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TEXT: Mark 4:35-5:20
SUBJECT: Mark #8: The Lord of Chaos
Today, with God's favor, we will resume our study of Mark's Gospel. I emphasize the word, 'Gospel', because that's what kind of writing this is. It isn't a biography of Jesus, a book of theology, or a guide to living a holy life. It's a Gospel-it is Good News of what God is about to do in His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.
What is He going to do in Christ? He's going to bring His Rule into the world. Devils and bad men have had their way long enough! Now, it is God's turn to set things right. This is what Jesus meant when He said-
The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand. Repent and believe in the Gospel.
The Rule of Heaven has come to earth at last-and good news for us-the King is a democrat! He's not looking for the best people in Israel; He'll take anybody, anybody, that is, who turns from his evil ways and puts His trust in God. If Pharisees and scribes won't come, publicans and harlots will do. The King is not a discriminating Man; He'll take the cream of the crop, the bottom of the barrel, and everything in-between. No wonder it's called a Gospel-it is Good News!
The story begins in a boat in the shallow waters of the Sea of Galilee, on the west side of the lake, near the top. Our Lord and His disciples have been there for some time now, but they're not sailing or fishing or sunning themselves.
The boat was a kind of pulpit; the people were mobbing the Lord, and had He stayed on shore, they would have smothered Him. To avoid that, He and His friends got into a boat, pushed off a ways, and there, He sat down to preach.
The long sermon ended at sunset, and needing to rest, He told His friends to shove off and sail to the other side, to Decapolis, where the Gentiles lived, for the most part, and where, He hoped, He would catch His breath.
They sailed southeast that evening, and worn out by His efforts, Jesus slept like a baby-
In the stern, on a pillow.
The wording caught the attention of the first people to hear it, for it comes straight out of the Bible. Jesus is not the first preacher to board a ship and fall asleep on His way to preaching the Gospel in a Gentile city. The other man was Jonah, whose hometown, incidentally, was not far from Nazareth. Jesus is a New Jonah, and a Better Jonah, for while the first man boarded the ship to escape God's will, our Lord sails off to do it. The results will also be same: Jonah, the hateful preacher brings salvation to the Gentiles, and so will the loving preacher, our Lord Jesus Christ.
The parallels do not end here. Just as Jonah was woken up by scared and angry men, so is our Lord. Distraught by their danger, the disciples rouse the sleeping Man with a hard shake and loud words-
Master, do you not care that we are perishing?
Why did they feel this way? Fear makes people say foolish and hurtful things, of course, and this has to be factored in to the equation. But it is not only fear that made them doubt their Savior's love-or mostly fear. It was unbelief! We know this because the Lord says so, in v.40-
How is it that you have no faith?
In general, this means, 'Why don't you trust God?', and in particular, 'Why don't you trust Me?' John will so identify Jesus with God that trusting one is trusting both-
You believe in God, believe also in Me.
Awake to the disciples' fear, Jesus rebukes the storm with the words-
Peace, be still.
The words, be still are worth thinking about. They mean, 'to muzzle'-what you would do with a vicious dog. Are the winds and waves vicious? Of course, they're not-they're mindless things and not guilty of anything. But still, they are the enemies of Christ and His People-like the unclean spirit was back in chapter 1, and the Pharisees and Sadducees were in Matthew's Gospel. The enemies of God must be restrained, and Jesus is doing just that! This reminds us of who He is: The Second Man Adam. Just as the First Man tamed the creatures under him-lions, tigers, and bears-so the True Man tames the creatures under Him, whether they're the powers of nature, the powers of hell, or human powers-
At the Name of Jesus, every knee must bow and every tongue confess that 'Jesus is Lord'.
Winds and waves have no power in the Presence of their Maker and Ruler. The instant His words are spoken, nature submits to Christ.
Our Lord is unhappy with His disciples, because they should have known this; they should have believed in Him and not lost their minds with fear.
