|FEAR & FAITH
Series: The Good News of Jesus Christ - Part Fourteen
Pastor Stephen Muncherian
May 13, 2018
This morning - before we get to Mark - we have a quick quiz to help us get into where we’re going in Mark. What Jesus is teaching His disciples.
According to Phobialist.com there are 530 recognized phobias. Fears that are found in reference books.
Question #1: Cyberphobia is the fear of…
A. The Internet
C. Cell Phones
D. The Cloud
Answer is B - Cyberphobia is a fear of computers. Anyone relate?
You guys did so well with that one. So, this one is a little tougher.
Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of…
A. Peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth
B. Being bitten by a spider while swimming
C. Getting caught in a spider web
D. Watermelon seeds
Answer A - Arachibutyrophobia is the fear of peanut butter sticking to the roof of your mouth.
Phobophobia is the fear of...
A. Being Photographed
Answer is D - Phobophobia is the fear of fear.
There’s a lot of things in life that can cause us to be fearful. People driving over people on sidewalks. People going nuts with guns. An uncertain future - the moral degradation of our society - struggles in our homes - trying to make ends meet - employment or lack of it - illness - and we could go on.
As we go through the experiences of our lives fear touches us deep in our hearts. Messes with us physically - emotionally. Messes with our sleep. Messes with how we do life. Fear can cause us to seize up no matter where we are spiritually - as a follower of Jesus. We all have our moments. Maybe days or longer. It’s easy for us to become fearful.
Which is where we’re going this morning with what Jesus is teaching. What do we do when we feel the walls closing in? How do we handle fear?
Would you stand - if you are able - and read with me Mark 4:35-41 as we come before God’s word together this morning.
And leaving the crowd, they took Him with them in the boat, just as He was. And other boats were with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 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?”
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. And He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
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?”
The account we’re looking at is reasonably familiar. Yes? So we need to make sure that we don’t just blow right through this and sail right by what God has for us.
It will be helpful is for us to sea this as A Field Trip.
Jesus taking His disciples across the Sea of Galilee to help cement into their hearts and minds what it is that Jesus has been teaching them.
For several Sundays we’ve been following Jesus teaching about the kingdom of God. The everywhere and everywhen sovereignty of God over His creation and specifically God’s kingdom coming to us in the person of Jesus Christ. God’s kingdom being - as Jesus taught - God’s kingdom being at hand - all that almighty sovereign-ness - right here - right now - with us in the flesh and blood of Jesus Christ.
Which is extremely difficult - impossible - for us to get our minds around. But it’s crucial that we understand enough about the kingdom being at hand because each of us needs to respond to that reality if we’re going to live in God’s kingdom with His blessings and favor.
Jesus - as He’s teaching - Jesus has been using parables. Using things that are familiar - seeds and lamps and everyday stuff - using those everyday familiar things as illustrations to help His followers understand what’s not familiar - what it means that God’s kingdom is here.
Then Jesus goes beyond the parables that He’s teaching the large crowds with - Jesus gets alone with His disciples and inner circle of followers. Jesus explains to them in greater detail what He’s talking about.
Jesus challenges them. What we’ve seen in the past few Sundays. Jesus challenges them to hear with their hearts and to pay attention with minds to what He’s teaching. To go beyond the familiar - us moving beyond “We’ve read this account before.” To be open to the heart level life changing response to what Jesus is teaching. Not just hearing the teaching but taking it into the core of who we are and allowing God to change the direction and way we do life.
All that teaching - Jesus teaching His disciples about the power behind God’s kingdom - what makes the kingdom happen - all that being about God - and the potential of the kingdom - which goes beyond our ability to imagine - what God is doing in and through His kingdom - and us - is what God wills His kingdom to be. All that comes before the field trip.
God’s kingdom being right here is about the presence of God. The power that drives the kingdom is God. The potential of the kingdom is what God wills - what God is doing in His kingdom.
Jesus is teaching His disciples - and us - in the often fearful stuff of life - don’t loose heart. Have patience. Have faith. Keep praying. Keep serving. Keep trusting. The kingdom of God is people - people of faith - who have a relationship with Jesus Christ - who are hearing and paying attention - who by faith step forward when God calls them into whatever He leads them into.
