The Storm Breaker (Mark 4:35-5:20)
Topic: One Lord: No One Like You Passage: Mark 4:35–5:20
I. “Who Do You Say that I Am?”
In Mark 8:29, one of the chapters you'll be reading this week in our Bible reading plan, Jesus asks this crucial question, “Who do you say that I am?” It's not an exaggeration to say that answering that question correctly (and embracing that truth deeply) is the most important thing any human being can do.
But think with me about how Mark has already begun to answer that question in the opening chapters of his Gospel. Think about what you read last week. His gospel starts with the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry in northern Israel, in that region called Galilee. We read that 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 quite a bit.
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. They’ve even received special instruction about His parables.
But let's think carefully about what they learn, what they experience, in our study passages this morning. Turn, if you haven't already, to Mark 4:35.
II. The Passage: “Who Then is This...?” (4:35-5:20)
This morning, Mark is going to describe for us two storms, two storms that reveal even more about Jesus. Let's look at that first storm in verses 35-41. We read that...
1. The First Storm (4:35-41)
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”  And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.  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?”  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.  He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”  And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
So when Jesus said let's go “across to the other side, chapter 5 makes it clear that he was talking about sailing from the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee down to the southeast shore.
Now, the first storm we'll look at this morning is obvious, isn't it? It's right here in verse 37. Because this lake, the Sea of Galilee, is surrounded by high hills and narrow valleys, there is kind of a wind tunnel effect that makes storms likes this fairly common. We should remember, many of these disciples were experienced fisherman. They were familiar with these storms. So given their reaction, we know 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 waves that were crashing over it.
These tough, experienced fisherman were afraid that they were going to die. Can you imagine the chaos: yelling, trying to bail out the water, bringing down the sail, and just trying to hold on. But where is Jesus in the midst of all this chaos? Verse 38: he’s asleep in the back of the boat. Jesus had been teaching all day, so he was probably exhausted.
What were his disciples thinking? Verse 38: “...they woke him and said to him, 'Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?'” Of course, Jesus does care. As soon as he gets up he takes action. Does he start helping to bail water? 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.
Now, 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, we read they were “filled with great fear”. They don’t know what to make of this. Even though they had been with Jesus for long enough to see many, many miracles, this takes the cake. They are simply awestruck. The foundations of everything they thought they knew, the control they thought they possessed, their grasp on the world, 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, can't we experience circumstances in our lives that drive us to the point of intense worry and paralyzing fear. Like these disciples, we can be tempted to doubt: “God, do you care that I am perishing?”
2. The Second Storm (5:1-20)
But for Jesus and his disciples, there's another storm on the horizon. Look with me at verses 1-20 of chapter 5. The story continues. We read, starting in verse 1...
They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes.  And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit.  He lived among the tombs. 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. No one had the strength to subdue him.  Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones.  And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him.  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.”  For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!”  And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.”  And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country.  Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside,  and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.”  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 drowned in the sea.  The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened.  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.  And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs.  And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region.  As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him.  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.”  And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled.
Obviously there are many things we could talk about here. But I don't want you to miss the amount of ink that Mark spends on describing just how tormented this man was. Look again at verses 3-5... (v. 3) The man was 'exiled', cut off from others. (v. 4) And when people did come, they tried to chain him up. (v. 5) “...he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones”. I'm not sure any of us can understand the suffering this man was experiencing; suffering physically, suffering mentally, suffering spiritually, suffering in exile.
There's something else here that gives us a sense of this man’s predicament: notice how 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.
The second storm is clear, isn't it? This is not a storm raging around the man. Instead, it is raging inside of him. A storm of intense suffering. Like the disciples who were being pummeled by the turbulent waters of the lake, this man is being pummeled in his spirit by the raging of evil.
But just like with the waters of the lake, this man finds peace because of Jesus. When he sees Jesus, he is irresistibly drawn to him and then driven to his knees. This wild man that no one could tame, not 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”.
Even this legion of evil spirits is no match for Jesus. So wonderfully, the man is liberated. But when the locals show up, 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 of the man like they once were. No. They are afraid because of what the man has become. You see, this exorcism has shaken the foundations of everything they thought they knew, the control they thought they possessed, their grasp on the world, all of this has, in a moment, been pulled out from under them.
III. Fear and Faith
Now, as we think about these two stories, I suspect oftentimes our first reaction is to conclude that Mark’s point, that God's point, is to comfort us with this truth: Jesus is 'the storm breaker'.
Jesus Christ can break the grip of, the power of the challenges, the trials, the suffering we experience on the inside, and the circumstances that can shake us from the outside.
But even though we are right to go there, I think Mark's intention is not first reassurance, but revelation. Or to use fancier words, he's not first concerned with the therapeutic, but the theophanic. What does that weird word mean? Well, a theophany is an appearance of... God to man. Mark is driving us to ask along with the disciples (4:41), “Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” He is driving us to the confession made by, interestingly, an evil spirit in our passage this morning, the confession that Jesus is (5:7) “the Son of the Most High God”.
Who alone has authority over both nature and demons? God. Who is Jesus? He is God in human flesh. If there is any hope to be found here this morning, it will be founded on the unshakable reality of Jesus’ deity. You see, we don't begin with the confession that Jesus is powerful enough to help us. We begin with the confession that Jesus is powerful. Full stop.
So what Mark is trying to show us this morning is that before calm can be brought to the fears of our 'storms', we must first experience another kind of fear. It is that fear the disciples experienced after they had been rescued. It is that fear the townspeople had in spite of the demoniac’s sanity (5:15). It is a fear that comes when we stand in the presence of a holy God. Does fearing God mean being scared of God? It can... for the sinner who faces only judgment. But it can also mean an unsettling awe; the awe 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; in awe of the greatness of God.
Has God given you eyes of faith this morning, eyes to see the greatness of Jesus? His power? His authority? And yes, that includes the greatness of his mercy and grace. If you have those eyes this morning, then crying out to him in light of your storms. Come kneel before him. Come experience the peace he loves to give. And when you do that, also consider two more encouragements we find in this passage:
First, remember that before Jesus breaks the storm, he permits the storm. When he laid his head down in the stern, he knew what was coming. He knew the kind of man he'd encounter when he stepped off the boat in Gerasa. I mention this as a reminder that God is in control, that his timing is not always our timing, and that we should expect storms as part of the journey.
Second, when we experience his peace, we should also exclaim his praise. Like the Gerasene man liberated from that demonic 'legion', we should also 'go home to [our] friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for [us]... how he has had mercy on [us].' Just as God revealed Jesus to us in a powerful way this morning, let's reveal him to others this week.
There is no lack of human inability and failure in this passage is there: the disciples against the storm, the man against the spirits, the townspeople against the man. But these reminders of our inability provide the backdrop for two amazing displays of Christ's power.
Did you know that God wants you to experience that power this morning? But it begins with acknowledging your inability, and then, looking to the cross and empty tomb. There was a 'storm' unlike any other that first Good Friday, and Jesus was overcome by the waves of death... for us.. for you. But just as we saw this morning, he overcame the powers of darkness and rose again, triumphing over both sin and death. What power! What Good News! But have you received it? Are we walking in light of it? Let's give thanks and ask God for these eyes.
More in Our Bible Reading Plan (2021-2022)
May 22, 2022The Most Important Spiritual Gift (I Corinthians 12:4-7)
May 15, 2022Sexual Morality 101 (I Corinthians 5-7)
May 8, 2022Will Christians Be Judged? (I Corinthians 3:10-15)