A 4-letter word
What we’re looking at today are two separate events in the life of Jesus and his disciples as recorded in the Gospel of Mark. One in chapter 4, the other in chapter 6. They are two separate events, but they share quite a lot and there’s a distinct thread that connects them both. Let’s look at the first one.
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
If you go back and read the rest of chapter 4, you’ll know this was a massive day for Jesus. He had been speaking to crowds of people, teaching and preaching. And we get a such a reality check of Jesus’ humanity. I can only imagine how exhausted you must be to sleep through a storm. But there was Jesus sleeping on a cushion. One of the many little details in the gospels that don’t add any meaning except they included it because he actually slept on a cushion. They didn’t make anything up.
But just like nobody here likes to be the only one who does all the work in group assignments, the disciples woke Jesus up and said, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re perishing?” We don’t know what they expected Jesus to do. It’s unlikely that one more person bailing water out is going to make much of a difference. Jesus was a carpenter remember, not a fisherman. I suspect they were driven by sheer panic. Fear had gripped them so tightly that they’re panicking. Wouldn’t you be? Then look what Jesus does.
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. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 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?”
Just imagine being on that boat. It’s taking everything you’ve got just to stay on your feet. You’re holding on to the rope so tightly you can’t feel your hands anymore. But you know if you let go you’ll be thrown into the sea for sure. You can’t hear anything other than the wind howling in your ear. And then suddenly it’s dead quiet.
Notice what Jesus said to them. Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? Why shouldn’t they be afraid? Because the storm wasn’t the most dangerous thing that day. Jesus demonstrated on that day a power that no ordinary human being should have. And the disciples realised standing in the boat with them was no ordinary teacher. And they were filled with great fear. Their initial fear was misplaced. Jesus was right, they shouldn’t have been afraid of the sea. What’s the worst that could happen? You’ll die. I’ll tell you who you should fear. The one who after he kills you can throw your soul into hell.
Fear can be misplaced. Especially when we get Jesus wrong.
The passage shows us by what the disciples call Jesus, teacher don’t you care that we are perishing? If Jesus is just a teacher, then you’ll be right to be afraid. But the moment their eyes were opened to who Jesus actually was, since no ordinary teacher can control the sea like that, it just makes their previous fear seem irrelevant.
Here in Australia everyone’s worried about getting sun burnt. But the closer you go to the sun the less sunburn becomes a worry. It’s so hot that you’ll be vaporised instantly.
It's true that I get scared and worried about all sorts of things and it’s so easy for me to start thinking Jesus, do you not care? Do you not care that I’ve got $12 left in my bank? Do you not care that my parents are breaking up? Do you not care that I’m failing uni? Do you not care that we are perishing? All of that as Jesus says is because we have no faith. No understanding of who Jesus really is. Because if we do, why are we afraid? Fear can be misplaced but if you have faith, fear can be subdued. Which is what happened the next time they were out at sea.
45 Immediately he made his disciples get into the boat and go before him to the other side, to Bethsaida, while he dismissed the crowd. 46 And after he had taken leave of them, he went up on the mountain to pray. 47 And when evening came, the boat was out on the sea, and he was alone on the land. 48 And he saw that they were making headway painfully, for the wind was against them. And about the fourth watch of the night he came to them, walking on the sea. He meant to pass by them,
It’s so easy to miss this little detail. Did you see it? Jesus meant to pass by them. How does that work? Did Jesus just expect the disciples to see him and go sup Jesus see ya? No, because that’s actually a technical term.
There’s only a few times in the Bible the phrase is used – when Moses was on the mountain and when Elijah was hiding in the cave. Both times we are told that God appeared to them, His glory passed by them. They saw God. The same thing is happening here.
Jesus meant to pass by them which is to say he meant to show them who he really is. After all, who can walk on water except God? But what happened?
49 but when they saw him walking on the sea they thought it was a ghost, and cried out, 50 for they all saw him and were terrified. But immediately he spoke to them and said, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” 51 And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded…
Once again, they were absolutely terrified. Except this time their fear was subdued when Jesus spoke to them. When they realised it was Jesus, their fear was subdued.
Fear can be misplaced, but fear can be subdued.
Both times the disciples were confronted by Jesus. The undeniable, in your face, reality of who Jesus is and what He can do. And that will either terrify us or comfort us.
So what does this all mean for us? It tells us that when the day comes and we see Jesus face to face, it will either terrify us or comfort us. Fear can be misplaced but fear can be subdued. Why be afraid when the time comes? Get to know Jesus today. And a good way to start is just to talk to him.