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20 June 2021 @ BBP – “Who is this?”

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

MESSAGE

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.

Amen.

Sermon 15 June – O you of little faith!

Readings: Psalm 55:1-8; Luke 8:22-25

MESSAGE

Have you ever wanted to fly?

I don’t mean on an aeroplane. I mean if you could just grow wings and go wherever you want.

In Psalm 55 David is having troubles with a whole lot of things and people. Crazy scary emotions. His heart is in anguish – probably racing – he is experiencing fear and trembling and horror – and he prays this prayer which has been sung for many years around the world since written in 1844 by Felix Mendelssohn the German composer:

Psa 55:6  I said, “Oh, that I had the wings of a dove! I would fly away and be at rest—

Psa 55:7  I would flee far away and stay in the desert; Selah

Psa 55:8  I would hurry to my place of shelter, far from the tempest and storm.

Here it is to listen to:

Of course you wouldn’t really want to be a dove –  there are horrible cats out there and birds of prey that can nab you.

But there are times when we feel like escaping the storms of life. The troubles out there and our fears and concerns in our hearts.

It does feel like we are in a storm tossed boat.

The bible reading from Luke today is about a scene like that.

A number of Jesus’ followers were fishermen and they did travel by boat at times – Jesus was quite busy around Lake Galilee. Which actually is quite big – 166 square kilometres. Not as big as Taupo though – which is 616 square kilometres.

I’s not surprising Jesus is asleep in the boat. He would have been ministering to many people and large crowds tended to follow him.

His followers are really stressed by this storm. It’s described here as a squall – by Mark as a furious squall, and by Matthew as a furious storm. Maybe Matthew the tax collector didn’t have sea legs and it felt much worse.

So they wake Jesus up – don’t you care we are going to drown?

Sounds like our prayer lives. Save us! Don’t you care? It’s all a bit much in the storms of our lives.

Amazingly he speaks peace – and the storm is stilled.

And of course he tells them off – you of little faith! (Matthew). Do you still have no faith? (Mark). Where is your faith? (Luke).

If you are in a storm today in your life.

If your boat is been overwhelmed by the waves and you feel you may sink.

And it feels like He is not hearing your cries for help – that he is sleeping – be of good cheer and have faith! Trust him!

Listen to Psalm 121  – which is one of the Psalms they would pray as they went up to Jerusalem to worship. Let it speak to you.

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.

Psa 121:5  The LORD watches over you— the LORD is your shade at your right hand;

Psa 121:6  the sun will not harm you by day, nor the moon by night.

Psa 121:7  The LORD will keep you from all harm— he will watch over your life;

Psa 121:8  the LORD will watch over your coming and going both now and forevermore.

He is not asleep. He’s right here with us.

Receive His peace today.

Amen.