“Jesus Calms the Storm” Rev. Steven Sommerer
June 20, 2021 Fourth Sunday of Pentecost
Let the words of my mouth and the meditations of our hearts be acceptable in Your sight O Lord our Rock and our Redeemer. Amen.
The sermon text is from Mark 4:35-41:
That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with Him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to the disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” So far the text.
As the disciples crossed the Sea of Galilee, Jesus slept under the stern of the boat. When I think of Jesus sleeping in the boat, I think of two things. Firstly, Jesus was exhausted, preaching and doing miracles through long days and praying through long nights. That’s a good reminder for us that we don’t have to be guilty over rest and times of refreshment. It’s not ok, nor is it healthy, for able-bodied people to just receive government benefits to stay at home and do nothing. Paul wrote, “If a man will not work, neither shall he eat.” But labor and relaxation both have their place, and both are necessary. I’d only add – when you go on vacation find an LCMS church where you’re going. We don’t vacation from Christ.
So, Jesus sleeps in our text, and He wasn’t pretending. While true God, Jesus is truly a man. You get hungry and tired and need food and rest, and so did Christ. Hebrews says, “Jesus was like us in every way except without sin.” Jesus could only be our Savior and Substitute by becoming a real, flesh and blood man. Only by sharing our flesh, though without sin, could He take our place under God’s Law and keep it perfectly for us. And only as true man could our God really die for the sins of the world.
That said, this storm wasn’t your run of the mill storm. Our text says a “great storm, a hurricane squall” came up battering and swamping the boat with wind and water. We can imagine the disciples fighting to save the boat, trying to stay afloat. Finally in desperation, they woke the Sleeping Savior: “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
Christ Jesus stood up in the stern of the boat, “rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” And our text says, “It was completely calm.” He said it, and it was.
But hold on a second. If Jesus’ nap proved His manhood, how could He command the wind and waves. Humans don’t have power over nature, the wind and rain. The strangeness wasn’t lost on the disciples: “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!” Our Introit Psalm 107 says, “Yahweh, the Lord made the storm be still and hushed the waves of the sea.” In the words of Job 38, only the true and living God can command, “Here shall your proud waves be stayed.” Only God could have such awesome and immediate power over an incredible hurricane squall. Only God can demand the winds be still and they obey. This is the most important point of our text - Jesus as true God assumed human flesh, and He had to be God and man to be our Savior.
But the disciples’ behavior is also instructive for us. They battled desperately against the storm. Had they really understood who shared their boat, they would have turned to Jesus in prayer sooner rather than when they were at their wits’ end. Do we really value prayer and believe in it? Do we seek it out for ourselves and from others? And if we don’t believe really believe in a God who loves and hears and answers prayers, maybe that’s why God sends calamity in the first place. Sometimes we need to be knocked down before we can look to God’s open hand of grace. As a kid, it was always good to learn my lessons when the spankings were light. Hebrews says, “God disciplines those whom He loves. Do not despise God’s discipline, He is treating you as sons.”
Like the disciples, we very foolishly try to handle things on our own. We forget that we have access to the all-powerful God who died for us. We’ll handle the big stuff. We think. Our kids need to pay for college, instead of trusting God’s care we get them jobs on Sunday morning so their faith suffers as their wallets grow. During illnesses or painful events in our lives, during troubled times in our marriages and families or other crises, too often we go it alone and struggle vainly in isolation from our Savior. And sometimes when we realize we can’t do it, we still fail to believe and trust that God can. But God will send the hurricanes that you need in your life, because your eternal life is more important than building your house on the sandy shore. God sends the storms you need, so you run to Him. And if that seems unpleasant, at least the One who sends the storms, knows how best to rescue and cares enough to sit with you in the boat.
Only with Jesus do you travel this life safely. Only in the shelter of His saving promises may you know peace and comfort. Your doctors are doubtlessly wonderful, but if your trust is in them first or your job or your smarts, your god is a false god. “We should fear, love and trust in God above all things.” The disciples didn’t yet truly know Jesus. That only really came at Pentecost with the gift of the Holy Spirit. Even after Jesus miraculously calmed the storm, instead of praising the Living God, they were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this?”
Only in Jesus’ death and resurrection, only by the power of God the Holy Spirit can we sinners know and believe God’s answer to the disciples’ question: “Who is this?” This crucified Savior, this Lord who rules over the storms of life, is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world.” Only in Christ can you know God’s perfect love for fallen people… only in Jesus can you understand the Holy Trinity’s desire to save… Only in His dying proclamation can you know with God’s own certainty that there’s nothing left for you to do to be God’s forgiven, blood-bought children. “It is finished,” Jesus said, and in His dying word, you can know death has forever been swallowed up by life and victory.
At Calvary and at the empty tomb, you find God’s answer to the disciples’ question: “Who is this?” This is the God that loves and forgives, the God that makes you part of His family through faith. This is the God who poured for you His unbreakable pledge in His Baptismal waters, that all who believe and are baptized will be saved. Just as Jesus’ word stilled the stormy waters, so in your Baptism Jesus’ mighty Word makes your baptism His waters of life. And this is why it’s so important we bring our babies to Christ in Baptism. He says, “Let the little ones come unto Me.” And that faith given in God’s watery Word clings to God’s sure promises.
About Jesus’ calming of the storm, Dr. Luther wrote: “Sometimes it appears the Lord does not see us, and has entirely forgotten about us, as He does here in the ship, and sleeps. He lets the waves overwhelm the ship, He lets the devil and the world rage against Christians so that it appears that we will certainly sink and drown. In His own time, however, the Lord awakes and shows His might, rebukes the littleness of our faith, the fear and fright of His disciples, listens to our pitiful cries, and ‘stills the noise of His people.’”
If the storms of life drive you to fear, let it be God that you fear, not the storm. Because you know He loves and watches over you. He promises to walk with you in life’s storms. He promises you a kingdom beyond this world, a place beyond the waves and struggles of this life, a peace that surpasses human understanding for all who believe. That blessed assurance, doesn’t rest on you and on your ability to sail well. It rests on your Savior who promises never to leave you nor forsake you.
Ultimately, as the disciples and all those who have departed this life in faith have found, our hope is in heaven - a place where the storms never rage. Entrusting our lives to Jesus, we travel safely through this life’s turbulent storms, but one day all the restlessness of our times will subside and there will be a great calm as we stand in the presence of our God and Savior. The Savior who stilled the storms of sin and death, brings us into His heavenly harbors, where “there will be no more weeping and no more pain and God Himself will wipe every tear from our eyes.” Amen.
And now may the peace of God which surpasses human understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.