The Master of Two Storms
Passage: Mark 4:35–5:20
The Master of Two Storms
March 26th, 2006
Way of Grace Church
This morning we're continuing our study in the book of Mark, so turn with me to Mark 4:35. We've been calling our study in Mark, "Who do you say that I am?" This question is taken from Jesus own words, from His question to His disciples in 8:29. This question is not only the most important question of the book, but it's also the most important question for our lives.
How do you answer this question? What do you believe about this man named Jesus? Just as we've been doing, let's keep that question in mind as we open up the word this morning.
Now, before we begin, let's remember where we've been before we finish up chapter four and sail into chapter 5. Mark began his gospel with the beginning of Jesus' public ministry in northern Israel, in the region called Galilee.
Now, not only had Jesus been attracting crowds, but, right from the get-go, Jesus was calling certain people to follow Him. These men that Jesus appointed as apostles in chapter 3, these men have been following Jesus for a little while now. How long? We don't know. But we know they've already experienced a lot.
They've been watching Him. They've seen Him heal the sick. They've seen Him drive out evil spirits. They've seen Him confront the religious leaders. They've heard him preach and teach. And as we saw earlier in this chapter, they've even received special instruction about His parables, interpretations that have been kept from the general public.
So with this in mind, we now return to exactly where we ‘paused the frame' last week. Jesus has been teaching His parables to the crowd, a crowd that was so large that Jesus had to sit in a boat as the people stood on the shore.
II. The First Storm (4:35-41)
So look at where we pick up in 4:35...
35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side." 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he 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?" 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"
So here's Jesus, just finishing up with His teaching, still in the boat, it's probably starting to get dark, and He tells His disciples, "Hey, let's go. I'm already set. Climb aboard guys and let's go across the lake to the other side." When Jesus' said the " the other side", He was talking about sailing from the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee down to the southeast shore. We know this from chapter five.
Now this morning, as you might have concluded from the title of this message, we are going to encounter two storms. The first storm is right here in verse 37. Because this lake is surrounded by high hills and narrow valleys, there is kind of a wind tunnel effect that makes storms likes this fairly common.
Now, remember, many of these disciples were experienced fisherman. They were familiar with these storms. So this would have been no problem, right? Wrong. This was a very bad storm, so bad that we read at the end of verse 37 that water was already starting to fill the boat from the high waves that were crashing over it.
These tough, experienced fisherman were afraid that they were going to die. So you can imagine them yelling, and trying to bale the water out and bring down the sail and causing quite a commotion. But where is Jesus in the midst of all this chaos? Verse 38. He's asleep in the stern, in the back of the boat. Jesus had been teaching all day, so he was probably exhausted.
You can imagine what these guys were thinking; "Are you kidding me!?! How can He be sleeping at a time like this? Jesus, wake up, wake up! We're going to drown! We're going to die! Do you care?"
And of course, Jesus does care. As soon as he gets up he immediately takes steps to deal with the storm. Does He start helping to bale water out the boat? Does he give them a pep talk on nautical safety and emergency procedures? No, he simply speaks..."Peace! Be still!"...and immediately the wind stops, and the waters are calm.
If you thought these guys were afraid in the midst of the storm, look at them in verse 41. Upon seeing this incredible display of power and authority from Jesus, they were "filled with a great fear". They don't what to make of this. Even though they had been Jesus for long enough to see countless miracles, this takes the cake.
They are simply awestruck. The foundations of everything they thought they knew, the control they thought they possessed by knowing certain things about the world and about life, all of this has, in a moment, been pulled out from under them.
But according to Jesus' questions in verse 40, this power should not have come as a surprise. If Jesus said they were going to the other side, they were going to make it to the other side.
While you and I might never experience a storm like this in a boat like this, we do experience circumstances in our lives that can drive us to the point of intense worry and paralyzing fear. Like this windstorm, these circumstantial storms can drive us, even to the point of doubt. "God, do you care that I am perishing?"
But look at what we see here. Jesus is the master of this storm. Did He know about the storm beforehand? He probably did. But notice that Jesus doesn't keep the storm from hitting them, from pounding on them for a time, but the storm does not sink them. It does not overcome them before Jesus asserts His power over the winds and the waves.
Whether our circumstantial storms take the form of real storms or not, no matter the circumstances, Jesus is master of the storm.
But even though there is now a "great calm" as we learn from the end of verse 39, there is yet another storm on the horizon.