I wonder if Christ is any happier with us as we fret our lives away on global warming? Scientists say the earth is getting warmer, but whether the rise in temperature is a natural, cyclical thing, or a man-made thing, they're not so sure of. While some are demanding a police state to enforce the Green Creed, others are going to the opposite extreme, saying there's no problem at all, and the bigger the carbon footprint, the better. I don't know enough about science to weigh in on this, but I do know Jesus Christ is Lord of the Ozone Layer! Maybe we ought to take better care of it than we do, but whether it gets thicker or thinner or stays the same, it is His servant and it will serve His purposes of judgment and salvation.
Why did the storm blow up in the first place? If you look at a topographical map, you'll know why: the Sea of Galilee is 700 feet below sea level and the mountains around it rise to 9000 feet above sea level. This means, it's a natural wind tunnel! If you've flown into Denver, it's like that, only far worse. To this day, Arab fishermen call the this wind, Sharkia, 'the shark'-because it is fast and powerful and deadly.
There is a natural reason for the storm blowing up that night on the sea. But there's another reason as well. Earlier that day, our Lord taught the Parable of the Sower. A man went out to sow seed, and most of it fell on bad earth and produced nothing. The bad earth in the Parable stands for unbelieving hearts. Most people who hear the Gospel won't believe it. But some will; some are like good soil and will produce a bumper crop-thirty, sixty, a hundred fold.
The disciples thought they were the good ground: while others waved off Jesus or had only a surface interest in Him, they were disciples indeed-men of unshakable faith. Were they? They were not! Only hours after hearing the Parable and thanking God they were not as other men are, they found out they are as other men are! They're as prone to unbelief and distrust as anyone else. They can't rest on their proximity to Christ, they too, have got to-
Have ears to hear.
The storm shook them out of their complacency-for a time, at least-and them ask the right question-
Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?
They say they believe in Jesus and they do, in part. But believe in Him as what? As a good man? As a fine teacher? As a politician? Faith is good, but it's got to have content! What is the content of their faith?
At the moment, they have no idea. But by stilling the storm, Jesus forces the issue. What He said to them later in words, He says to them here, by His actions-
Who do you say that I am?
LORD OF THE SEA
Had the disciples meditated on God's Law day and night as Psalm 1 told them to, they would have had no doubt. Stilling the sea is a miracle, but miracles as such don't prove anything other than the ones performing them are in touch with powers of some kind. The magicians of Egypt did miracles back in the day, and later, Paul would warn of lying signs and wonders.
Ruling the sea, however, is not a magician's trick. It is an act of Almighty God. On the first day of creation, the earth was under water and human life was impossible. But God, who wanted to give man dominion over the world, was not worried in the least. Even then-
The Spirit of God hovered over the face of the deep.
Like a mother hen, protecting her young, and also controlling them. Shortly, He speaks, and some of what He says is spoken to the water-
Let there be a firmament in the midst of the waters, and let it divide the waters from the waters.
Some of the water rose up into clouds and the rest of it stayed put. Then a second command-
Let the waters under the heavens be gathered together into one place, and let the dry land appear.
The water ran off into the oceans and dry land emerged.
Then God made the moon to rule over the night-and to raise and sink the tides.
The mythological stories of creation are full of conflict-the waters and the gods are at war and no one knows who will come out on top. But, from the beginning, God's supremacy over the waters is unchallenged. He speaks the Word and they obey it-just like on the Sea of Galilee!
Waters play a role in the history of salvation too. When the world was so corrupt that the whole human race was on the verge of being swallowed up, what happened? God sent a flood to wash away the filth-and to save Noah and his family from it. What saved Noah? We all say, the ark did, but Peter says, it was the Flood that saved him, by getting him away from a people-
Whose every imagination of its heart was only wicked continually.
