The Storms of Life – Mark 4:37-40

We all claim that we want God to reveal Himself to us, but what does that look like? How does God most often seem to demonstrate His power? Perhaps for the same reason people tell us to be careful what we wish for…

“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

There was a time early in Jesus’ ministry when He was traveling with His disciples in a boat at night. But perhaps I’m getting ahead of myself! During the day before, Jesus had spent some time teaching on the shore in this boat (Mk 4:1). At the end of the day, for whatever reason, He decided to go to the other side of the sea (Mk 4:35). (By the way, I have my suspicions that Jesus knew what He was doing.) All seemed well until “a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling” (Mk 4:37). It’s at this point that the disciples get scared. Wouldn’t you? Mark 4:38 says that they woke Jesus up and said, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Isn’t that an easy question to ask? When the storms of this life come, and they will, don’t we sometimes feel as though God doesn’t care? Don’t we wonder if He sees what we’re going through? I can make you one sure promise in this life: Troubles will come (Jn 16:33). Ask anyone who has been around longer than… a week! You’ll find that this life does bring storms. Storms may look different from person-to-person; for some it may be a bounced check, for others it may be a broken leg! But Jesus promised us that the storms will come (Mt 7:24-27).

Don’t you care that I’m drowning?

And don’t we find it easy to wonder why it seems as though God does nothing? Doesn’t it sometimes feel as though God is just watching from afar; as though He’s sitting up in Heaven on His throne watching us as the storm sweeps over us, the waves crash into us, and it’s all we can do to keep our head above water?
“Teacher, don’t you care that my life is falling apart? Don’t you care that I don’t think I can make it? Don’t you care that I’m hurting, I’m alone? Don’t you care that I’m drowning?”
“Don’t you care?”
But isn’t this what gives our lives their meaning? Doesn’t God demonstrate His peace through our storms? Doesn’t God demonstrate His power through our weakness? What would happen if we didn’t have any storms? I know I would become arrogant and self-reliant. Wouldn’t we start to think that we deserved all the credit for all our great accomplishments? I know I would.

Are we really that different?

After the disciples cry out to Jesus, He simply commands the wind and waves to “be still” and they obey (Mk 4:39). Just like that the storm simply stopped. It’s almost like He was God. It’s almost like He was in charge the whole time. It’s almost like the disciples were worrying for no reason… But we already knew that didn’t we?
It’s easy for us to read this story and wonder why the disciples were so terrified. I mean, they had Jesus with them. Surely they knew that God was all-powerful and could stop the storm at any time. How could the disciples be so foolish? But are we really that different? Is our storm really that much bigger? Are our circumstances the special exception where God has no power to act on our behalf?
Look at how Jesus responds to His disciples: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” It’s almost as though Jesus is disappointed. I can’t help but read this with my name in front of it: “Daniel, why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? After all that we’ve been through, after all that you’ve seen, have you still no faith?”
Have you still no faith?
So here’s how the conversation goes:
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing,” we ask as soon as the storm starts getting rough.
Jesus answers our question with a question: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
So why are we still afraid? Could it be that we lose perspective? Could it be that we forget that, just as Jesus had power over the storm in Mark 4:37-40, He also has power of the storms in 2011? Could it be that we believe the storm has more power than God? I ask God to show Himself to me, but as soon as that takes me out of my comfort zone, I become afraid. Jesus simply asks us to trust Him even in the midst of the storm.
Which brings us to the original question: We all claim that we want God to reveal Himself to us, but what does that look like?
I firmly believe that it will look like cloudy skies more often than clear skies.
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was crucified, dead, and buried

(This is part seven of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

This entry talks about the second most important event in human history; the day that Jesus

“was crucified, dead, and buried.”

Once again, I’ll break it up into chunks and look at all three components of this line and why they matter.

“was crucified” – It’s been said that grace is free but it ain’t cheap. This event is exactly what that statement is referring to. Jesus, an innocent man, was crucified for sinful people. Jesus was brought before the crowds right before his crucifixion along with a man named Barabbas. Barabbas was a murderer, a violent man, a rebel (Mark 15:7). Pilate, who we discussed in the last entry, offered to let one man go: Jesus or Barabbas (Mark 15:9). It’s easy, at this point, for us to resent the murderous rebel who got to go free; for us to wish that Jesus had been set free. But I think at that moment all mankind was symbolized by Barabbas. The guilty rebel, with blood on his hands, was set free while the innocent Son of God was delivered to Roman soldiers to be scourged and crucified. I am Barabbas… and so are you. We should realize that we are the guilty murderous rebels that have been set free.What shall we do with this freedom that has been purchased on our behalf and given to us as a gift (Galatians 5:22)?

Next, Jesus was subjected to the most painful execution method in human history. The death of the Messiah was actually prophesied before crucifixion even existed (Psalm 22:16; John 20:20, 25), but that his how He died. We hear this all the time: “Christ was crucified.” We become numb to it. Yet, crucifixion was so horrible, a word was invented to describe it: excruciating. Excruciating means literally “from the cross.” That’s how painful it was. There are many people who do a better job of explaining this than I do. Here’s a link to the Medical Aspects of the Crucifixion that describes the physical pain our Saviour experienced for us. It was horrendous!

