Who Is This Jesus?

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Mark 4:35-41 (Jesus Calms the Storm)

INTRODUCTION: We have just finished looking at five parables in the gospel of Mark. Now Mark goes on to record four miracles of Jesus. The NIV translators have labeled this first miracle, “Jesus Calms the Storm.” But I think they could just as well have labeled it, “Close Encounters of the Terrifying Kind.” For Jesus’ disciples experience not just one, but two terrifying encounters in the space of these seven short verses. (Read and pray.)

Have you ever been in a situation where you thought you had it all figured out, and suddenly you realized that things were not as they seemed? What you thought was nice and safe suddenly turned out to be risky and dangerous. When it happens it catches you by surprise. It suddenly throws you off balance. (Ex. tipping over in chair)

This is what it must have been like for the disciples on that stormy evening on the Sea of Galilee. They started across the sea with no thought of what lay ahead. All was calm; all was quiet; all was safe. But soon they were to have, not one, but two terrifying encounters which would catch them totally off guard. The first encounter that evening was with a terrifying storm.

I. The disciples encounter a terrifying storm (35-37)

Everything started off quietly enough. Jesus invited the disciples to cross over to the other side of the lake. No big deal. They had crossed this lake a hundred times before. What could be different this time? I’m sure they never even gave it a second thought.

    A. Jesus initiates the incident (35)

The first thing I want you to notice about this passage is that Jesus initiates the incident. Look at verse 35:

That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” (Mark 4:35)

Notice that he waited until evening. Mark tells us that evening had come so it was probably right around 6:00. The Hebrew day began at 6:00 p.m., and so the old day was ending and a new day was beginning. This is perhaps symbolic of the new perception the disciples were about to experience about Christ.

Notice also that Jesus invites them to go over to the other side. He is talking about the Sea of Galilee here, sometimes also called “the lake.” This was a main fishing area that was vital to that region’s economy. It had been a place of daily occupation for many of Jesus’ disciples, especially for those who had been fishermen before they left everything behind to follow Christ.

The word translated “go over to” literally means “to pass through” (“dierchomai”). The disciples were about to pass through something. They were completely unaware of it, but Jesus knew. They were about to pass through a crisis moment in their lives. God always knows when your crisis moments are going to hit. They may catch you by surprise, but never God. The disciples were about to go through a time of crisis. And the storm would not even be the main crisis for the disciples that evening. The disciples would experience a crisis of faith concerning who Jesus was.

And when Jesus says, “Let us go over to the other side,” he is talking about the other side of the lake. But the disciples are also going to cross over to the other side of understanding, the other side of faith. They are going to come to a deeper and fuller knowledge of who Christ is. And in order for us to reach “the other side,” we must also go through the same crisis as the disciples did. We must go through a crisis of faith, a crisis of coming to grips with the true identity of Jesus Christ.

    B. The disciples follow (36)

So Jesus initiates, and the disciples follow. Look at verse 36:

Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. (Mark 4:36)

The disciples leave the crowd behind. They have taken the first steps in following Jesus. They have separated themselves from the crowd. The crowd stays behind, but the disciples go where Jesus goes.

Mark says that “they took him along, just as he was.” There was no visible change in Jesus. He was just the same old Jesus they had always known. And indeed there was no change in Jesus that day. He was the same as always. However, they were about to learn more of him. Jesus was not about to change, but their perception of Jesus was going to change radically within the next hours. He was not who they thought he was. He was so much more.

Mark also mentions other boats that accompany him. And so they are not alone on the lake. There are other boats following them. However, the disciples have been called by Jesus specifically to be in the same boat with him. They will experience Jesus in a whole new way this day. Did the other boats witness what took place? We’re not told. Most likely they were too busy contending with the storm to notice what Jesus did. Either way, Jesus has selected the disciples to experience this encounter with him, and it is their experience and encounter which Mark relates to us.

    C. The storm is a terrifying experience (37)

And then in verse 37 the disciples encounter the storm.

A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. (Mark 4:37)

This is a terrifying experience for them. First of all, the storm comes up suddenly. The disciples had no warning; they had no time to prepare themselves. They were immediately thrown into crisis. This suddenness would have added to the terror of the experience.

Mark describes the storm as “a furious squall.” The Greek word for furious here is “megale,” which means “great.” So this is a mega-storm. We know it had to be big simply from the disciples’ reaction. They were scared to death. Remember, these were fishermen, most of them. They were used to being at sea. They had been in wind and waves before; but never like this. It was a huge storm, a furious squall.

