GOSPEL, FIRST READING & PSALM TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
And what’s so strange about that is when all of that is going on, at that moment, Mark says these shocking words:
But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion… (Mark 4:38a)
So everything, all of the heavens are breaking loose against the apostles, and Jesus is taking a nap. So the contrast between the terror and violence of this storm and the peace and the calm of Jesus that He’s actually able to nap in the midst of it, is a very striking, shocking kind of contrast… just on a human level. So it’s not unreasonable, and it’s completely natural, that the apostles respond to this by saying:
“Teacher, do you not care if we perish?”
Because it seems as if He doesn’t care what’s happening; He doesn’t care what’s happening. He’s more concerned with just resting and taking His nap. So they awake Him, they wrestle Him out of sleep, and He awakes, and His first act is to rebuke the wind and to speak to the sea. So note this, two elements, very important. He rebukes the wind and He commands the sea:
“Peace! Be still!”
And then two effects:
And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Meaning, the waters calmed down. So Jesus exercises power over these two elements, wind and waves. And then He turns to the disciples and asks a startling question:
“Why are you afraid?
Now on a human level, once again, the answer is pretty obvious — because a storm broke out, the boat was sinking, the waves were lapping, and we were about to die. We’re all about to die. So He says:
“Why are you afraid? Have you no faith?”
Now this is a great example of how the word faith in the New Testament, pistis
in the English transliteration, doesn’t just mean intellectual ascent to a certain set of propositions. So I can proclaim the faith, make a profession of faith when I confess the articles of the Creed publicly. When Jesus says to the apostles, “Why do you have no faith?” He’s not saying, “Why aren’t you monotheists?” or “Why don’t you believe in the Scriptures of Israel?” That’s not what He’s talking about. He’s not talking about propositional faith or intellectual faith — the ascent to certain articles or truths of the faith. He’s talking about pistis
and the other meaning it can have — namely, trust. Faith and trust are both legitimate translations of this word.
So what He means here is: “Why don’t you trust God? Why don’t you believe that God has the power to save you, even in the midst of deadly dangers such as you’re facing now?” So in response to that question:
And they were filled with awe, and said to one another…
And this is very important. In fact, it’s the climax of the story, so it’s the heart of it:
“Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?”
So in essence, the question “who” is a question about Jesus’ identity. Who is this person who can command even the wind and the sea? And that’s where Mark leaves it. He doesn’t answer the question. He leaves that open; he ends with that question so that you as a reader are supposed to ask, “Well, who is this?” Where does the answer lie?
In this case of Mark 4, I’ve actually done a whole chapter on this in my book The Case for Jesus
in the chapter “Did Jesus teach that He was God?” And one of the things I show is this is one of the miracles of Jesus which clearly reveal His divine identity. Who is this? It’s the God of the universe become man. But that they do it in an implicit way. Jesus doesn’t answer the question by saying, “Hey, I’ll tell you who I am. I’m the second person of the Trinity. I’m the eternal uncreated Son of the Father.” He wants you to infer from the context — from His words and His actions — what the answer to that question is. He wants you, He wants His disciples to answer with faith, “Who is this person?”
And in this case, the answer to this question really lies (as so often is the case) in the Old Testament — the Old Testament background. Because if you look at Mark 4 and you read it in light of the Old Testament, in particular in light of one psalm, Psalm 107, there are a number of striking parallels between Psalm 107 and Mark 4 that give you a key to interpreting the event. I don’t have time to read the whole psalm — I go through this in more detail in The Case for Jesus
, so you can check that out if you want to read a little more about this. But let me just look at Psalm 107:27-31. Listen to these words with the stilling of the storm by Jesus in mind. The psalm says this, verse 23:
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 because they had quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wonderful works to the sons of men!
There are several striking parallels between Psalm 107 and the stilling of the storm. Nnumber one, the psalm begins with this description of sailors who are in ships doing business on the waters. They’re probably fishermen, the ordinary business that you do in the water so trade is possible as well. But there are sailors in ships. Likewise, when Jesus stills the storm, the disciples (many of whom are fisherman) are in boats on the waters.
Number two, a storm of both wind and waves rises up. Likewise, in the stilling of the storm, you’ve got the winds come up quickly and the waves begin to mount the boat.
Number three, in Psalm 107, the courage of the sailors melt away. They become terrified, which is a strong statement, because normally, sailors are known for being courageous people. They brave dangers and death every time they go out on the water, but when a storm comes up, their courage just melts away. Same thing — the disciples here become afraid in the face of the storm.
Number four, in Psalm 107, as a response to the storm rising up, the soldiers cry out to — this is important — to the Lord. Now when you see all caps “the LORD” in an English Bible, that’s a translation of the Holy Name of God, YHWH — the Tetragrammaton is what it’s called, the name of the God of Israel. So in the Old Testament, they cry out to the God of Israel, to the Lord, but in the Gospel, who do they cry out to? They cry out to Jesus: “Are you worried that we’re perishing? Save us!”
In the psalm, number five, it is God who stills the storm. He makes the winds stop; he makes the waves calm. In the Gospel, it’s Jesus who stills the storm — calms the wind, calms the waves. And as a result, the waves of the sea are quiet; they’re hushed. And likewise in the Gospel, as Mark says:
...and there was a great calm.
Now, these parallels aren’t actually only in Mark 4. You can find the same story in Matthew 8 and Luke 8. So the stilling of the storm is one of the miracles of Jesus that’s recorded in 3 out of the 4 Gospels. It’s a very important miracle. It’s a very important miracle. It’s a very important act of Jesus, because when you read it in light of Psalm 107, when you read it in light of the Old Testament, and the parallels between it in Psalm 107, they are not coincidences. They clearly manifest the fact that Jesus — through His actions and His words — is revealing Himself to be the Lord come as man, to be the Lord come in person. He does things in the New Testament that God does in the Old Testament… and not just in the Old Testament, in the book of Psalms, which would have been a very popular book. It would have been well known by Jews who sang the psalms, who chanted them either in synagogue or at the temple or both.