Sometimes crucifixion could last for days. Jesus was so weak from being flogged (Isaiah 52:14; Mark 15:15, Luke 22:63-65, John 19:1) and so dehydrated (Psalm 22:15; John 19:28) that He died quickly (Mark 15:44). Sometimes, to hurry the dying process the Romans would break the legs of the person on the cross. Jesus’ legs were not broken, which is important for several reasons. First, Jesus was the Passover Lamb; in John 1:29, John the Baptist described Jesus as “the Lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world.” According to the Passover instructions, the sacrificial lamb was not allowed to have any broken bones (Exodus 12:46). Additionally, this was consistent with Messianic prophecies that described Jesus’ death (Psalm 22:17; John 19:31-36). Finally, after several hours, Jesus declared that His work was finished (John 19:30), and was…

“dead” – Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, and John 19:33 all agree that Jesus was dead. Some people have claimed that Jesus merely passed out and later woke up from His nap. Although medical science has progressed over the last 2,000 or so years, people back in Jesus’ time could still tell the difference between someone who was alive and someone who was dead. First there’s Luke; he was the author of the third Gospel and a doctor (Colossians 4:14). If anyone at that time could identify a dead body, it would have been a doctor. Another expert at identifying dead bodies would have been the Roman soldiers who professionally killed people (Mark 15:44-45). It was their job to take living bodies and turn them into dead bodies. Surely they would have been able to identify a dead body? Finally, it’s likely that anyone who witnessed Jesus being scourged, beaten, and then crucified, would have been able to realize He was dead because His body would have been mutilated; this also fulfilled prophetic Scripture (Isaiah 52:14).

“and buried” – After Jesus died, He was buried by Joseph of Arimathea (Mark 15:43, 46). If Jesus had indeed fainted, it’s likely that without immediate medical attention He would have died in the tomb during the three days He was buried. Also, as Mark 15:46 mentions, a large stone was rolled in front of the entrance. It would have been impossible for Jesus, after His body had sustained so much damage, to move the stone. Jesus’ burial in a rich man’s grave also fulfilled the prophecy in Isaiah 53:9 (Matthew 27:57-60, Mark 15:43-46, Luke 23:50-53, John 19:38-42).

We find that there is compelling evidence that Jesus was certainly crucified, dead, and buried. Isaiah 53:6 summarizes these events best:
“All we like sheep have gone astray;
we have turned—every one—to his own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
the iniquity of us all.”

Second Corinthians 5:21 tells us why He did this:
“For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”

We’ll explore these themes further in a later post…

Grieve with hope

God never promised that life would be easy. In fact, Jesus promises pretty much the opposite in John 16:33. Jesus says we will have trouble. Life is full of pain, grief, and sorrow. These emotions are all part of the human experience. They’re a part of who we are and how we experience this fallen, broken world. Ecclesiastes 3:1 reassures us that this is normal. There are times and seasons for everything.

Specifically, Ecclesiastes 3:4 tells us that there are times to mourn. There are times for sorrow; but there are also times to celebrate. Life is a paradox. One of my favorite quotes comes from the character Brian in Vanilla Sky, he says, “Just remember, the sweet is never as sweet without the sour, and I know the sour…”

I think life is a lot like that. It takes the sour to appreciate the sweet. It takes death to appreciate life. And it’s okay to mourn when people die. In fact, it’s Biblical. Look at the Psalms. Sixty-seven psalms are regarded as lament psalms either wholly or in part. Sixty-one are laments in their entirety. To me, one of the saddest Psalms, is Psalm 88. Look at Psalm 88:14, 16, 18. Those verses are tragic. Yet in Psalm 88:1 the Psalmist refers to God as “the God who saves me.”

After Job lost everything, he went into a deep state of sorrow. In Job 2:13, his friends show up and just sit there with him for a whole week. No one says anything; they’re just there for him, supporting him, comforting him.

Even Jesus, in Mark 14:34 says that his “soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death.” Even Jesus! Arguably the shortest verse in the Bible (depending on what translation you use) is John 11:35 where the text says that “Jesus wept.” If Jesus can mourn, so can we. If Jesus can feel despair, so can we. It’s okay.

It’s not a sin to feel sorrow, despair, or depression (although it can be easy to sin while feel like this). The problem comes when we try to hide our emotions from God; or when we try to “sterilize” our prayers. Many of the Psalms are full of questions to God. Questions like, “How long, O LORD, how long?” (Psalm 6:3), or “Why have you rejected us forever, O God?” (Psalm74:1). Those are just two examples but there are dozens of others.

My point is simply this, when time are hard and we feel pain, we need to be honest with God. We need to bring our pain to Him and lean on Him for strength. Psalm 142:1-2 talks about being open and honest with God. Psalm 143:1 asks God to listen, with verse 10 asking for guidance. And Psalm 144:1-2 gives praise to God calling Him our fortress, stronghold, deliverer, and shield.We need to admit that we don’t understand the world but that we trust in someone who does. God is in charge and it’s not our place to know all the answers to life’s questions.

The good news is that we have hope; if not in this life, then certainly in the next. God will be victorious and He will be glorified. Although most of the Psalms are lament psalms, read the last one, Psalm 150:6 is the last verse in the book of Psalms and it simply says, “Let everything that has breath praise the LORD. Praise the LORD.”

God also promises that he will be with us during hard times. One of my all-time favorite Bible verses is 1 Peter 5:10. While it does promise that we may suffer for “a little while” it also promises that God Himself will restore us and make us “strong, firm, and steadfast.”

To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen (1 Peter 5:11).