What must it have been like that day on Galilee when a man of flesh and blood commanded the fierce gale of wind, “Hush! Be still!” and the wind and the sea obeyed Him?
This story of Jesus calming the winds and the waves by the sound of His voice (Mark 4:35-41; also, in Matthew 8 and Luke 8) is surely one of the most impressive in the gospels. Thirteen ordinary looking men, a rabbi and His twelve disciples, get into a boat and launch off across the Sea of Galilee to go to the other side. Before they have gone far, they are caught in a fierce windstorm and are in danger of drowning in the lake. The disciples wake their leader from His sleep and tell Him to do something, if He cares about them at all. What happens next is the subject of our study. Before their boat ride is over, it will become clear that Jesus is no ordinary man.
Let me start by saying that, while there are other lessons that are taught by this event on the lake, it is critical that we grasp and embrace the essential point of the passage. Don’t miss this: Jesus is God in human flesh. That is the primary reason this incident is recorded almost verbatim in all three synoptic gospels. Jesus is Messiah, yes. But Jesus is also more than the promised Messiah. He is the Son of God who repeatedly reveals Himself to be God the Son. He is incarnate deity, God in human flesh. That is the main message of this passage.
Whatever the disciples expected when they woke Him and asked for His help, we can be certain that they did not expect Him to silence the storm by a command. For the disciples, the idea that Jesus would stand up and command the wind and the sea to stop their raging was not one of the options. But Jesus commanded the wind and the sea as the One who was inherently and unquestionably their Master. It would be madness for another man to speak to a storm at sea in this way, for the winds and the sea cannot be tamed by any man. But for Jesus, to command the wind and the waves to hush was His divine right. He was their Maker and therefore their Master, and they must obey His command. And so, they do.
And the response of the disciples confirms the message Jesus intended to communicate. Here are His hand-picked disciples, those He chose to be with Him and who had been walking with Him for a little while. They had already seen Him perform miracles that defied explanation. They had heard His teaching, which came with such absolute authority that it demanded obedience. They had observed how He carried Himself and had felt the power of His presence, a regal presence that left no doubt that He was of a superior class, but that simultaneously communicated a supreme humility. “Who then is this . . . ?”
APPLICATIONS FROM THIS PASSAGE:
That Jesus is God is of tremendous theological importance. This truth is a foundational belief of the Christian faith, but it is also of immense practical significance for the believer.
As we examine this event on the sea, we should see that every believer is ‘spiritually’ in the boat with the disciples and must answer these same questions. When the storms of life come in and “slam against our house” (not if, but ‘when;’ Matthew 7:25 NASB), how will we respond? When real threats bear down on us and the ground under us begins to give way, what will we do? And why is the divinity of Jesus important?
- ATONEMENT – The boat is filling with water, and there are fierce winds and high waves, and the disciples ask Jesus, “Do You not care that we are perishing?” But God does care that people are perishing, that men and women are dying and going to hell forever. God the Father has sent God the Son from heaven for the express purpose of atoning for sin by His death on the cross. Jesus must be God, for only the death of the sinless Son of God can atone for sin and can propitiate God’s wrath.
- REFUGE – Surely Mark 4:39 must be one of the most startling verse in the Bible. How does and atheist or an unbeliever read over this verse without experiencing great discomfort? ‘Jesus awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.’ (The Greek in this passage is beautiful, because “becomes a great squall of wind (4:37)” and “became a great calm (4:39)” and led to “fearing a great fear (4:41).”) Jesus displays His authority over forces completely beyond our ability to control, thus displaying that He also has authority over our lives and our circumstances. Therefore, I can run to Him as my refuge when life becomes frightening.
- CALM – Notice that the “great calm” produced “a great fear.” Now this is certainly puzzling. Why would this be? The disciples wanted Jesus to act on their behalf, so He did, and now they are “fearing with a great fear.” The answer to this question is contained in the obvious implication of the disciples’ own question. “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him (4:41b).” To their astonishment, the disciples suddenly realize that this Jesus is not just an exalted Teacher or merely a miracle worker, but He is the LORD Almighty. Jesus is God. He is YHWH. This flesh and blood man at the stern of the boat is the Holy One of Israel. For the disciples then, the revealing of Jesus’ identity was a frightening thing, but for us, Jesus divinity gives us a reason for calm and rest. Since Jesus is with us in our every storm, we can encounter the storm with a great calm, trusting in His power and promises. Jesus is Lord and will see us through.
SDG rmb 3/27/2020