Dear readers, I know that it has been a while since I have been able to write. It has been a busy summer and I am only now getting back into the swing of things for the school year. This Sunday, we are continuing our walk through the Bible in 2016. Our studies have centered on the ministry of Jesus over the past few weeks. This week, we are going to cover Jesus’ miracle of the calming of the sea. This is a crucial lesson for Jesus’ disciples both then and now. I have learned much from this lesson and I want to share it with you, as I think through the lesson in prep for teaching it. Our main text is Mark 4:35-41.
On that day, when evening came, He said to them, “Let us go over to the other side.” 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?” And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. And He said to them, “Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They became very much afraid and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
Before jumping into the lesson, I have a few questions that I would like for us to ponder. Can fear and faith coexist in the daily life of a disciple of Christ? Is it possible to live by faith and be overcome by fear? What is the solution for fear so that I can follow Christ by faith?
In order to understand Christ’s teaching in verses 35-41, we need to examine the context of this passage. Verses 35-41 are found in the 4th part of a 4-part teaching that sets the context of Mark 4. The outline of Mark 4 is as follows:
- Verses 1-25 – the parable of the sower and the seed. The main point of the teaching is that the message of the Gospel is to be heard, understood, and obeyed. It is an example of what FAITH looks like. The disciples had just heard this teaching and it seemed that they were the only ones present who understood what Jesus was teaching. They heard and asked for understanding. Jesus explained it to them. Now they have to apply what they learned, by faith.
- Verses 26-29 – this is the parable of the seed that is planted and as a result of faith, it grows and produces fruit. The key point once again is faith, obeying the message that Christ taught. Again, it seems that the disciples understood the theory but were awaiting a practical opportunity to apply what they had learned.
- Verses 30-34 – this is the parable of the mustard seed, the smallest of all seeds that if allowed to grow, produces awesome fruit. The main point once again is FAITH. Again, the disciples understand the theory. Will they apply what they have learned or will the teaching remain on a theoretical level?
The last segment of the chapter is what we will focus on during our lesson. This is the practical assignment. Will the disciples walk in faith or fear?
I. Being critical, the first sign of fear
When we follow Christ, we walk into the unknown. We give up control and allow Christ to lead us. Our sin nature does not like the unknown. It wants to feel in control. It lacks flexibility. Change is always bad to our sin nature. The disciples had a sin nature like all of us. They wanted to walk in faith but their sin nature preferred fear. When the sea became turbulent, they gave in to their fear. When they ran to Jesus, they did not go to Him and ask for help. Instead, they were critical of Him. Do You not care about us? This was the question that they had for Him. When studying this passage, I immediately thought of Martha. She had the Savior of the world in her home, yet, she was too busy to sit and listen to Him and learn from Him. Her sin nature was in full swing. Martha criticizes Mary for not helping her, but the way that she does it is by criticizing Jesus. She had a chance to strengthen her faith but she chose to be controlled by her sin nature. Later, after her brother had died, the first thing that she does upon Jesus’ arrival at the tomb is criticize Him again. We see here that fear and faith do not mix. The disciples do not walk in faith. They walk in fear and that manifests itself in their critical attitude of Jesus. What about you my dear friend, are you a critical person? What does that say about your faith? Are you inflexible, relinquishing control through clinched teeth? What are you afraid of? Do you really trust Jesus to lead you in the right direction?
II. Lack of trust, the second sign of fear
The immediate response of the disciples should have been to run to Jesus and ask for help. It almost seems that they are upset with Him for getting them into the mess that they are in while on the sea. Jesus was the One who suggested that they all take the boat ride across the sea. They do not ask Him for help. Jesus uses the opportunity to teach the disciples about faith, trust, and obedience. They understood the theory but failed miserably in the application. He does not lose heart with them. Instead, He teaches them by reminding them of what He had been teaching all day, that they need to have faith in Him. Again, I am reminded of Martha. When Jesus stood at the tomb of Lazarus, Martha gives the correct answer, that she believes that He can raise people from the dead. When it comes time to practice that theory, when Jesus commands that the stone covering the tomb be rolled away, she demonstrates her lack of trust. She is afraid that there will be a terrible stench because Lazarus has been dead in the tomb for a few days. Jesus weeps, not because of the death of Lazarus but because of the lack of faith, the lack of trust that the people have in Him. Do you trust Jesus? Are you willing to follow Him wherever He leads, even when you have to go through difficult circumstances? Are you aware of the fact that the circumstances through which you go are designed to drive you to depend more and more on Christ? Don’t let fear keep you from trusting the Lord every moment of every day.
III. Disobedience, the third sign of fear
Fear is friends with our sin nature. Our sin nature does not want to obey the Lord. When we are frozen by fear, we are not able to obey the Lord. The disciples learn this important lesson by the obedience of the elements. They had just disobeyed the Lord while the wind and the sea were immediately obedient to the voice of the Lord. So, the majority of the people who hear Jesus’ teaching did not follow Him to have a chance to apply what they had learned. The disciples did, even though they failed miserably, they learned from their mistakes and Jesus’ teachings.
What about you dear friend, are you led by fear or by faith? Do you trust or are you critical? How do you view your spiritual leaders, with suspicion, or with a trusting attitude? What about when things get tough, do you trust your spiritual leaders or do you criticize them? Are you walking in obedience or disobedience? Do you learn from your mistakes and the teachings of Jesus Christ? May the Lord help us overcome our fear with faith in Jesus Christ.