Regardless of the circumstances - trust the sovereign almighty God Who is with you. Have faith.
Verse 35 introduces us to what comes next. The field trip.
On that day [later after all the teaching], when evening had come, He [Jesus] said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
Jesus is teaching near His home base - northwest shore of Sea of Galilee - near Capernaum. After a long day of ministry - Jesus tells His disciples, “Let’s get away from the crowds. Let’s head to other side of the Sea.” What would have been about 8 miles across the water.
Notice a couple things.
Notice that it’s Jesus who initiates the field trip. Jesus said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”
Notice where Jesus is. What Mark records as “just as He was” means that Jesus was already in the boat. Matthew records that Jesus was the first one into the boat. Meaning that the disciples followed Jesus into the boat because He asked them to.
Jesus - fully God - fully man - Who knows what’s coming - and still initiates the field trip.
When the Jesus and the disciples set out for the other shore it was probably a calm restful evening. After a long day of ministry the disciples are probably looking forward to a relaxing - restful trip - a little cruise across the lake. Which it wasn’t.
We know this because it happens today. The mountains that surround the Sea of Galilee create winds that gather and suddenly rush down on the sea.
This is a picture of the remains of a 1st century fishing boat they found in 1986 on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee. Same kind of boat that Jesus and His disciples probably took. Its’ 27 feet long - which is about from here to there - and a little over 7 1feet wide.
Probably looked something like this. (picture)
Not really a lot of room for 13 guys out on a lake. But not bad if things stay calm. (picture)
Which they didn’t. Within minutes the sea was churning - the wind is roaring - the boat is taking on water.
Even though these guys are experienced sailors - the disciples 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 - expecting to die - fearful. They’re rushing around trying to save the boat - bailing water - making things fast - throwing excess weight overboard.
While they’re doing all the rushing and bailing and saving themselves thing - at some point there’s a realization: “Hey! Where’s Jesus?”
In the stern of the boat - in the back of the boat on the cushion reserved for important passengers - Jesus is 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 can connect with what these guys are feeling. 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. It’s easy to become fearful - to panic - to rush around trying to find our 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. The prayer ap doesn’t work. We pray and pray and nothing seems to happen. We often feel like everything is about to be lost.
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 awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Jesus - leading the field trip - Jesus is never fearful of the storm. He knew what was coming. The storm is just one exhibit on the field trip. As Mark writes about this event - Jesus’ response - the storm almost seems inconsequential. It’s just a means to an end.
Jesus’ response is measured. Without fear. Jesus calmly gets up and rebukes the wind and tells sea be still.
“Rebuke” implies that Jesus has the authority “to rebuke” the wind.
“Peace” is in the imperative. Literally it’s a command “Silence!”
“Be still” is a command meaning “Be still.” Literally “muzzle it” - like a muzzle put on a dog’s snout.
“Ceased” in Greek means “ceased.”
“Calm” is not just calm but a great calm. In Greek it’s “mega calm.”
Meaning instant transformation back to the calm of evening sea. Restful and relaxing. Peaceful and calm.
Jesus tells the wind and the sea to knock it off... and they do. Because He can. It’s a God thing. God’s kingdom and authority on display.
On Christmas Eve, 1968, the three astronauts of Apollo 8 circled the dark side of the moon and headed for home. Suddenly, over the horizon of the moon rose the earth - the blue of our atmosphere and the white of the swirling clouds - glistening in the of the sun against the black void of space.
Those astronauts - trained in science and technology - they didn’t utter Darwin’s name or some poem or a song or some play. The people of earth heard the voice from space as the astronaut read, “In the beginning God.”
The only reality worthy enough to describe that unspeakable awe - unutterable in any other way. “In the beginning God created” - the invasive inescapable sense of the infinite and the eternal. What we’re seeing can only be describe as a God thing.
Weatherman will say, “There’s a 50% chance of rain tomorrow.” Which means they have no clue. 50% it may rain. 50% it may not. Scientists can predict the path of a storm but they can’t take control of it.
“Wind. Knock it off. Sea. Be still.” And they do. That’s a God thing.
