Sermon for the Fourth Sunday after Pentecost based on Mark 4:35-41
Dear disciples in the boat: grace, mercy, and peace to you from God the Father and our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.
“Teacher, do you not care?” The disciples were fighting just to keep the boat afloat. The great windstorm brought waves crashing into the boat. The boat was already filling with water. Soaked and tired, the disciples fear that they are perishing. Doesn’t Jesus care? He’s in the stern sleeping! The disciples are fighting for their lives while Jesus takes a snooze. “Teacher, do you not care?”
We’ve been there. We have faced the storms of this life and wondered whether or not Jesus cares. When the diagnosis of cancer comes, does Jesus care? When the loss of employment comes, does Jesus care? When health deteriorates and death seems inevitable, is Jesus sleeping?
In Psalm 44 we pray, “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever!” (v. 23) Sometimes to us it does seem like God is sleeping. We pray, but the wind only seems to get stronger and the waves bigger. We pray but hear no answer. Our boat is getting filled up and we are at the point of despair. Does God even know what I’m going through? Where is He? Is He sleeping?
Psalm 121 tells us, “He who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep.” (vv. 3-4) God does not sleep as we do. Here we see the distinction in the persons of the Trinity. God the Son was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He became man.
Only by becoming man could the Son of God suffer and die for us. Only by becoming man could He fulfil the Law of God on our behalf. Only by becoming man could He become tired and require sleep.
God the Father does not sleep. Yet, Jesus, God in the flesh did sleep. He tired Himself serving mankind. He wore Himself out teaching the crowds, dealing with hatred and opposition. Jesus exhausted Himself carrying our sins, sorrows, and sicknesses. Jesus was so worn out that He could sleep through a great storm in a small boat while waves beat upon it and great waves crashed inside of it.
Yet Jesus did what we should all do in such a situation. He entrusted Himself to God the Father who will neither slumber nor sleep. Jesus knew that everything is in the Father’s hands. Human though He was, Jesus had no fear. He slept soundly through the storm because He feared God more than the storm. He knew the Father’s will was good, even if it meant His death.
Jesus is the only one who has ever kept the First Commandment – You shall have no other gods. Whatever we fear, love, and trust above all things is our god. Jesus did not fear, love, or trust in anything other than the Father, even while the disciples cried out in fear. The disciples feared the storm more than anything else. At that moment they did not love or trust God.
This we have to admit of ourselves as well. In the storms of our lives, we have often not feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things. We have had fear of our situation instead of fearing God. We have loved what we were losing instead of loving God. We have trusted in what was being taken away from us instead of trusting in God. We have cried out, “Jesus, do you not care?” when He is right there in the boat with us.
Scripture tells us time and time again, that we have nothing to fear. Ps 27 says, “The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the stronghold of my life; of whom shall I be afraid?” Isaiah 41 says, “Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God”. Matthew 28 says, “Do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather fear him who can destroy both soul and body in hell.” We are only to fear God.
We don’t need to fear loss, illness, or even death. Unbelievers fear such things. We don’t need to fear natural disasters, war, or plague. Those who do not fear God fear such things. We do not have to fear any of these things. Instead of sleepless nights worrying about such things, we should be able to sleep soundly even in the midst of whatever storm is crashing into our boat. While others around us despair about perishing, we should be calm, trusting in the Lord who created all things and still takes care of them and controls them with His powerful Word.
Our solution, however, is not in our ability to fear, love, and trust in God above all things. Our solution is that Jesus did fear, love, and trust in God the Father above all things. Jesus didn’t keep all the Commandments as God, but He kept them all as man. He kept the Commandments for us, so He had to keep them as a man. He is our only solution. He did what we have failed to do.
Jesus also suffered as a man for us. He had to become man so that He could suffer and die on the cross in our place. This also was no easy task, because Jesus was true man. Jesus was true man, that’s why He was in such agony in the Garden of Gethsemane. Jesus was true man, thus His sweat became like great drops of blood falling down to the ground (Lk. 22:44). He prayed that if it was the Father’s will, He would not have to drink the cup of the anger and wrath of God (Lk. 22:42). Yet, Jesus was ready to do the will of the Father even in this. Jesus did drink the cup for us and suffered hell for us. Jesus took our punishment on Himself, suffering for us and for our salvation.
Baptized into His name, we have nothing to fear. Whatever storms of life we must face in our boat, we know that Jesus is with us. We don’t need to fear the wind or the waves. Jesus will rebuke the wind and say, “Peace! Be still!”
Jesus might not say this when we want Him to say it. We may cry to Him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” He may seem to us to be sleeping. But because Jesus feared, loved, and trusted in God above all things and died for our failure to do so, the storms of this life will cease. Through death we will awaken to the peace and stillness of Paradise. Through death Jesus takes us from the storms of this life to the great calm of our eternal home. Jesus does care. “If the boat goes down, He goes with us. We couldn’t be safer.” (Quote from Rev. Norman Nagel) Amen.
The peace of God which surpasses all understanding will keep your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus our Lord. Amen.