Signs - Mark 4:35-41
Well this week I thought I would brush up on my Highway Code and try and learn a few signs. But I need a little help to understand what these signs are. Acetate 1: Information Sign: "One Way"; information signs are usually blue. Acetate 2: Warning Sign: "Men at Work". Warning signs are red triangles. Acetate 3: Command Sign: "No Entry". Command signs, ordering you to do something are red circles.
Now why am I brushing up on my Highway Code? Well over the last few weeks in the morning services we have been studying Marks gospel and we have been thinking all about Jesus and seeing what an amazing person he is. And today we are thinking about another of Jesus miracles, where he calms a storm. And the reason Mark includes all the stories about Jesus is that they are all sign posts to show or to point out who Jesus is and why he has come. So this morning we are going to think about this amazing story about Jesus and well see how each of these different signs tells us something about Jesus. Mark is giving us in this story in chapter 4 of his gospel three types of signposts to tell us something about Jesus:
1) Information: Jesus is the King
2) Warning: Jesus must not be ignored
3) Command: Jesus must be trusted
1) Information: Jesus is the King
So first, then, we see that Mark gives us a piece of information. And that is that Jesus is the King. Acetate- point 1. Now let me fill you in on the details of the story. Jesus has had a busy day. Hes been healing and teaching and huge crowds have been chasing him all day long. You think David Beckham has it rough, well Jesus was ten times as popular. The local press were always hounding him! So he says to his disciples that he wants to get to the other side of the lake, presumably to have a break. And as soon as he steps into the boat and lays his head down he falls asleep exhausted. He knows full well what we feel like after a long day or a lot of stress. So Jesus is asleep as suddenly a storm breaks on the Sea of Galilee. Acetate- storm. Now I guess like me you might think that the Sea of Galilee is a small boating like, the likes of which you find at seaside resorts like Filey or Brid. But this was a big lake, and still is. Its about 8 miles across and 15 miles long and either side of the lake there are steep gorges which means that it is about 600 feet below sea level. The wind blows down the gorge and so the sea is churned up causing severe storms. Now some of these disciples were fishermen, but even they were scared by this storm. This was the sort of storm that you only experience once a lifetime. It was terrible. It was as if the whole sea was shaking. And the waves were sweeping right over the boat. Mark says that the waves were breaking over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. And every time the small boat went into a trough it was as if there was a wall of water towering over them. It was a rough storm and the men feared for their lives.
Now I have never experienced a storm quite like this one. The nearest I have got is in choppy seas in a ferry going to Ireland. But you often see pictures of atrocious seas on the TV and it looks very frightening. I have a friend who was in the Royal Navy for a number of years and he said that sometimes it was so rough that his ship which was a big frigate, not a small fishing boat, used to, what he called, aquaplane, which was when the boat used to face the waves head on, be picked up by them , and then plough down the other side sometimes as much as 30 or 40 feet. And here the disciples, experienced sea-farers though they are, are fighting for their lives. And so they cry out in desperation to Jesus who was sleeping in the back: "Teacher, dont you care if we drown?" The sailors cry out to the carpenter to help! And at that point Jesus gets up and Mark tells us that he said to the waves and the wind: "Quiet, be still!" And what happened next? It was completely calm. Acetate- calm. So, seconds before there was a raging storm, now there is a perfect calm. Stormy seas to quiet millpond, all in the space of a few seconds. It wasnt as if the storm blew itself out. In fact even today on the Sea of Galilee the swell apparently lasts for days. But here there is instant calm. Jesus just said a word and there was calm.
Now that is extraordinary power isnt it? People just dont do that do they? Its no wonder Mark says that the men were amazed and asked "What kind of man is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!" And the point that Mark is wanting us to understand is that Jesus is the King! He is the boss who has amazing authority, even over storms. Usually when kings say something to their butlers like: "Get me a cup of tea", or "Make me a cucumber sandwich", it happens straight away because they have great power. And here Jesus is the King over nature, and straight away the storm stops. Thats the first point that Mark wants us to understand. Thats his first signpost in this story- Jesus is the King.
2) Warning: Jesus must not be ignored
But secondly, the next signpost is a warning: Jesus must not be ignored. Acetate- point 2. You see Marks point is that Jesus is no ordinary King. No ordinary King can say to the sea, "Be still," and then the sea goes calm. That doesnt happen does it. You may remember the story of King Canute. He was told by his followers that he had special powers and that he was divine. So King Canute decided to put them right by giving them a little test. Acetate- Canute. King Canute said that he would sit on his throne on the seashore as the tide came in, and if he had divine powers, he would tell the sea to stop. But you can imagine what happened cant you? When the tide came in, it just washed over Canute and the throne, and all the followers were convinced that Canute was not God, but just a human. No human being has the power to stop the sea.