By every reasonable working of the grey matter, why shouldn’t they have been afraid? Which of us wouldn’t be afraid?
But, Jesus - God - Who’s not afraid - is using the storm to teach the disciples - and us - about fear and faith. Trusting the sovereign God Who has brought His kingdom to us. Who desires for us to live blessed within His kingdom, with Him, for His glory, today and forever.
Are we hearing Jesus? Are we paying attention? Why are you afraid? - fear. Where’s your faith?
Pulling all that together - Jesus’ - hear this - pay attention - take away teachable moment from the field trip - answer to the questions is that Faith is always the answer to fear. Say that with me, “Faith is always the answer to fear.”
We become afraid because we lose faith. Faith is always the answer to our fears - regardless of what they are.
Ray Stedman years ago 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. (1)
Say that with me. “The boat will not sink. The storm will not last forever.”
Meaning that there are boundaries - limits - placed on what we go through - things that bring us to fear. Boundaries - limits - established by the authority and will of the sovereign - powerful - God - working His will - the potential of the kingdom. So that even physical death is not to be feared.
God sets the boundaries. Not what we fear.
Which is easy to hear - floating along on a calm sea or sitting on the gentle slope of a hill on a warm afternoon. Or on a teal colored chair in an air conditioned sanctuary hearing the familiar. “Yeah we got that.” But not so easy to remember in a storm.
It’s been said that the school of faith has three levels of instruction. Entry level is when we pray and things get better. Intermediate level is when we pray and things stay the same. Advanced is when we pray and things get worse.
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. In every circumstance we have a choice - to respond in fear - or to respond in faith. Even if things get worse.
Jesus - God - the master of the wind and the sea is in the boat with them. Even when we think things are completely out of hand - we’re never out of God’s sovereign hands.
Faith is always the answer to fear. Do we really believe that God has it all under His sovereign control?
Verse 41 - after Jesus rebukes the wind and the sea - And they [the disciples] were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
In verse 40 the Greek word for “fear” is “deilos.” It 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 - there’s a different Greek word for “fear.” The word “phobos” - which is where we get our word… “Phobia” Fear that goes to the very core of who we are.
Here the application of that word is slightly different. It has to do with - at the core of who we are - understanding and respect - and awe-full reverence - type of fear of Jesus.
The disciples have gained a new appreciation - a powerful deep respect for Jesus. Realization is setting in. The Almighty is in the boat with us. The kingdom of God really is at hand. Jesus - Messiah - God with us - commands even the wind and the sea. And they obey Him.
Isn’t that how God works in our lives? Testing our faith - pushing us forward out of our comfort zone - taking us to new levels of instruction - and proving Himself to us - time and time again. Helping us to grow in our trust - our faith in Him - teaching us to be more impressed with Jesus than the storms - to be more impressed with Him than our fearful understanding of our circumstances.
Processing all that...
Two takeaways for us this morning. First - we need to Press Into Jesus.
This is the… HMS Titanic. April 15, 1912 - The HMS Titanic - the unsinkable largest ship afloat - on her maiden voyage with upwards of 2,200 plus passengers and crew - strikes and iceberg - and sinks.
What results in the senseless death of many of the world’s most wealthy and powerful people - over 1500 people dying in horrific circumstances. A tragic event which has intrigued and captured the hearts and imaginations of generations.
Documented fact: In 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… what? “Nearer My God To Thee.”
Hear the words: “Nearer my God, to Thee, nearer to Thee, Even 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.”
What would that be like? To be 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 - in fearful circumstances - hearing that hymn? We don’t know. We weren’t there.
But how do we feel in our circumstances when we face the extreme of death? Or what may seem like death?
Sometimes God takes us through level three faith instruction. Meaning we pray and things get worse. The ship sinks and there’s no life boat.
Faith is always the answer to fear.
Faith in Jesus - God - Who is sovereign - Who’s got it - got us - even if the boat does go down. Even if the storm gets worse. We know that all of that is in God’s hands. Limited and used according to His sovereign authority and will.
We need to press into Jesus and keep trusting.
Years ago Jill Briscoe shared about faith and courage.
“Fear is normal. But fear should not stop us from being courageous. Courage is doing the right thing while scared to death. Courage is obedience - strength supplied by God. Our part is asking God for the strength to take the first step.”
