September 20, 2014

Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

The more I read the gospel accounts of the life and service of Jesus, the more I learn about the Bible's unity and encouragement for everyday life.

One of my favorite stories from the gospels (and there are many!) is that of the storm on the sea of Galilee.

The Gospel According to Mark tells it this way:
"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?'"
(Mark 4:35-41 ESV)
There are so many awesome things that can be taken from this story for encouragement. The following is just one of them. 

What the disciples experienced

First, consider how the disciples experienced this storm. They felt the rain and the waves pouring into the boat. They heard and felt the wind. They saw Jesus asleep in the stern in the middle of it all. They became agitated enough to wake him up and ask him if he even cared that they were all about to drown. They heard him rebuke the wind and tell the sea to be still. They saw the storm come to an immediate stop and all was calm. This made them feel even more fear pressing upon them, so that they asked, "Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?"

That question, "Who is this guy?" was inspired by their astonishment at his power to calm the storm with a word. It was a good question.

What they knew about Jesus

They already knew Jesus was the prophet that Moses predicted would lead God's people in Deuteronomy 18:15,18-19, because they acknowledged it in John 1:45. They also acknowledged that they knew Jesus was the true anointed king of Israel, the son of David called "Messiah" ("Christos" in Greek). This is acknowledged by them in John 1:41. Though they knew that, they were still shocked at how much power he displayed over the forces of nature. They had seen him heal the sick and cast out many demons with a word. But this event became another confounding moment for them.

How the account leaves us to wonder

What I love about this story is that the author Mark doesn't just answer their question. He left room for us the readers to wonder. He doesn't just write, "This, of course, happened because Jesus is the Son of God." Mark plainly revealed this fact about Jesus at the intro of his gospel, but he also gave room for readers to think about the things Jesus did and wonder about them. 

Something I like to do when I read this is think back to the Law and the Prophets, the writings of the Old Testament, and find bits of revelation about Jesus there that complement stories like this one. One of the places I go to is Psalm 65:7, where king David sings the Lord's praises by describing how God "stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples," and then adds in verse 8, "so that those who dwell at the ends of the earth are in awe at your signs." (ESV)

Then there is Psalm 88:9,
"You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them." (ESV)
Another great passage that describes God's power over the sea is this one,
"Some went down to the sea in ships, doing business on the great waters; they saw the deeds of the LORD, his wondrous works in the deep. For he commanded and raised the stormy wind, which lifted up the waves of the sea. They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths; their courage melted away in their evil plight; they reeled and staggered like drunken men and were at their wits' end. Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed. Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the LORD for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!"
(Psalms 107:23-31 ESV)
I love discovering these things in the Bible, because they help me understand Jesus the Messiah better, and in understanding Jesus better, I'm able to know God better, and in knowing God better, there is less to fear.