20 June 2021 @ BBP – “Who is this?”

READINGS: Psalm 107:23-30; Mark 4:35-41


On 3 December 1976 I was with a group of school friends in a cottage on the coast for a weekend celebrating the end of school. It was a lovely summer’s evening, and we went to bed safe and sound that night. At some time that evening looking over the calm ocean I felt led to pray for someone out at sea.

The next morning the paper was delivered, and we read the shocking headlines that a huge storm further down the coast – in an area appropriately termed the wild coast – had caused the sinking of a number of yachts. A friend from school was lost that night. The night I was let to pray. My friend Marc and the Captain of the vessel, Cloud Nine, drowned.

Some 15 years later in 1991, my wife and young son together with a friend went to see a vessel set sail called the Oceanos at our local harbour. A friend’s family had been on the vessel, and we remarked that it would be good to go on some kind of cruise. On the 3rd of August that year the Oceanos set sail from East London up the wild coast towards Durban. The ship headed into a 40-knot wind and 30-foot swells. The storm got worse so that waiters could not carry food without dropping it and things began to slide off tables. A series of freak waves it the ship and a plating of a pipe burst open and began filling a compartment with water. At 9.30pm an explosion was heard, and the ship lost power. It began to list badly.

Passengers went to the bridge and the crew were nowhere to be seen. The ships entertainer called Moss Hills used the radio phone to broadcast a mayday call and another ship responded. Sixteen helicopters were dispatched, and all the passengers taken off the ship, assisted by lifeboats from another vessel. The captain had abandoned ship and left the passengers to sort themselves out.

Mar 4:36  Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. Mar 4:37  A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Mar 4:38  Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”

We’ve been through some pretty big storms in our lifetimes.

Not just physical storms, but also emotional, political, international and personal storms.

  • The yacht Cloud Nine went down with her captain.
  • The Oceanos’ captain got off the vessel before most of the crew and passengers.
  • Jesus in this storm is asleep in the stern of the boat – on a cushion. The detail is intriguing.

I love Jesus’ response in this account in Mark 4:

Mar 4:39  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

  • The disciples didn’t cope well with the storm.
  • They didn’t cope well with the sleeping Jesus either.

Jesus deals with the storm, then he deals with the disciples equally firmly:

  • Mar 4:39  He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!”
  • Mar 4:40  He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

I wonder what he would say to us in our storms?

  • I know this for certain.
  • He’s not asleep.

People have two favourite Psalms. Psalm 23 and Psalm 121. Psalm 121 helps us here:

Psa 121:1  A song of ascents. I lift up my eyes to the hills— where does my help come from? Psa 121:2  My help comes from the LORD, the Maker of heaven and earth.

Psa 121:3  He will not let your foot slip— he who watches over you will not slumber; Psa 121:4  indeed, he who watches over Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.

God is not asleep on the job.

  • And God doesn’t abandoned ship. Psalm 23 helps us here too:

Psa 23:4  Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me;

Fear not – God says to his people in scripture. The Lord will be with you. So too Jesus – I will be with you always.

  • We need to trust him too. He still says: “don’t be afraid!”

Year’s back we used to teach our children a song about storms that went like this: When its stormy…. I am weak but God is strong, he rows my boat when things go wrong….

We do need to trust God completely.

But there is a deeper question here.

  • It’s all about context.
  • There were fishermen on those boats. They knew storms.
  • This was no ordinary storm.

The passage ends in verse 41:

Mar 4:41  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!

They were still working things out. (We know who Jesus was and is.)

The context is the rest of Mark’s gospel.

Jesus says to them

  • (4:40):“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
  • Mar 4:41  They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!

Literally – “they feared a great fear”. About what? The storm? Yes, but probably also about the fact that this teacher rebuked a storm in the same way as he rebuked demons – like the very first act of power in Mark 1.

Unfortunately the NIV is too fuzzy here. The ESV captures it better:

Mar 1:23  And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, Mar 1:24  “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” Mar 1:25  But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!”

Mar 4:39  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. 

Mar 4:41  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?” 

In Mark 1 the response of people to the exorcism is this:

Mar 1:27  And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 

When he exorcises the storm, look at the response:

Mar 4:41  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?”

The context of Mark means that all of this is a revelation – even if it is a slow realization – of Jesus as something else altogether.

Go back to Mark 3 – remember last week the different groups:

  • His family- he’s out of his mind.
  • The scribes – he’s demon possessed and he’s doing this by the power of Satan – that he was casting out demons by the power of Beelzebub. The prince of demons.
  • The people – the great crowd following them – he tells them that they would be his mother and brothers – if they did the will of God – which means listen to his words and act on them

The context of Mark has to include this verse:
Mar 3:27  But no one can enter a strong man’s house and plunder his goods, unless he first binds the strong man. Then indeed he may plunder his house. 

Who is this? That rebukes demons and storms?

This is Jesus –  the only one who can bind the strong man and plunder his house. Who can restrain his works and set the captives free.

1 John 3:8 supports this where John says: For this purpose Christ/the son of God was revealed to destroy the works of the evil one/devil.”

The storm – like the evil spirits he castes out – are powers which are agents of death and destruction. They work against human flourishing and wholeness. They destroy life.

Just look ahead to the next chapter – to Mark 5. This time it’s a man in the country of the Gerasenes with an evil spirit  – and where does he live? In the tombs. In a cemetery. He’s brought back to life too.

And the woman with the issue of blood that bound her for 12 years is set free. All she has to do is touch is cloak. And what does Jesus say to her: Mar 5:34  He said to her, “Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering.”

 And then Jairus’ daughter is raised from the dead. It’s a great passage: They bring a message of death:

Mar 5:35  While Jesus was still speaking, some men came from the house of Jairus, the synagogue ruler. “Your daughter is dead,” they said. “Why bother the teacher any more?”

Look at Jesus’ response:

Mar 5:36  Ignoring what they said, Jesus told the synagogue ruler, “Don’t be afraid; just believe.”

  • To Jairus: Don’t be afraid. Just believe!
  • To the jittery nervous wreck (fearing a great fear )disciples in the storm from hell: Mar 4:40  “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
  • To his little flock here. To you and me and our families and concerns. To us and our worries about this community and town and beyond:

Don’t be afraid. Just believe.

The strong man has been bound and his goods plundered.

When we eat this bread and drink this cup that’s what we area declaring!

  • Death is defeated.
  • Light has come to dispel the darkness.
  • Life is ours.

That’s who this man is who calms the storm.


About robinpalmer

I am a Presbyterian Pastor living and working in Browns Bay on the North Shore of Auckland in New Zealand. We moved here at the end of March 2011 after spending five years in Wellington the capital city. I am passionate about what I do - about communicating and writing. Preaching and teaching remains a joy.. More recently I have been doing some part time voluntary prison chaplaincy.

Posted on June 20, 2021, in Sunday Morning Sermons and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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