First Mennonite Church
November 6, 2022
A Different Kind of Fear
Text: Mark 4:35-41
Last Wednesday night, Hurricane Lisa made landfall on the coast of Belize. Although it was a category-1 hurricane, there was extensive damage to property and lots of rain. In Belize City, the sea surge reached up to eight feet high in some parts of the city.
Going through a hurricane on land is a scary situation. Imagine a dealing with a storm in the sea. That was the situation of the disciples in our story this morning.
Jesus had been teaching from a boat to an attentive audience standing on the shore. Jesus had to create space between him and his pressing crowd wanting to touch him. Crowds had gathered because they had heard about Jesus’ healing powers. Even the demons trembled and fled at the presence of Jesus, we are told in chapter three.
Before we take on our story this morning, let me point out to you some subtle details in this short story. I will point them out to you as we go.
On the evening of that same day, when Jesus had been teaching from a boat, he ordered his disciples to go across to the other side of the lake. So, after Jesus and his disciples had said goodbye to the crowd, they began their voyage. And here are some of those subtle details. In verse 36, we read: And leaving the crowd behind, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were with him. They took him with them in the boat. The disciples, in contrast to the people in the other boats, had the privilege to have Jesus go with them in their boat. In the last part of verse 36, we are told there were other boats. But in those boats obviously, Jesus could not in them, yet these also faced the same storm. The other detail we have in verse 36, is that about Jesus, where it says: “just as he was.” What does that mean? Just as he was there all day inside the boat? Just as he was lying in the stern, exhausted of the long day of preaching? Already sleeping?
Anyways, the disciples took Jesus into their boat, just as he was, and head out into the sea. There, the wind and the waves began to swamp the boat. The storm must have gone for a while and the disciples must fought the storm and tried to keep the boat from sinking. Let us remember, some of the disciples had been fishermen before they joined Jesus’ group, and most likely, it was not their first time finding themselves in turbulent waters. But, the situation was one more than they could handle and they must have thought that their survival chances would increase if only another pair of hands joined the fight against the storm.
It seems as if the complaint the disciple had against Jesus was that he was not doing his fair share to save the troubled boat. He seemed not even bothered by the noise of the twelve fighting the winds nor by the raging storm. He was fast asleep on a cushion. “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” They complained.
Although we can assume the disciples were fearful about their situation with the storm threatening their lives, Mark does not relay anything about their state of mind. By the manner in which the disciples approached or reproached Jesus for his apparent indifference to the situation, reveals they were terrified of what was happening. Do you not care that we are perishing? Sounds like a desperate question or accusation. Their fear with the prospects of death is only revealed after Jesus calms the sea. “Why are you afraid? Jesus asked them.
Jesus rebuked the wind and the sea, “Be silent! Be still!” Then the wind ceased, and there was a dead calm.
Up to this time of being with Jesus, the disciples had already witness Jesus’ power to heal the sick, making the lame to walk, the blind to see, and even the demons shrieking and desperately fleeing at his rebuke. As you can recall, often times Jesus performed miracles of healing or exorcism, amazement and awe had been the audience’s response. But, on this occasion when they saw Jesus rebuke the wind and the sea and these obeying his command, then Mark tells us about their state of mind. “They were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’”
Their real terror only came after they saw the sea and the wind obey Jesus. Their terror was not expressed when they were fighting the storm or when they went to wake Jesus up. And although they knew the one sleeping on the stern has phenomenal powers unlike any of the Old Testament prophets or rabbis of their time, however, not in their wildest dreams had they ever imagined that at his very command, the forces of nature would also obey Jesus. With wide open eyes, with shaking knees, and shaking voices, they asked, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
A different kind of fear overtook the disciples. And who can blame them? Despite everything they had seen Jesus perform so far, the calming of the sea and the winds pushed the disciples to another level of discovery about the one they were following. The disciples realized that Jesus was not only a top-notch teacher and miracle worker. They suddenly came to the realization that they were in the presence of none other but God, and terror seized them.
My dear loving brothers and sisters, I am sure we all desire to be in the presence of God, yet, it might be something we are also terrified of. Yes, we desire to be in the presence of God because we have discovered that it is there where we find the mercy, grace, and his salvation through Christ. It is in the presence of God where we feel secure and loved. But we have also discovered that being the presence of God can be terrifying. It is in the presence of God where we discover who we are in comparison to who he is and what he wants from us. It is in the presence of God where we get to see the true condition of our soul, our sinfulness, and our need of grace and forgiveness. It is no wonder why the disciples were suddenly filled with great fear. A literal translation of the Greek text for those words should be: “They feared a great fear,” meaning, the disciples were utterly terrified.” That was because they suddenly realized that Jesus was far greater than they have previously thought he was. Yes, Jesus is—the God is with us, and he has the power to calm the raging seas around us.
When we look around and see everything that is happening or the prospect of what can happen, we might feel as if our small boat is about to capsize. When we look around, we see wave after wave of all kinds of news, events, movements, threatening our sense of security, we might want to run to Jesus too. When we look around and we see evil, social discontentment, open animosity among peoples, we wonder, will all these ever change? Will there ever be peace and calm in this world?
My beloved, let us not forget, we, like the disciples, are the privileged ones who have Jesus with us in our boat. Even when at times, it might seem to us that Jesus is asleep, oblivious of the storm hitting at us. Even when at times, we might also want to run over to him and exclaim in exasperation, “Lord, do you not care that we are perishing?” And even if we do that, let us remember about those who do not have him or know him to run to in their desperate hours. The Lord is riding with us through the storm. And to us he wants to say like he did his disciples, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
May the Spirit reveal to us the presence of God, especially in the difficult moments in life. And may we all experience true fear of God that would lead us to exclaim, “Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?” Amen!