The word translated “squall” here (lailaps) means a violent windstorm, with a heavy emphasis on the wind. There was probably plenty of rain to contend with as well, but the main danger came from the wind. The wind came up strong and fast, churned up the waters, and in no time at all this storm was blowing like a bandit, so that the lives of the disciples were in danger. Mark says that the waves were breaking over the boat, continually smashing against the side, again and again, so that the boat was nearly swamped.

Now I don’t know if you have ever been in a boat before, but the concept is pretty simple. When you are in a boat, and the boat is in the water, the idea is to keep the water out of the boat. Not only is the boat in danger of sinking, but it gets harder and harder to maneuver. (Tell story about Lake Waldena.)

Well, you can just picture the disciples bailing water furiously, earnestly working the oars, trying to keep the boat pointed into the waves so they wouldn’t be hit broadside, but the wind and the waves seem to be coming at them from all directions. They are exerting every effort to keep the boat from capsizing. Not only that but the sun is already going down and darkness is setting in, adding to the tension. The disciples are hanging on for dear life. They are at the mercy of the storm, and they know that if the storm wants to take them out, it can do so at any moment. It is easily one of the most terrifying moments of their lives.

And so the disciples encounter this terrifying storm. But this was only close encounter #1 for them that day. Close encounter #2 was coming up, and it was even more threatening. In the verses we just read the disciples encountered a terrifying storm, but in the next verses the disciples encounter a terrifying Jesus. And once again, just as with the whole situation with the storm, it all started off innocently enough.

II. The disciples encounter a terrifying Jesus (38-41)

   A. Jesus calms the storm (38-39)

It begins when the disciples rebuke Jesus. Look at verse 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?” (Mark 4:38)

Jesus is sleeping in the stern of the boat. There is this crazy storm going on all around them, and here is Jesus, unconcerned, unafraid, sleeping in the midst of the storm. Remember, Jesus wasn’t caught off guard. He knew all about the storm. He himself had called this storm into existence for a specific purpose. Here was one greater than the storm, and so he slept, peaceful and unafraid, waiting for the disciples to come and wake him. And here they come, right on schedule!

Not only do they wake him. They begin to rebuke him! “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown? What are you doing here sleeping? Don’t you realize that our lives are in danger? Don’t you care?”

In verse 38 the disciples rebuke Jesus, but in verse 39 Jesus rebukes the storm.

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

You know the saying, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody can do anything about it.” Well, Jesus talks to the weather, and he does something about it! He awakens and rebukes the wind and the waves. The rain stops, the wind dies down, the storm ceases, and all is calm.

   B. Jesus terrifies the disciples (40-41)

Now that the storm is gone and the danger is past, you would think the disciples would be all right now. In fact, that’s one of the lessons we often draw from this passage, that Jesus can calm the storms of our life and therefore we can take comfort in the face of life’s storms. But in this case the disciples are not okay. They are not comforted. In fact they are more scared than ever. Jesus may have calmed the storm, but he has absolutely terrified the disciples.

The disciples see all this and they are terror-stricken. Talk about “out of the frying pan and into the fire.” Before they were terrified by the storm. Now they are even more terrified by Jesus.

In verse 40 we get some more rebuking. In verse 38 the disciples rebuked Jesus, in verse 39 Jesus rebuked the storm, and now in verse 40 Jesus rebukes the disciples. He asks them two questions:

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40)

The two questions go together because fear and faith cannot co-exist. If you are afraid, you do not have faith. And if you have faith, then you don’t need to be afraid. You cannot have faith and fear at the same time. And so with this dual question, Jesus pinpoints their problem. Their problem is a lack of faith.

Now as we said before, we often relate this fear and this lack of faith to the storm they just experienced. And that’s certainly part of it. It is true that when the storms of life hit, you do not need to be afraid. Have faith in God, and he will see you through. We learn that from many Scriptures.

But I believe Jesus is saying something a little different here. You see, at this point the storm has passed, and yet Jesus still addresses them in the present tense — “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” By this time the disciples were no longer afraid of the storm. They were afraid of Jesus. Why? Look at verse 41:

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

The disciples were afraid of Jesus for two reasons: 1) They were suddenly unsure of Jesus’ identity. And, because they did not yet realize who he was, 2) They were overwhelmed by his power. In other words, the disciples still lacked faith. They believed that Jesus came from God, but they did not yet understand that Jesus was God. And so they were totally unprepared for this incredible demonstration of his power.

