“Why Are You So Afraid?”      Mark 4:21-34                February 25, 2007




Gospel of Mark is the record of an invasion.

   It’s about the Son of God coming into our world

   and challenging our perceptions about what God is like.

This is a record of one of Jesus’ great miracles—calming of the storm.


INTRO:  Out at St. Bernard Abby, there is a door going into the chapel—

   the lintel is a large piece of limestone with a picture carved on it.

It’s a boat, in some waves, with some men in it, and one of them standing up.

   It’s a picture of this miracle—Jesus calming the storm.

   Over the picture are the Latin words ecclesia sancta.  Holy Church.


Reason it says that is because from the very earliest days of the church,

   Christians read this miracle and applied it to themselves.

They said, we are all like the disciples in that boat.

   We go through the storms of life, we get fearful, we wonder if God cares.

   And all along, Jesus is right there with us in the boat.


He has said that we are going to the other side.

   He has told us he loves us and proved that on the cross.

   He has all power in heaven and on earth.

So why are we afraid?  Why do we panic?

   Let’s have faith in Jesus.  He’s in the boat. 


The church father Origen, who was born about 150 years after Christ,

   was the first person who actually put this in a sermon.

He was preaching on this miracle and he said:

   “For as many as are in the little ship of faith are sailing with the Lord;

   as many as are in the boat of holy church will voyage with the Lord

   across this wave-tossed life . . .”


So this is the common experience of all Christians—the whole church.

   Reason this miracle is so important, one we need to remember.

It shows us in a vivid way that in the storms of life you should have faith

   and not panic, because Jesus is in control, and he loves you.


I want us to look at this miracle under three points—little long—

   so if you don’t get them, I’ll repeat them later.


First, there will be times when Jesus will take you through storms.

Second, in those storms you might panic, but Jesus is still with you.

Third, Jesus wants you to get out your faith and put it to work.


MP#1  There will be times when Jesus will take you through storms.

Why were the disciples out on the lake that night and not eating supper

   in Capernaum and getting ready for bed?

Because Jesus had said:  “Let us go over to the other side.”

   Jesus had some things he wanted to do on the other side.

   He had a plan.  He had an agenda. 

   And that required crossing the lake.


So it was because of Jesus’ decision that they were in this ferocious storm

   fighting for their lives.  Jesus took them into the storm.

As a Christian, the sufferings, pains, losses, and storms that you go through

   are not chance events. 

They are not bad luck. 

   You are taken into these storms by Jesus Christ himself.

   He has a plan—and you are in it. 

His plan requires taking you somewhere with him—

   and sometimes that means taking you right through a storm to get there.


This bothers some Christians.

   Woman who started attending church I worked in during seminary.

   She had a chronic illness—one night at prayer meeting, asked prayer for healing.

Elderly woman prayed for her.  Prayer something like this:

   Lord, please heal Julie of her painful disease,

   and help her to see that this illness is from your hand,

   and give her the grace to trust your plan for her life.


Well, it ticked her off.  God had nothing to do with my disease!

   It’s not his will!  It’s not his plan!  This is a bad thing!

   God doesn’t do bad things!  How would you have answered her?


You could point to Job.  Satan hated Job. 

   He said to God:  “Job doesn’t really trust you.  His religion is just a show.

   He’s trusting in all the wealth and success you’ve given him.  Let me at him.”

And God said to Satan:  You’re wrong.  Job does trust me.

   Do whatever you want to do to him—just don’t kill him.


You know the story:  By storms and raiding parties and illness,

   Satan destroyed Job’s wealth, killed his children, ruined his health.

   He poured out his evil hatred on Job with God’s permission.

God used Satan’s hatred to take Job through a terrible storm—

   so that on the other side he could affirm that his grace is sufficient for his people,

   and pour out on Job greater riches of wisdom and grace than he had ever known.


Or what about Joseph.  His brothers kidnapped him and sold him into slavery.

   In Egypt he suffered false accusation and prison before being raised up.

And you remember that remarkable way Joseph explained his suffering

   years later when he was reunited and reconciled with his brothers:

“And now, do not be distressed and do not be angry with yourselves for selling me here, because it was to save lives that God sent me ahead of you . . . God sent me ahead of you to preserve for you a remnant on earth and to save your lives by a great deliverance.  So then, it was not you who sent me here, but God.


God used the evil actions of Joseph’s brothers to take Joseph

   through a terrible storm so that on the other side he could accomplish his plan.

Joseph so sure of this that he could look at his brothers and say—

   you selling me into slavery was God’s way of working out his salvation plan.

   And there are many other examples—Daniel, Esther, Peter.


Now, you always need to be very careful how you express this. 

   You have to be biblical.

   The Bible never calls bad things good.  It calls bad things bad.

We should never call bad things good.  If you call bad things good, you are wrong.

   Diseases are bad.  Natural disasters are bad. 

   Results of the fall.  And as we see in Job, sometimes used by demonic forces.

The Bible always calls evil evil.  What Joseph’s brothers did to him was evil.

   We should never excuse evil.  We should always oppose it. 


But at the same time, in a mysterious way, the Bible also affirms that God—

   who is completely good, untouched by evil, has a sovereign hand

   in all the suffering and pain and evil and bad things that you go through.

He leads us through storms because he has a plan for his glory and your good.

   You may see that plan unfold in your lifetime—like Joseph did.

   Or you may not.  Might not be revealed until you get to heaven.


But if you are in a storm right now, can hold on to this—not chance, not bad luck.