III. The Second Storm (5:1-20)
Look at chapter 5, verse 1...
5:1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, "What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me." 8 For he was saying to him, "Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!" 9 And Jesus asked him, "What is your name?" He replied, "My name is Legion, for we are many." 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, "Send us to the pigs; let us enter them." 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out, and entered the pigs, and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and were drowned in the sea.
14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Mark tells us that as soon as they reached the eastern shore of the lake, a man possessed with an unclean spirit came out to meet them. As verse 5 tells us, this man was extremely tormented by this evil spirit, "Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and bruising himself with stones."
Not only is he suffering physically because of this demon, but he has been living in a kind of exile, away from human contact for who knows how long.
Do you see it? This is the second storm. But this storm is not raging around the man. It is raging inside of him. It is a storm of suffering taking place in his heart and mind. Like the disciples who were being buffeted by the turbulent waters of the sea, this man is being buffeted in his spirit by the raging of evil.
But when he sees Jesus, he is irresistibly drawn to him and then driven to his knees before Christ. So this wild man that no one could tame, even with chains, is now kneeling before Jesus. Why does he bow down before Jesus? Because as he testifies in verse 7, Jesus is the "Son of the Most High God".
The demon must bow down. This spirit not only know who Jesus is, but like the possessed man in the synagogue in chapter 1, he knows that Jesus has come to destroy him.
And just to give us a sense of this man's predicament, just so we know how violent this internal storm was, we read that the demon identifies himself as "Legion". Why "Legion"? Because as the demon explains, "we are many". Not only is the man suffering under the power of an evil spirit, but it is an evil spirit who is harboring other evil spirits; so many spirits that they describe themselves with the term "legion", which was a Roman army unit of 6000 men.
But the number of spirits is meaningless in the face of Jesus' power, for Jesus is the master of this kind of storm as well. Look at these spirits tremble. Knowing why Jesus has come, the spirit or spirits plead with Jesus. They do not want to leave this region, which for them had become a comfortable place of torment. But knowing they will be cast out of this man, they ask Jesus to send them into a herd of pigs feeding nearby.
Now what does the presence of pigs tell us? Yes, that this is not a Jewish region, but a gentile region. This man is like most of us here. He is not Jewish. He is a gentile. And as Jesus gives the spirit(s) permission, with just a few words, this man is freed from his agony. Jesus asserts His power, and where there was once a storm, there is now a great calm.
Again, so we understand the severity of this man's storm, look at what happens to the spirits. They leave the man, and enter the pigs. And the nature of these evil spirits, which is to torment and oppress and destroy, is manifested immediately as the pigs, 2000 of them, stampede into the water and drown.
When the locals show up, because of what the pig herders had to seen, notice their reaction. They see this man who was possessed, a man who was certainly well-known and well-feared in the area, they see him sitting calmly next to Jesus, and they react exactly the same way as the disciples did when Jesus calmed the storm: they are afraid. They're not afraid because they're afraid the man will get them, because of what he was. They are afraid because of what the man has become.
And they are so afraid that they urge Jesus' to leave. Not only have his action resulted in the loss of thousands of pigs, but this exorcism has shaken the foundations of everything they thought they knew, the control they thought they possessed by knowing certain things about the world and about life.
And of course, the difference between the storm and the calm that the man is now experiencing is so great, the man begs to go with Jesus, to go with his liberator. But Jesus sends him on a different mission: "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." And the man obeys.
IV. Mark's Point: Theophany, not Therapy
What have we seen this morning? What is God wanting to say to us this morning? This is the word that God speaks through. It is what he wants us to know about himself and this thing called life.
I suspect that often times our first reaction is to look at these stories and conclude that Mark's point, that God's point is to comfort us with the truth that Jesus is the Master of these two kinds of storms. He is master over the challenges, the trials, the suffering that we experience from the outside, those circumstances that can shake our lives.
AND He is also master of the turmoil, the anxiety, the pain, and the sorrow that pound us from within.
Maybe the first thing that God wants to do through His word is assure us of the fact that He can bring calm to our storms through Jesus Christ.
Was this Mark's primary goal in including these two stories? I would say, "no". Even though we will come back to these ideas, this is not where we begin.
We do not begin with what we could call ‘therapy', with ‘how' we can be helped, but with ‘why' we can be helped. We begin with theophany. Now, what in the world is a ‘theophany'? Sounds like part of an opera. No, a theophany is, very simply, God appearing to human beings. What Mark is trying to do here for his readers is most obvious in 4:41.
