Pastor Stephen Muncherian
April 9, 2000
I invite you to turn with me to Mark 4:35-41 and follow along as we study through these verses together. Our subject this morning is fear.
On Monday - of this past week - the Nasdaq stock index started at 4,223. By 10:20 a.m. the Nasdaq had plummeted over 554 points - losing over 13% of its value. The Dow followed the Nasdaq - dropping over 504 points. At one point it looked like the markets were in free fall with no bottom in sight. People were trying to sell stocks and nobody was buying. Billions of dollars were being lost.
One stock analyst said, “It was pretty ugly. We had a situation where panic and fear overwhelmed greed.” Imagine that - panic and fear being more of a motivation than greed. Needless to say, it was an interesting week on Wall Street.
There a lot of things in life that can cause us to be fearful. This is our focus this morning. What do we do when the bottom drops out? Who do we turn to? How do we handle fear?
Mark 4:35: On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.”
If you were with us last week, you’ll recall that Jesus was by the Sea of Galilee teaching in parables. A large crowd had gathered there - so large that no room on the shore for Jesus - He was being pushed into the sea. So Jesus got into a boat and used it like a floating pulpit - teaching from the boat to the people on the shore.
After a long day of this ministry - when evening came - Jesus - exhausted - said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Let’s get away from the crowd and go unwind.”
Verse 36: Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him. And there arose a fierce gale of wind, and the waves were breaking over the boat so much that the boat was already filling up. Jesus Himself 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?”
Let’s pause here and understand the implications of this for us. Last Monday night we were at John and Anahid’s home and they were sharing about a trip they had taken a couple of years ago - a trip to Israel. One of the places they went was the Sea of Galilee. There they were - out on the Sea of Galilee and sure enough a strong wind came up. It happened in Jesus’ day - it happens today. The mountains that surround the Sea of Galilee create winds that gather and suddenly break down on the sea.
When the Jesus and the disciples set out for the other shore - about 5 miles away - it was probably a calm restful evening. After a long day of ministry they could look forward to a relaxing - restful trip. Within minutes the sea was churning - the wind is roaring - the boat is taking on water.
Even though they’re experienced sailors - they knew this storm was really - really bad. Worse - its now dark out on the lake and they can’t see anything. The disciples are panicked - fearful - expecting to die. They’re rushing around trying to save the boat - bailing water - making things fast - throwing excess weight overboard.
In the stern of the boat - on the cushion reserved for important passengers - Jesus sleeping through it all. Panicked - fearful - the disciples wake Jesus - probably screaming at Him over the howling wind - “Don’t you care that we’re all going to die?”
We all have times when we feel like this - overwhelmed by pressures and demands and stresses. There are anxious and threatening circumstances - times when life is treacherous. Its easy to become fearful - to panic - to rush around trying to find a way out - to feel alone and sorry for ourselves - to scream about how unfair things are.
There are times when we wonder if Jesus has fallen asleep - like God has forgotten about us - like He’s indifferent to our prayers. We pray and pray and nothing seems to happen.
We often feel like everything is about to be lost when its not.
The disciples came to Jesus - asleep in the boat - screaming at Him, “Don’t you care that we’re all going to die?”
Verse 39: And He - Jesus - got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm.
Jesus is never worried about the storm. The storm almost seems inconsequential - irrelevant - not important. Jesus calmly gets up - tells the wind and sea to knock it off - the wind goes away and the sea becomes perfectly still.
Then - verse 40 - Jesus turns to His disciples and asks them two questions: And He said to them - first question - Why are you afraid? - and second - How is it that you have no faith?
Strange questions to ask from people who a few seconds earlier were afraid for their lives. Why shouldn’t they have been afraid? Jesus - who is not afraid - is using the storm to teach the disciples - and us - about fear and faith.
Here’s His point - hear this: Faith is the answer to fear. Faith is always the answer to our fears - regardless of what they are. We become afraid because we lose faith.
Ray Stedman - a former pastor of Peninsula Bible Church - down in Palo Alto - in a sermon on this passage in Mark - shared this:
A year or so ago, a good friend of mine, an evangelist from another country, told me about all the troubles he and his wife were going through. He was very dejected. She was struggling with severe physical problems ill health arising from asthma and bronchitis which constantly kept her down. They had gone through years of struggle with this condition of hers already, and it seemed to pull the bottom out of everything he attempted to do. Here they were planning to go back to their own country, and now she was sick again. He came to me so discouraged.
