, with your faithfulness all around you? 9You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still
Psalm 65:5–7 By awesome deeds you answer us with righteousness, O God of our salvation, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas; 6the one who by his strength established the mountains, being girded with might; 7who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples,
Psalm 107:23–29 Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; 24they saw the deeds of the Lord, his wondrous works in the deep. 25For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. 26They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; 27they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits’ end. 28Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. 29He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.
The miracle in this account is not merely a demonstration of supernatural power, it’s an unexpected epiphany—a revelation—that Jesus is the Son of God. Only God can transform the “great” storm of verse 37 into the “great” calm of verse 39 by the word of his power. But, at the very moment that the disciples should be experiencing “great” joy in their salvation and the revelation of Jesus Christ, they are filled with a “great” fear just like the pagan sailors in the book of Jonah; in that, their “great” fear shifted from the circumstances outside the boat to someone inside the boat—Jesus himself.
Notice, that in a moment their fearful rebuke, “don’t you care that we are perishing?” has vaporized like the morning mist. And they are overwhelmed with a completely different question, “Who is this that the wind and sea obey him?”
The disciples still do not have it all put together at this point. They don’t know what the reader knows. Jesus is God. Think through a syllogism of their beliefs and their experience and why they would ask who Jesus is.
- Belief: Only God stills Storms
- Experience: Jesus stilled a storm.
- Question: Who is Jesus? Is Jesus God?
The storm was merely an opportunity for Jesus to bolster his disciples faith by revealing his true deity. In other words, the main point of this text today is not, “Jesus will deliver you from the storms of life if you call on him OR have enough faith in him.” They didn’t demonstrate faith and he still delivered them!
The point is, “Jesus is the Son of God because no one can still a storm but God alone!” Therefore put your faith in Jesus.
Not-yet-Christians: Jesus saves everyone who turns to him.
See, what Mark wants us, first and foremost, to see in this miracle is that Jesus is more than a teacher, he is God almighty. If Jesus is merely a teacher, we can choose to listen and follow or to go our own way. If Jesus is merely a teacher, he does not deserve whole-hearted faith and devotion. If Jesus is merely a teacher, he is incapable of fulfilling his promises and protecting his people. If Jesus is merely a teacher, his brutal crucifixion is wholly-ineffectual.
But, if Jesus is truly the Son of God, we cannot ignore him; we must listen, believe, and pursue him with every fiber of our being because he will never fail to fulfill his promises. The most important recorded in John 3:16.
John 3:16–18 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
Notice the argument in verse 18. Humans are condemned already, it’s our natural state because of our sin against God. And belief in the deity and sin-bearing sacrifice of Jesus for your sins is the only way to escape eternal punishment and enjoy everlasting life with Jesus. This is how God reveals his love to mankind, not by ignoring our sin, but by sending Jesus to pay the price for our sin so that we might be forgiven and restored to him.
Apart from Jesus you are doomed to die, in a sinking ship lost at sea. But, if you call out to him in repentant faith he will not only save you from eternal punishment, he will save you into eternal joy.
Christian: God is not ignoring your pain.
I know that it is very easy in this life to feel like God over-promises but under-delivers. We find ourselves asking the very same question, “don’t you care?” And the answer is yes, he does care and yes he is more than able to rescue.
But, faith in God is not a promise of smooth sailing or miraculous interventions in every storm. Faith is the firm conviction that Jesus is not asleep, indifferent, or wholly unavailable in our pain. And this faith reminds us, that Jesus endured infinitely unimaginable shame, pain, and wrath on the cross for our sin, so that we might be rescued from eternal suffering and enjoy Jesus for all eternity. We need perspective.
Christians, our problem—my problem—is that we struggle to see reality in light of the cross of Jesus Christ. Randy Alcorn puts it this way, “The best of life on Earth is a glimpse of Heaven; the worst of life is a glimpse of Hell. For Christians, this present life is the closest they will come to Hell. For unbelievers, it is the closest they will come to Heaven.”
Faith is not the means by which we leverage God’s activity on our behalf, like putting a dollar bill in a vending machine or a quarter in a video game. Faith is the means by which we find Spirit-empowered peace and contentment in this life, fully convinced that God is more than able to meet our every need AND that he wholly loves us and will sustain us even when he doesn’t intervene.
If the goal of your life is merely to avoid hard times, then suffering can only be seen as a burden. If the desire of your heart is to see and savor more of Christ, suffering can be a blessing. Not, that we become pain pursuing masochists; but that, over time, we come to realize that suffering deepens our faith by severing the root of our self-reliant pride.
Romans 5:1–5 Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God. 3 Not only that, but we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, 4 and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, 5 and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.
As J.C. Ryle, once observed, “In affliction [God] teaches us many precious lessons which without it we should never learn. By affliction he shows us our emptiness and weakness, draws us to the throne of grace, purifies our affections, weans us from the world, [and] makes us long for heaven.”
Mark L. Strauss, Mark, vol. 2 of Zondervan Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament(Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 205–6.
Strauss, Mark, 206.“No indication is given here of the size of the boat, but the discovery in 1986 of a remarkably well-preserved first-century fishing boat near Kibbutz Ginosar provides a likely model. The boat measured 8.2 meters (27 feet) long, 2.3 meters (7.5 feet) wide, was made of cedar planks and an oak frame, and could hold about fifteen people;” (Strauss, Mark, 207).
I am indebted to Jason Meyer, my former pastor and preaching professor, for this connection. (https://bethlehem.church/sermon/the-stilling-of-the-storm)
“The rudeness of Mark’s wording reflects the way frustrated and desperate people speak (cf. Luke 10:40) and is probably a verbatim reminiscence of the disciples’ response in the crisis;”(James R Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, The Pillar New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002], 149).
David E. Garland, Mark, The NIV Application Commentary (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996), 197.
Garland, Mark, 193.
Jason Meyer, https://bethlehem.church/sermon/the-stilling-of-the-storm.
J. C. Ryle, Mark, Crossway Classic Commentaries (Crossway Books, 1993), 61.