The defining moment in Israel's history also featured water: the Exodus. God commands His people to leave Egypt, and for a time, it seems no one will try to stop them. Till Pharaoh changes his mind and sends an army against men not trained in war, their wives and mothers and children. Were the Israelites brought back into bondage? No, they weren't-for the Red Sea parted for them to cross, and when the last man stepped ashore on the other side, the waters crashed down on Pharaoh's army! The next morning, Israel sang-
I will sing to the Lord,
For He has triumphed gloriously!
The horse and its rider
He has thrown into the sea!
The Lord is my strength and song,
And He has become my salvation.
LORD OF CHAOS
Though God used water to save His people from their enemies, they did not look at it as a friend. Israel was not a seafaring people, and to them, water stood for danger and chaos and death.
In a trance, Daniel the prophet, sees the wind blowing from four directions at the same time, tossing the Great Sea into a storm, and out it rise four appalling Beasts-one like a lion with wings, one like a bear, tearing into human flesh, one like a winged leopard, and the fourth like.like nothing at all. It's a monster from your worst nightmare. All of the Beasts came up from the sea. This is only one example, but it is consistent with the tenor of Jewish worldview at the time.
In calming the sea, therefore, Jesus Christ is asserting His Lordship over all the forces of chaos. It is He who stands up against all the powers that threaten us. And though they scare us, they don't scare Him! And if we would trust Him, they wouldn't scare us either.
That night, chaos stood up to Christ on the Sea of Galilee; the next morning, it took a different form and challenged Him on the beach in Gadara. Finally, the forces of death and the grave would try to hold Him, but the Empty Tomb showed how successful their efforts were!
Chaos does not have the final word: Jesus does, and the word He speaks to it is-
Peace, Be still.
THE STORMY SEA AND THE STORMY SOUL
What the Lord did for His disciples on the sea, he does for a man near the sea, in Gadara. The moment the boat comes ashore, he runs up to Jesus full of desperate fury-
What have I to do with you, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I implore you by God that you do not torment me.
Who is he? He's a maniac who sleeps with dead bodies, runs naked through the mountains screaming and mutilating himself, a wild man so strong that no chain or shackle could hold him. A terror to everyone in those parts and most of all to himself.
What's wrong with him? He is possessed by a legion of devils. We've all known people whose lives are chaotic, but you've never seen anyone like this man. He was berserk and hopeless.
Gadara was a mixed area, mostly Gentile, but with some Jews. This makes me think people tried to help him. Some Jews had the power to cast out devils, our Lord said so, and the Gentiles had their healing arts too. But if anyone did anything for this man, it did him no good. The spirits that possessed him were way past the power of human words.
But not the Word of God. Jesus rebuked the devils in the man, and in a twist of irony, sent them into a herd of pigs, who, run mad by their possession, stampede straight into the waters that had tried to kill the Lord and His disciples a short time before.
The maniac is then found, just where you'd expect him to be-
Sitting, clothed, in his right mind, at the feet of Jesus.
FRIENDS OF CHAOS, FRIENDS OF CHRIST
The exorcism of this poor man has had an effect on his neighbors. Everyone is scared by what he's seen, but some are scared in a bad way, and want Jesus to leave right now-
Then they began to plead with Him to depart from their region.
Others are scared in a good way. On hearing what Jesus did, they become God-fearing men, and later, they welcome the Man their neighbors wanted no part of.
THEIR CHOICE AND OURS
The choice made that day is still being made, in fact, it is being made right now. What will it be? Will you be a friend of chaos-of every man doing what is right in his own eyes?
Or a friend of Christ who sets things right? Some of this righting of things is none too pleasant because we've gotten comfortable with things being wrong. A husband has gotten comfortable taking no leadership in the family; a wife has gotten comfortable having things her way at home; a young man has gotten comfortable dabbling in pornography; a girl has gotten comfortable with despising her classmates; a church has gotten comfortable hearing the Word, but not doing it.
Things are not supposed to be this way! This is chaos, and Jesus comes to dispel it. It is our responsibility to welcome Him, to choose life and His will over death and our own wishes.
Not everyone will make the right choice. Will you? God give you the grace, and me too, for Christ's sake. Amen.
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