Proper 7B: Job 38:1-11, 2 Cor. 6:1-13, Mark 4:35-41
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
Nature can bring about great fear. Be it flooding rains, scorching droughts, damaging winds, or tornados, there is a healthy fear and realization of the destruction that can come through natural disaster. Imagine the fear of the disciples as they were out on the sea of Galilee. Frantically struggling to gain control of a sinking ship. More water coming in, the winds continuing to push against you. Just as they felt control was being gained, just as it seemed that things were coming together… another gust, another wave.
Some of these men were experienced fishermen. They knew how to navigate these waters. Certainly storms were nothing new. But for even these men, they were afraid. Hurricane-type winds with extreme gusts were nothing new for the area, the Sea of Galilee and the region even still today endure such violent storms. The danger was high. Everyone fighting tooth and nail against dangerous obstacles and doing anything possible to keep the boat (and their lives) from sinking. Everyone that is except Jesus.
Where was Jesus when the storm arose and as the waves were breaking into the boat and filling it with water? “He was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.” So His disciples woke Him up yelling at Him and questioning, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
Dear Christians, how often are we like the disciples? As the winds of life attack our safe little households and families, we wonder if Jesus even cares that we are struggling to pay our bills, that health problems are going unresolved, that relationships are being blown away by damaging winds that seek to destroy. The waves of the world come crashing into this boat that is the church when it attacks the Word of God, seeking to identify people and things of this world by our own reason, feeling, or standard rather simply what is given. The world crashes more water seeking to destroy this boat, the church, when it brings forth the same question we are tempted with, “doesn’t your Lord care that there is sickness, suffering, and all matters of calamities going on around us, and that we are dying?”
In all times from when we are young and as we think we mature, there is this tendency to think that we are the ones who keep things afloat. This little scene really is a snapshot of our daily lives. We think that we have things well-taken care of on our own. Quite honestly, there are plenty of times we would prefer Jesus stay out of the way and stay asleep in the stern so that we can take care of things the way we think they ought to be handled. And when the sailing is smooth, things like daily prayer, weekly worship in receiving Christ’s Word and Sacraments, and Bible Study are tossed aside or taken for granted as long we can stay afloat with what we think matters most for us.
Yet, when the waters of life get a little choppy, when the winds pick up and the waves are crashing in, there is a tendency not to then turn to the Lord but kinda blame Him for things getting a little out of control. They feared their lives and everything was out of their control. We are no strangers to such feelings of our lives being out of control, of fear taking over of what is to come or how we will get out of a situation. And you may even at times wonder, “Lord, don’t you care?”
And Jesus awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” The wind ceased and there was a great calm. What a marvelous scriptural scene. A weary Jesus is stronger than the mighty winds. Awakened from sleep, greeted with a question of men questioning His care, and he rebukes the wind. To the sea, He literally said, “put a muzzle on it and keep it on”. And there was a great calm! While speaking to the wind and sea, He really speaks it to the disciples of their fears, “muzzle it, and sit on it.” Imagine the disciples. Fearful one minute of wind and waves, now sitting the midst of calm waters, realizing that Jesus is had it easily within His grasp. After trying everything they could think of, after all their strength, Jesus just speaks and it is finished. He turns to these men who questioned if He cared and flips the question back on them as He continues to provide for them of why they feared and lacked faith.
Filled with great fear the disciples said to one another, “Who is this, that even wind and sea obey him?” He’s been a great teacher and done some great signs and miracles. But there was now a realization that Jesus even had authority over the wind and waves, and really that’s just not something even great men can do. So they move from questioning of Jesus cares to questioning who Jesus is?
Who is this Jesus? That’s the right question for us storm tossed sinners. Remember God’s question to Job, “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth?” It was Christ who asked that question. It was Christ who laid that foundation. It was also Christ who asked Job, “Who shut in the sea with doors…and prescribed limits for it…and said, ‘Thus far shall you come and no farther…here shall your proud waves be stayed.” It was Christ, God the Son, who with the Father and the Holy Spirit never slumbers never sleeps. But now He is asleep on a cushion in the stern of a boat, weary just like us.
That’s what makes the question of the disciples and of our anxious hearts so tragic! “Teacher, do you not care?” The very reason He partook of our flesh and blood was because of His great care for us, to keep us from perishing eternally. When the Son of God said to the waves “Be muzzled,” He was only doing what He had done from eternity. But even nature bowing to its Maker did not work faith in the disciples. “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” He asked.
On the night in our text He said to the raging sea, “Peace, be still!” and there was a great calm. Even the wind and the sea obeyed Him. But on another day no one obeyed Him as He allowed Himself to be dragged down by a terrific storm! On that day the waves of death rolled over Him because God had made Him who had no sin to be sin for us. On that day the Lord of creation hung naked and bleeding and forsaken. The waves of wrath, wrath for our sin, swept over Him into the depths of hell. Jesus who slept on the cushion in the boat has also slept the sleep of death in the garden tomb. The One whom wind and sea obey, has authority over all of creation, in life and in death. As He parted the waters of the Red Sea to lead Israel through on dry ground, so He parted the waves of death and rose triumphant in new life.
You’re in the same boat with Jesus. Just look up. That’s why this part of the church is called the nave, it’s the boat. The boat of the church, the ark which Jesus brings you along and through the storms that is this earthly life. He Himself splashes you and drowns the Old Adam as He brings into His boat not to die but to live. The Holy Spirit brings you here week after not to rid the storms of this world but to bring you through and give you Himself, in His Word and in His body and blood. To speak to you His peace that He brings. As He gives Himself to you He asks you in the midst of seemingly bad storms “why are you so afraid?” He’s tasted death on your behalf and overcomes the storms for you, He created and sustains this world and promises to provide you daily bread and all that you need for this body and life. He who bids you eat His body and His blood is your peace in the midst of every storm. Even in death He will not let you sink. He’s tasted death and conquered those depths too.
Our hearts may still ask, Jesus, don’t you care? He replies through the Apostle Paul to the Corinthians, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you. Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation.” Risen from the grave He comes into your midst and says, “Peace be with you.”
In the meantime God grant you courage in the present storms you face. There are no easy answers to many of the struggles and sufferings of life. But Jesus bids you to trust in Him. He is not along just for the ride, and certainly not sleeping aloof on a cushion in the stern. He is along to see you safely to the other shore.
In the meantime, God also grant us compassion for others in this fragmented world of troubled and isolated people. In the midst of afflictions and hardships, calamities and beatings, riots, and sleepless nights, God grant us to bear witness to the peace Christ brings by purity, knowledge, patience, kindness, and genuine love. God grant us ears that hear, love that invites, generosity that gives, kindness that helps, and faith that prays for our neighbors, hearts that are widened. We’re all in the same boat in this cursed world, and the boat of the world is sinking. But you are gathered in the nave of another boat, a baptismal boat, Christ’s Church. The boat which endures unto the end. The boat that He captains will never sink. Here in the nave of the church we gather to receive Christ’s gifts of forgiveness and life. Here is given Jesus, who silenced sin, death, and the devil, with His peace, peace that the world cannot give. Peace that receives His Word even as the wind and waves obey His voice.
And the peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.