So this is a very powerful profile of Jesus where He meets the criteria for being one with the God of the Old Testament. So the answer, “Who is this, that even the winds and sea obey him?” If you were Jew and you know the Scriptures, you know, wait a second, the wind and seas obey the Lord. So who is this man, Jesus? He is the Lord, come in person.
SECOND READING TRANSCRIPT (Subscribe or Login for Full Transcript):
So with that kind of foundational worldview in mind — which we would all do well to ponder, because if this is Paul’s worldview as an apostle, it should probably be our
worldview as well, right? This is how we look at our lives: do we think of our lives as lives in Christ, living in between two worlds? Or do we tend to think of ourselves and make our decisions as if this world were our home or our ultimate destiny? Those are very different ways of looking at reality; it’s a different worldview.
So if we take Paul’s worldview and we kind of walk back through the verses for today’s reading, a few things stand out. First, he says:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we are convinced that one has died for all; therefore all have died. And he died for all, that those who live might live no longer for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
So notice Paul’s point here is that the implication of Jesus’ death (which happens in the old creation) and His resurrection (which is the beginning of the new creation) is that we should no longer live for ourselves. What does he say? But we should live:
...for him who for their sake died and was raised.
Here Paul expresses an aspect of his theology of faith that we tend to forget. Paul is saying if Christ died and rose from the dead for you, then your whole life should be one act of thanksgiving to him. It should be a return exchange for the gift that He’s given you. We should live not for ourselves but for Christ, because of the price He paid on the cross, but also because of the life that He now lives in His resurrected and glorified body … which is our hope as well. So a beautiful expression of what you might call allegiance to Christ. Is He just your Messiah, the king, or is He the Lord of your life? Do you live for Him alone?
Second, Paul says, the fact of the resurrection, the fact that the old creation has passed away and we’ve died to that and now we live for Christ and in Christ, means that we no longer look at anyone from a human point of view.
What does that mean? Literally, what Paul says here is we no longer regard anyone according to ho sarx
, “the flesh.” Now that term, ho sarx
, “the flesh,” is another word that Paul will often use to refer to the old creation. So he doesn’t mean the body. He’s not saying there that we don’t pay attention to someone’s body. We’re not looking at their body or understanding them as having a body or that the body is not significant. No, he uses the word soma
when he talks about the body.
When he talks about the flesh, he will often mean this fallen world, which of course includes our bodies, which are sick and suffering and sinful and decaying and dying. But his point is that when we look at other people, the Christian worldview is not to regard them according to the flesh, not to look at them as purely members of this fallen world, not to look at them from an earthly point of view. In fact, he says:
...we once regarded Christ from a human point of view, we regard him thus no longer.
Now I can’t help but wonder if when Paul says “we” there, he means himself. Because remember, before Paul was converted, he was a persecutor of the Church. So he was looking at Jesus as a false prophet. Maybe he was looking at him as a Galilean carpenter, who had the audacity —the hutzpah
— to claim He was the Messiah, to claim that He was the Son of God. The blasphemy!
And once Paul’s eyes are open to the Holy Spirit, he no longer regards Christ according to the flesh, but he regards Christ according to the Spirit. The Holy Spirit illuminates his intellect and enables him to see the fact that the One whom he regarded as a false prophet and false Messiah is actually the divine Son made flesh. He’s actually the one who:
...though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:6-7)
… and then went to death on the cross. So his point is that if you have faith and you have been baptized, not only do you belong to the new creation, but you should regard your fellow human beings from the vantage point of a new creation — not judging them according to the flesh, but judging them according to the Spirit. And why is this the case? Again, verse 17:
Therefore, if any one is in Christ, he is a new creation…
Notice he doesn’t say he will
be, one day, some day far off into the future. No, no no. He is
a new creation, present tense:
...the old has passed away, behold, the new has come.
And here we see Paul making a rather dramatic statement, that if you’re in Christ, you’re a new creation. Where would he get this from? How can he say that? I know lots of Christians, myself included, where you’ve been a Christian for a long time and things seem to kind of go along, day after day — doesn’t seem all that extraordinary. How can he say I’m a new creation when I get sick, I’m still inclined to sin, I suffer, I’m going to die one day. What does he mean here? When did that happen? When do we become a new creation in Christ? How can he make such a dramatic claim?
Well, I’ll just do a quick parallel here, if you turn to Romans 6. This is not in the reading for today, but just to remind us, for Paul, that transformation, that new creation takes place through faith in Baptism. That’s how powerful Baptism is — it actually makes us into a new creation. You just can’t see it. It’s just not visible. It doesn’t show through our bodies. Listen to what he says in chapter 6, verse 3 of Romans:
Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, so that as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the sinful body might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. (Romans 6:3-6)
I could keep going there, but notice what Paul says. Because Baptism is the power of Christ’s cross and resurrection being applied to each individual person, when a person is baptized, they are literally — although not visibly — being crucified, put to death. Their old self of the old creation is being put to death so that they might walk in the newness of the life of the new creation.
And I don’t know about you, but that’s a terrifying description to me of Baptism and of the demands of Baptism. What does our Baptism mean? It really means that we do not belong to this world anymore, and that we should not live as if we belong to this world anymore. And
we should not look at others as if they were made for this world anymore, but regard them from the vantage point of the resurrection and the new creation in Christ, as future brothers and sisters in the eternal glory of the new creation.
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