2018-8-26 Jesus’ Absolute Authority over Natural Phenomena

Cornerstone EPC                                                                              Sunday morning
Franklin, NC 28734                                                                          August 26, 2018

“Jesus’ Absolute Authority over Natural Phenomena”
Mark 4:35-41

Recall our titles in our mini-series over the past three weeks.  Jesus has absolute authority over human will, evil, and sickness.  As much as these thrill our souls, we yet have areas left to investigate.  The Lord showed me in the study nine or ten days ago that He has absolute authority over physical death—and we’ll look at that from Mark 5:21-24, 35-43 (in the account of Jesus’ raising Jairus’ daughter from the dead), God willing, on the Sunday before Labor Day.  Today, in the final verses of Mark 4, we see—with inexpressible delight—that Jesus has absolute authority over natural phenomena as well.  Let us hear these last seven verses from Mark 4 read now in this place.

(HERE READ THE TEXT)

We note at this text’s outset that Jesus’ ministry day appears to be done—with another in prospect tomorrow.  He has taught much this day (Mark 4:1-34), to include chiefly the parables of the sower (1-23, with an excursus on the purpose of parables in verses 10-12), of the seed growing (26-29), and of the mustard seed (30-32).  He knows, and we know, but the disciples know not yet that many miracles are to be done the next day on the Gadarene shore (Mark 5:1-43)—including the casting of demons from the man of the tombs (1-20), the healing of the woman with issue of blood (25-34), and the raising of Jairus’ daughter from the dead (21-24, 35-43).  Before the day of miracles, however, there comes a lake crossing—a crossing that will prove positively harrowing.

The Sea of Galilee (or Lake Gennesaret), because of its shore topography, is prone to sudden storms.  We see such a storm in today’s text.  We note, with the Spirit through Mark’s pen, the high wind and the resulting high waves—waves that both batter and fill the boat.  Meanwhile, somehow, Jesus sleeps through all this clamor—in the stern, at peace after a day of hard ministerial work.  Presently the disciples wake Him and question him—and their question, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” reveals their hearts.  They fear their imminent physical death at the storm’s hands, and they also assign to Jesus an uncaring attitude concerning their plight.  After all, He slept through the commotion with no evident concern for their welfare.  As we shall see, He had abundant concern for the disciples’ highest good that night, though they knew it not at the time.

Jesus, upon rising from sleep, perhaps with a leisurely stretch, rebukes the wind.  The Greek word here used for rebuke (epitimao [epitimaw]) denotes a command and further implies a threat.  The wind, thus personified, cowers before Jesus’ threatening command.  Jesus then speaks His command to the storm: “Peace.  Be still.”  After this, there is no more agitation, but calm, and there is no more sound, but quiet.  Note that Jesus answers His disciples’ question: not with words, but with a miracle.  After this impressive answer, Jesus then questions His disciples.

He asks them, “Why were you so afraid?”  The literal rendering of the Greek is stiffer, namely, “Why were y’all cowards?”[1]  Then Jesus’ follows this question with another, “Have you still no faith?” (literally “Have ye faith not yet?”).[2]  The Holy Spirit does not give us a direct answer from the disciples, but we see their reaction well enough.  They feared a great fear—perhaps this fear was even greater than the one over the storm.  They then find words to express their amazement.  “Who indeed is this?” they cry.  They have seen healing and exorcism, and they have seen their wills immediately conformed to His.  They have yet to see, however, what they saw and now declare, “Even the wind and the sea obey Him.”

Some preachers and teachers make the stilling of the storm the main thrust here.  They then build a bridge from the physical event in Mark’s Gospel to spiritual reality.  They say, in effect, they say that Jesus can still the storms in your life—both the storms assailing your soul and the storminess within your soul.  It is, of course, true that Jesus can still the storms in our lives—and He often does this very thing.  This truth, however glorious, is not the main thrust of this text.

The main thrust of the text is that we wonder, with the disciples, what manner of Man Jesus is.  Jesus is God incarnate.  He has total authority over everything—including natural phenomena.  Therefore, we not expend undue worry over natural phenomena.  We need not worry sinfully over excess heat or unusual cold—though those states present special problems for us.  We need not worry unduly about storms: whether of the hot-weather variety (such as thunderstorm, tornado, and hurricane, to name but three) or of the cold-weather variety (such as winter storm, blizzard, and nor’easter, to name but three)—though, again, they present us problems apace.  We need not worry inappropriately over either excess rain (and consequent flood risk or reality), or prolonged absence of rain (and consequent crop failure, e. g.).  We need remember that God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in time of trouble—even though the earth give way via earthquake (cf. Psalm 46:1-2).  There are other apparent natural disasters not named here.  In these, our Lord either sustains us, and we testify to His greatness and goodness—or He calls us Home via the means of natural phenomena.  If this be the case, we enjoy eternal bliss with our Lord through faith in Christ—and these harmful natural occurrences never assail us again to all eternity.  Rest assured, dear fellow Christian, that our God, incarnate in Christ Jesus, both upholds all things by the word of His power (Hebrews 1:3) and orders all things—even frightful natural phenomena—for His glory and our good.

AMEN.

[1] Greek ti deiloi este (ti deiloi este).

 

[2] Greek houpo echete pistin (oupw ecete pistin).

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