I remember turning to this incident in Mark and reciting this story, and saying to him, “Remember, the boat will not sink, and the storm will not last forever. That is having faith - to remember those facts.” He thanked me, we prayed together, and he left. I did not see him for a couple of months; then we ran into each other. I said, “How are things going? How is your wife?” He said, “Oh, not much better. She's still having terrible struggles. She can't breathe, and can't take care of the children or the house, and we have a hard time. But I do remember two things: the boat will not sink, and the storm will not last forever!” So I prayed with him again.
Just a couple weeks ago I received a note from him. They had gone back to their country, and there they had found the answer. A doctor discovered a minor deficiency in her diet which needed to be remedied. When that was done, the asthma and bronchitis disappeared, and she was in glorious, radiant health, and they were rejoicing together. At the bottom of the page he had written, “The boat will not sink, and the storm will not last forever.”
Today I received a note that read, “This past week this young man sent word that his wife is in the hospital, and the doctors suspect leukemia. Her asthma is under control. Pray that he will remember what you told him about the boat and the storm.” So a new storm has broken out in their lives. But remember, the boat will not sink, and the storm will not last forever.
Sometimes we think that when we come to Jesus we’ll never encounter another storm. Which, of course, is not true. We live in a fallen world with lots of storms. Our circumstances are constantly changing - the issues we face are different from year to year. We have a choice - to respond in fear - or to respond in faith.
A while before this storm on the Sea of Galilee Jesus had been teaching His disciples in the Sermon on the Mount - Jesus had told them, “You are more valuable to God than birds and flowers. God cares for them. How much more He will care for you.” (Matthew 6:25-34)
That’s easy to hear - sitting on the gentle slope of a hill on a warm afternoon. Now they’re in a storm. Do they really have faith in Him?
Jesus - God - the master of the wind and the sea is in the boat with them. He cares for them. He will take care of them. He will take care of us. Even when we think things are completely out of hand - we’re never out of His hands. The boat will not sink and the storm will not last forever.
Faith is the answer to fear. Do we really believe that He has it all under control?
Verse 41 - after Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea - They - the disciples - became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
In verse 40 the word for “fear” has the idea of “cowardice.” Like the Cowardly Lion of Oz - afraid of even his shadow - trembling - panicked fear. That’s where the disciples were during the storm. Here - in verse 41 - its a different kind of “fear.” The disciples are in “awe” of Jesus. They’ve gained a new appreciation - a deep respect for Him - a realization has set in. Jesus - Messiah - commands even the wind and the sea.
That’s how God works in our lives - testing our faith and proving Himself to us - time and time again. Helping us to grow in our trust of Him - teaching us to be more impressed with Jesus than the storms - to be more impressed Him than our fearful understanding of our circumstances.
Two thoughts of application.
First - WE MUST FOCUS ON JESUS
How many of you saw the 1997 movie “Titanic”? Aside from watching 2 hours of adultery and fornication - the movie - as you know took place during the sinking of the Titanic. April 14, 1912 - the largest and most luxurious passenger ship ever built by man - the “unsinkable” Titanic - struck an iceberg in the mid-Atlantic and sank - killing over 1500 people.
One thing that has always moved me about that disaster occurred during the last minutes before the ship finally went under. The band - playing on the deck - knowing that they would soon die in the icy waters - began to play the hymn, “Nearer My God To Thee.”
I wonder what people felt - out on the water clinging to life - some in life boats - some facing death in the water. What did they feel on the deck of the ship hearing that hymn?
How did the disciples feel - when they watched nails driven into the hands of their friend. As they watched their Savior lifted up on a cross. How do we feel - even in circumstances when we face the extreme of death.
Listen to these words, “Nearer my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee, E’en though it be a cross that raiseth me; still all my song would be, nearer, my God to Thee. Nearer, my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee.”
In few minutes we’re going sing those words together. When we do - be reminded that fear is overcome by faith. In all our circumstances - our desire must be to draw nearer - to trust - the One who is able to save us in the storm.
Second thought of application: WE MUST THINK OF OTHERS
Verse 36 says: Leaving the crowd, they took Him along with them in the boat, just as He was; and other boats were with Him.
Jesus and His disciples were not alone out on that sea - tossed around and sinking in the storm. There were others also in other boats. The difference is Jesus.
So many people around us are struggling with heavy burdens - fears and pressures - being blown around and tossed about. What hope do they have? They need to know Jesus. They need us to tell them - with Jesus, “The boat will not sink and the storm will not last forever.”