Up to this point people had been amazed by Jesus’ miracles, but they weren’t afraid. They thought, “Isn’t it wonderful that God has sent this nice man to heal people and proclaim God’s forgiveness, etc.” But now they encountered a man who could speak to the wind and the waves, and the wind and the waves obeyed.

They thought they had Jesus all figured out. They took him along, just as he was, in the boat. Suddenly they discovered that Jesus was totally “other” than what they had previously thought. They saw his awesome power and they were terrified. I mean they are stuck in the same boat with this man who can control the wind and the waves. I would probably be jumping over the side!

And so they ask, “Who is this?” It’s interesting, when Jesus first starts doing miracles in Mark 1:27, the people ask “What is this?” “What is this, a new kind of teaching — and with authority!” Now the disciples are asking the right question: Not “What is this?” but “Who is this?” You see, in Christianity you are not dealing with a “what,” but with a “who.” There is nothing terrifying about a “what,” whether it is a philosophy, or a religious system, or a set of teachings. But when you are dealing with the “who,” with the person of Almighty God, if you are not safe in his mercy, you had better be terrified. Because God is awesome.

I believe the most important question you can answer in life is the same question the disciples asked in the boat that day: Who is Jesus Christ? Who is this man? Like the disciples, you might think you have Jesus all figured out. You may have placed him in your own little box upon the shelf. Perhaps you have even taken him along in the boat with you and left him sleeping quietly in the corner over there where he doesn’t disturb you. Have you been guilty of treating Jesus casually?

You may even call yourself a Christian, but if you have not come to terms with who Jesus Christ is, then you still have a crisis of faith ahead of you. You cannot contain Jesus. And when he suddenly breaks out of your self-made box and you are confronted with his awesome power and majesty, you will be shocked, you will be broken, you will be terrified even as the disciples were. (ex. Paul the Apostle)

Jesus is not a fairy tale figure. He is not just a good teacher or a nice man. He is the eternal Son of God who created you and lays absolute claim to your life. He is King of Kings and Lord of Lords. He is the Judge of all mankind. When Christ returns, the Bible tells us that people who do not know him will be terrified. Listen to what Paul says in 2 Thessalonians 1:7-10:

This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels. He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power on the day he comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed. (2 Thessalonians 1:7-10)

Do you see the difference? Those who do not know Jesus will be terrified at his presence and punished with everlasting destruction. But Jesus comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed, among all those who have faith. Jesus asked the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

CONCLUSION: Let’s be honest. Most of us don’t like this thought of a terrifying Jesus. Frankly, it terrifies us! We are so used to hearing about gentle Jesus, meek and mild, and we forget that the gentle Lamb of God is also the fierce Lion of Judah. C.S. Lewis portrays Jesus as a lion called Aslan in his series of books called the Narnia Chronicles. At one point in the first book, called The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, a young girl named Lucy is about to meet the great lion Aslan for the first time. She asks her guide, “Is he a safe lion?” The guide answers, “Safe? Who said anything about safe? ’Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.” (Chapter 8, pp. 75-76) Is Jesus Christ safe? Of course not! He is the Son of God! How safe can that be? But he’s good. He’s the King I tell you.

But isn’t that typical of human nature? We want a safe God, a manageable deity, a God that we can manipulate and control. But that’s not God worship. That is nothing but idolatry, our feeble attempts at micromanaging God. The disciples discovered that Jesus is not a “safe God.” (Now there’s an oxymoron if I ever heard one!) He may not be a safe God, but you are kept safe in him if you place your faith and your trust in him, for he will keep you by his almighty power. Jesus is King of the Universe, but he also came as a loving Savior. He died on the cross, so that all who believe in him shall not perish, but have everlasting life.

Who is this Jesus? It’s the most important question you can answer this side of heaven. If you don’t know who Jesus is, let me warn you now, you will be terrified when you encounter him face to face. But when you come to know him as the Son of God through faith, you need fear no longer, for faith and fear cannot coexist.

  • When you come to know Jesus in faith, you do not need to fear the storm. Do not fear what they fear. God will take care of all your needs.
  • When you come to know Jesus in faith, you do not need to fear his power. Jesus died for you. His awesome power is for you, not against you.
  • When you come to know Jesus in faith, you do not need to fear his return. He comes to be glorified in his holy people and to be marveled at among all those who have believed.

Jesus asked, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” Who is this Jesus? He is the Son of God – put your faith in him.

© Ray Fowler

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