Well I decided to do an experiment to see if I had the power to stop the sea in its tracks. So a few weeks ago Debbie and I went to Hornsea to see if I could calm the storm. Now it wasnt quite as stormy as Galilee that day but there was a bit of a swell, so I stood on the beach and shouted, "Be still!" And guess what? Nothing happened, apart from the odd strange look. So I tried again just in case the sea hadnt heard, and the same. No difference.
Well its a stupid thing to do really isnt it but it makes the point. King Canute tried it centuries ago, and he couldnt do it, so there was no hope of me succeeding. And the simple thing is Jesus is in a different league. What kind of man is he? Thats what were left asking. You see Jesus is not just an ordinary King. Hes actually the King of Kings. And in the Bible the only person who has the power to calm storms is God himself. Have a look at this verse from Psalm 89. Acetate- Psalm 89:9. This is what the Psalmist says about God in verse 9: "You rule over the surging sea, when its waves mount up you calm them." You see it wasnt as if Jesus was calming the storm in Gods name, like some other prophet might have done. Because then the glory goes to God. No Jesus just calmed it by his own power. And theres only one other person in the Bible that has such power and that is God himself! God alone can calm storms with a word. And yet what do we find Jesus doing? Calming storms with one word. So the only conclusion that we can come to is that Jesus is God in the flesh. Hes come in person to this world. Jesus is the King of kings, God in the flesh. He made the sea in the first place. Hes King over creation. Thats the amazing conclusion that we have to come to. Indeed there is no other.
So the point that Mark is making is that Jesus must not be ignored. You cannot ignore the fact that Jesus is God, the King of kings. That is why Mark records this miracle. Hes using it as a signpost to point to who Jesus is. And Mark is giving us a warning. If we ignore Jesus then we are ignoring God himself. And that is very dangerous indeed. Well let me ask. What do you think of Jesus? If you think of him as a nice man wandering round Palestine two millennia ago wearing a white frock and Clarks sandals and a Kevin Keegan perm then youve got the wrong man. No Jesus is King of the creation. And he shows it by calming storms with one word. Now its vital that we see Jesus as he really is because there is one final sign that Mark is showing us from this story and that is a command sign- Jesus must be trusted.
3) Command: Jesus must be trusted
Acetate- point 3. And that was where the disciples got it wrong. They didnt trust in Jesus. Do you remember what Jesus said to the disciples when he had calmed the storm? He said: "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" The problem was not the size of their faith but where they put it. Although they did cry out to Jesus, they still failed to see who Jesus was. You see if the disciples had known that Jesus was the King of the Creation, they would not have worried about being in a storm, because the King of the storm was in the boat with them. They failed to understand just how powerful he was. There was no way in the world the lake was going to claim the very one who made the lake. Not at all! Jesus isnt prone to freak accidents like other men. He is the living God. He is the creator of the world he came to live in. And that was what the disciples failed to see. They just didnt realise how big Jesus was! They hadnt twigged that he was the King of Kings on earth.
Calming a storm was nothing to Jesus. There was no way in the world Jesus was going to say "Be still" and then be rather embarrassed as the storm raged on! Here was the King of Kings, and that was why Jesus rebuked his disciples. If they had seen Jesus as he truly was and realised who he was, then they would not have feared. They would have trusted in him. And thats seen in the way they responded after Jesus had done the miracle. They were afraid! Well if you think about it, they shouldnt have been! They were only afraid because they had not seen the extent of Jesus authority and power. Thats why he told them off. They failed to trust him and see who he was.
So Marks final sign to us is a command, to trust in him. Now for some of us, that may mean trusting in him for the first time. Jesus came for a mission, a rescue mission. He came to rescue us from all the things we have done to one another and to God, all the things that make God angry with us. Acetate- cross. Jesus came to die on a cross, to take the punishment we deserve for all the wrongs things weve done. And when we trust in Jesus death on the cross, he accepts us and gives us forgiveness and friendship. And Marks gospel is written for people like us to help us to see what a wonderful God Jesus is and to see why he came to earth. He came on a rescue mission. And the command is trust in him as your King and rescuer.
But for those of us who have been Christians a longer time, there is also command to keep trusting him as we go through life, with its various storms and difficulties. There are many things which we face which feel like they completely overpower us. We feel just like those cowering disciples bailing out the boat in desperation. And yet we need to remember Marks final sign too, the command to keep trusting Jesus. He wont always answer our prayers in the way we expect, but he is certainly well able to get us through the situation, and hell never jump ship when things get tough. But like those disciples it is very easy to forget just what a great King and Rescuer Jesus is. It is easy to doubt and to worry, when what Mark is urging us to do is to trust the King and the Saviour.
So as weve looked at this story from Marks gospel, weve seen three signposts which have told us three things about Jesus. First there was the information sign- Jesus is the King. Then there was the warning sign, dont ignore Jesus. And then finally there was the command sign, keep trusting Jesus. And for each of us here, there is the challenge either to trust Jesus the King for the first time, or to keep on trusting him in our lives this week.
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