Having just witnessed the power of Jesus manifested in his authority over creation, this whole story is brought to one question: And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"
What Mark is trying to do here, what Mark is trying to do throughout this book is bring us to the confession, made ironically by an evil spirit in our passage this morning, the confession that Jesus is the Son of the Most High God.
And is clear from the Gospel of John, being the Son of God means that Jesus is one with God, that He is God. The wind and sea obey Him because He created them. John 1:3-All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. Colossians 1:16-For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things were created through him and for him.
Jesus is God in human flesh. He is not the Father. He is the Son. But the Son is God and the Father is God. And there is one God. I cannot explain how this is, it just is according to God's word.
But praise God that it is, for this is the basis of our comfort this morning. If there is to be any hope here this morning, it will be founded on the unshakable reality of Jesus' deity.
You see, we are always tempted to interpret God's word with ourselves as the main point. If there is to be a truth drawn from these pages, we often think that it will first be about how WE are loved, or about how WE can be comforted, or about how WE can have meaning. And sometimes we think this because this is how the word is presented to us, as a book about what God has done and can do for us.
But what Mark is trying to show us this morning is that before the calm can be brought to the fears of our storms, we must first experience another kind of fear.
It is the fear the disciples experienced AFTER they had been rescued (4:41). It is the fear the townspeople had IN SPITE of the demoniac's sanity (5:15). It is the fear that comes when we stand in the presence of God. It is the trembling awe that we experience when we realize that we are not so big, that we are not so smart, that we are not so righteous, that we are not so powerful, that we are not in control.
This fear is the helplessness that comes upon us when we grasp the reality of who God is. And Jesus Christ has revealed who God is. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known. (John 1:18) 8 Philip said to him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us." 9 Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. (John 14:8, 9)
Mark's main point is not first about therapy, it's about theophany. It's not about the therapeutic nature of Jesus' mission, that Jesus is the master of these two kinds of storms. It is that Jesus is Master, that Jesus is Lord. Full stop!
We too quickly shape our image of Jesus primarily according to how He meets our needs. But if our needs are to be truly met, we need to see Jesus first according to the truth of God's word, according to who He truly is in and of himself.
And when we see Him according to the word, we see a God who can say, ""Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you." And when we don't believe this, He can say, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?" "Don't you believe that I can and am willing to help you?"
The first storm is the one that pounds us from without. The second shakes us from within. The first storm is about the circumstances that threaten us. The second is about the raging that takes place inside. While the powers of darkness can have a part to play in tempting us in these times, they are not usually at work through the kind of possession we see here. But nevertheless, we still see a man suffering inside, just as we do.
All of us go through these storms. There's no getting around it. And all of us find ways of coping, of trying to master the storms ourselves. We cry out in confusion and doubt. We are driven out to lonely places, where we suffer in silence. What's going on around you this morning? What's going on within you this morning?
God knows. And whether you are journeying with Jesus now, or you are just catching sight of Him this morning, God wants you to see Jesus for who is He. He is God in human flesh. The very fact that Jesus is a character in these stories should tell us something. It should tell us that God cares enough about this world that He would step down and experience life with us as one of us.
"But who do you say that I am?"
Jesus cannot simply be a good man. He cannot simply be a loving man. He cannot simply be a wise man. None of those will mean anything in the face of our storms, in the face of the powers that are pounding us-- And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces.
If Jesus is not God, He cannot be Master over these two storms. He cannot bring us peace.
But God, through Mark, is showing us the truth about Jesus this morning.
And when we grasp the reality of the power and presence of God himself at work in Jesus Christ, we have two responses: we will either stay on the boat with Him, or we will beg him to leave our region. We will either keep to His way, or keep Him away. We will either trust Him or turn from Him.
Which will it be this morning, which will it be in the midst of your storms?
I pray that you, that I would be shaken this morning. Not by the fear of sinking under the waves or suffering under inner oppression. But shaken by a glimpse of Jesus for who He truly is. He lives this morning; just as real as you or me.
Won't you turn from trying to play master over your storms and trust the one who says, "Peace! Be still!". If you have done and are doing this each day, then the Lord says to you this morning: "Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you."
If you have not yet submitted to the Master of these two storms, Jesus says, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?". Believe. Believe in Him, and He will bring true peace and true freedom. That is who is He.