We’re looking for a second time now at the story of Jesus calming the stormy sea from Mark 4:35-41. We’re asking the question today, “Where’s the faith??” – that is, on the part of the disciples in this episode.
A little review as we get started. Last week we saw how this story is primarily an unveiling of –
Who Jesus is
A storm, like Jesus was in, is associated with the powers of evil in ancient Hebrew thought. And Yahweh is the one who has the power to subdue storms and all the powers of evil.
But as Mark 4 shows us, Jesus subdues the storm and the wind and the waves cease and there is calm. And Jesus does this, not by praying to God, but by the mere power of his words. And this caused confusion for the disciples, because only Yahweh the Lord God almighty can do this, but Jesus just did it! And so v. 41 says, “they were filled with great fear (or awe) and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”
Who is this Jesus? And the answer is that he is the Son of God; he is God with us. That’s why he can do what only God can do.
Today our focus is on what we learn from this story about faith in Jesus, and in particular by observing the –
Unbelief in this story
First of all, the disciples are in a time of trial. There’s an intense storm and the boat is filling with water – v. 37.
Now, “the waters” in the OT don’t just represent evil in an abstract way; they are the powers of evil that assault us, test us and threaten us in a very personal way. An example of this can be seen in Psalm 69:1-2 – “Save me, O God, for the waters have come up to my neck. I sink in the miry depths, where there is no foothold. I have come into the deep waters; the floods engulf me.”
In the same way the disciples here are threatened with death, for the boat was filling with water. Their faith is being put to the test
In the midst of this the disciples display a lack of faith. Jesus was asleep in the boat. And so as v. 38 says, “they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’”
Here we have a portrait of unbelief. 1. They’re afraid. In fact, they’re in a panic, “We are perishing!!” When it comes to the mind the opposite of faith may well be doubt. But when it comes to the heart the opposite of faith is definitely fear. There’s no trust in God and so you feel like you’re on your own and since you’re unable to take care of the problem you feel desperate. And this is what the disciples feel. They must have believed that God’s plan for Jesus could be so easily thwarted that they would all die in the sea of Galilee.
2. They underestimate Jesus. They apparently just want him to pray to God for help, as I said last week. We know this because later in the story when he does perform a miracle they’re totally shocked. They had low expectations of Jesus.
And this is rooted in their lack of understanding of who Jesus is. If they had gotten who Jesus is – the Son of God, they would have known that he could easily take care of this and there was no need for fear.
Next we see how Jesus’ admonishes the disciples for their unbelief. But then he addressed the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” – v. 40. He highlights their fear and lack of faith in him. In fact, Jesus says here that they have “no faith.” They had been with him and had seen enough that Jesus thinks they should have some idea of who he is by now.
And this is where the story ends. The disciples are left in awe of what Jesus just did. But don’t know how to explain it.
Now let me ask a question –
How should the disciples have acted?
What would it look like if they had faith in this situation?
This is how I would say it. 1. Knowing who he is, they would have realized that Jesus is more than able to take care of them in any circumstance.
And 2. Instead of fear they would have had calm trust in the midst of the crisis. I think it’s interesting that calming the storm was as nothing for Jesus. But getting his disciples to have calm trust was another thing all together.
But if they had calm trust, perhaps they would have awakened Jesus and said something like, “It’s bad and you need to take care of this. We know you can and we trust you to do it.”
This kind of response is what Jesus commended as faith in the case of the Centurion. He said to Jesus, you don’t need to come to my house. Just say the word and my servant will be healed. And Jesus was amazed by his faith.
Alright let’s apply this to us –
How should we respond with faith in our times of trial?
Like the disciples, we will go through deep waters. We will go through difficult times. You likely have things right now that are causing you distress and that test your faith. This is a part of the Christian life.
And like the disciples who found Jesus asleep, sometimes it seems like Jesus is unaware of our needs. He is with us, but doesn’t seem to be doing anything. What should we do?
First, like the disciples, who came and woke Jesus we need to call out to Jesus in prayer.
And then, second, remembering who Jesus is, we need to pray with faith. It’s human to be afraid in times of crisis. We will be tempted to panic, like the disciples. We will be tempted to complain about what’s going on, “Why aren’t you doing anything Jesus?” Instead of this, acknowledge that Jesus is able to take care of things. And put it in his hands. That’s praying with faith.
And then finally, we need to act in faith. Because you know Jesus is able, and you have given it to him, you can have calm trust – ‘a peace that passes understanding’ – as you wait for Jesus to act for you. And he will!
The subtitle today is –
Where’s the faith??
Is this how you respond in a time of trial? Would Jesus say to you in your trial, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” – v. 40. Or like the Centurion would Jesus be amazed by your faith?
I certainly don’t always respond with faith. But notice that the disciples are given another chance. Jesus continues to walk with them, he doesn’t cast them aside. And we are given more chances too. Jesus bears with us as we learn to know him and trust him more.
My prayer is that God will help us to have faith; that we will grow stronger and stronger in our faith as we journey on with Jesus. May we have the faith expressed in Psalm 46:1-3:
– Though the earth give way
– Though the mountains be moved into the heart of the sea
– Though the waters roar and foam
– Though the mountains tremble at its swelling
We will not fear! God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in times of trouble.