“Help!” is a way legitimate prayer. “God. I got nothing. Help me. Strengthen Me. Help my faith.” Crying out to God is pressing into Jesus.
And it almost sounds trite. But it’s true. Pressing into Jesus means the basics: Prayer - Bible study - fellowship and the support of brothers and sisters in Christ - worship - our devotional life - the basics. The daily stuff we do that all helps us press into Jesus. We need those things daily in our lives because God uses those things to strengthen our hearts - our faith - our relationship with Him.
We need choose to keep going with the basics even when the storms hit our lives.
Isn’t it instructive - sobering - how Satan uses fear to get our focus on what we fear and not on our coming to Jesus in prayer and what draws us closer to Him.
In all our circumstances - our desire must be to draw nearer - to press into Jesus. To put our faith in the One who is able to save us in the storm.
Second thought of application is our opportunity to Be Aware Of Others.
There’s probably no image is more unsettling than what happened after the Titanic sank - the accounts of what happened to those who had jumped or fell into the ocean.
Of the twenty lifeboats that had been launched - some of them half-empty - only one returned to rescue those dying in the frigid waters. Three days after the sinking - when the funeral ships arrived from Nova Scotia - they found 328 life jacketed men, women, and children, floating in the water, frozen to death.
They died, not because the Titanic sank, but because the people who were already saved wouldn’t go back for the people who were not.
Which is sobering for us to think about. Way too often we Christians can stay content - complacent - in our own place of safety - of privilege - in Jesus while the world around us is living in fear and dying in sin.
Satan is really good at not only getting us focused on what we fear. But when we’re fearing to keep us focused on ourselves and our issues and to lose sight of what God desires to do in us and through us.
Verse 36 tells us: And leaving the crowd, they took Him with them in the boat, just as He was. And other boats were with Him.
Those six little words are not there by accident. Only Mark - of the three Gospel writers that record this event - Matthew, Mark, Luke - only Mark includes these six words, “and other boats were with Him.”
Jesus and His disciples were not alone out on that sea. There were others also in other boats. Mark never tells us why all those boats are out there - what was in the mind of the people in those boats. Only that they’re with Jesus.
Maybe they saw the great works of Jesus - saw the miracles - and were following along. Maybe they had illnesses or diseases that they wanted to conquer, and, in seeing Jesus heal, wanted to taste of that healing. Maybe they were synagogue goers or officials who were doing what they thought was expected of them. Maybe they were just curious or followers of the crowd - the paparazzi. We don’t know. Mark doesn’t tell us.
But we’re not alone out here on the sea. We’re in a vessel carrying Jesus through a community. Whether the sea is as still as glass or a maelstrom trying to suck us to the bottom - there’s this flotilla of boats that goes with us. If the wind is howling in our ears it’s howling in theirs. If the water is pouring into our boat it’s pouring into theirs.
People are watching. Watching our response to the storm. Watching us panic. Watching us bail. Watching us dump cargo. Watching to see what we’ll do to survive the storm. Watching to see if we really trust the guy in the back sleeping on the cushion.
80,000 plus people live in Merced. On a given Sunday maybe 10,000 are in church? How many have a saving relationship with Jesus? 70,000 plus people in boats without Jesus. Struggling - like us - with heavy burdens - fears and pressures - being blown around and tossed about.
They boat is sinking. They need to know the nearness of the kingdom. They need to know Jesus. They need us to tell them. Going back for those who need to believe in the resurrected Savior.
Those are our two takeaways. You and God know where you are this morning. Which boat you’re in and what it’s like there. Faith in Jesus is always the answer to fear. Are you pressing into Jesus? Are you helping others to come to Him?
1. Ray Stedman, Why Are You Afraid? Mark 4:35-5:20, 01.05.75
Sinclair B. Ferguson, Let’s Study Mark (Edinburgh, The Banner of Truth Trust, 2016).
Charles R. Swindoll, Swindoll’s Living Insights New Testament Commentary, Volume 2: Insights on Mark (Carol Stream, IL, Tyndale House Publishers, 2016).
Unless otherwise indicated, Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.