   Not because you didn’t stay at home, but got into a boat instead.

Because Jesus, your Lord and Savior, has a plan and you are in it.

   He has decided it’s time to cross over to the other side—a storm on the way.

MP#2  In the storms you might panic, but Jesus is still with you.

How did the disciples respond to the storm?  They panicked. 

   Jesus was in the boat with them. 

   Jesus had said they were going to the other side—but they panicked.


And look at the way they expressed their panic.

   They woke Jesus up and said:  “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?!”

   They were angry.  They were perplexed.

   Here they were in their hour of greatest need and Jesus was asleep.


Have you ever felt the same way?  Have you ever said: 

   God if you cared for me, if you really loved me—

   this would not be happening to me!

I’m drowning in this financial crisis.

   I’m drowning in this marital turmoil.

   I’m drowning in depression, bitterness, or grief.


Lord, don’t you care if I drown?

   Lord, I’m bailing for all I’m worth, where are you?

   Have you ever said that to God?

My guess is that every one of us has.  We shouldn’t, but we have.


Why are Christians susceptible to panic in storms? 

   The simple answer is lack of faith—but it helps to be more specific. 

We forget that God’s intentions toward us are always good.

   Look at the disciples:  When they started this boat ride they in high spirits.

   They were certain God’s intentions towards them were good.


Studying Mark this way in little segments we miss the flow of the action—

   but this had been a big day.  A day of huge success.

The crowds were so huge, Jesus so popular, that they had to put him in a boat

   a little bit off shore so that he could teach the people without being crushed.

That’s why Mark says at the beginning that they took him in the boat

   just as he was—he was already in the boat.


No doubt the disciples were amazed at the response Jesus was getting.

   They still had some very mixed up ideas about what kind of Messiah he was.

But even so, they were certainly excited by these crowds and saw God’s hand.

   No doubt as they started to sail said, What a day!  Isn’t God good!

And that’s the way we all are. 

   We tend to say, “The Lord is good” when something good has happened to us.

   When he has given us something we wanted to make us happy in some way.

And that’s ok.  Nothing wrong with that.

   But then we start to think that God is good because of these good things—

   and that sets us up for panic when bad things happen.


What happened to the disciples?  The storm came and their view of God changed.

   One minute they were sure God was for them and out to bless them—

   the next minute they were sure God had forgotten them.


Is God like that?  Does he change his intentions toward us?  Jeremiah 29:

   “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord,

   “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.”

We panic because we forget God’s intentions for us are always good.

   We are like little children in our thinking.


Never forget taking one of the girls to get a shot when about a year old.

   She had no idea what was about to happen. 

   Put her on examination table, started to play, do funny things, make her laugh.

   Dad is good.  Funny dad.  Making me happy.

In walked the nurse, stuck needle in thigh.

   That baby face, that had been so happy, laughing—got this horrible look.

   Seemed to say:  Why did you do that to me?!  Meanie!

But my intentions toward her had not changed—

   even though one minute I was playing pattycake, next minute let nurse hurt her—

   my intentions all along, in the good and the bad were to bless her.


Maybe that will help you when you are tempted to panic in a storm.

   God’s intentions toward me have not changed.

But here’s the good news.  If you are in crisis this week, and forget his sermon.

   And panic, and get angry and perplexed with God for not caring—

   He’s still with you.  Jesus is still in the boat.

God’s intentions toward you have not changed—he will prosper you and not harm.


You’re going to suffer mental anguish that you wouldn’t have to suffer

   if you had more faith.  But no matter what, the Lord has your good in mind.



MP#3  Jesus wants you to get out your faith and put it to work.

How did Jesus respond to the disciples’ panic?

   He did two things:  He showed his power and he challenged his disciples.


1.  He showed his power.

He rebuked the wind and said to the waves, be still.

   He spoke to this storm like you would speak to a child.  Be quiet and stay quiet.

   Not only did the wind stop, but it became as smooth as glass.

   Change so dramatic that it terrified the disciples. 


This was an affirmation of Jesus’ divinity.

   His way of reminding Christians throughout the ages—

   that he has complete control over every storm you go through.

No matter how complicated or impossible it is—with one word he can solve it.

   So if a storm continues, it’s because Jesus is choosing to let it continue.

   He can make anything completely calm with a single word.


2.  He challenged his disciples.

He asked them two pointed questions.

   “Why are you so afraid?”   “Do you still have no faith?”

   Jesus asked those questions to make the disciples think.


That was their problem—they weren’t thinking—they were panicking.

   That’s why they came apart in the storm—same reason we do—quit thinking.

   Faith is not putting your mind in neutral—it’s putting it in gear.

Jesus is saying—think about it. 

   I’m with you.  I’ve said we’re going to the other side.

   I have all power in heaven and on earth.


Why are you so afraid?

   There is nothing that can destroy you. 

   Even death cannot destroy you. 

Where is your faith? 

   Get it out, put it to work.

   Think through these things.


Jesus wants you to take a hold of yourself in the very same way—

   ask the same questions—Why am I so afraid?  Where is my faith?

   Think through all the implications of Jesus’ work for you.

And we have a resource that the disciples did not have.

Remember I told you when we started this study that Mark is saturated with OT.

   Mark patterns many of the things Jesus did after important OT stories.

   This story is patterned after Jonah 1.

We read it earlier in the service—what are the similarities?

   Both Jesus and Jonah are in a boat

   storm, asleep, sailors wake them (do something, perishing)

   miraculous intervention

   sailors more terrified afterwards


But there is one big difference. 

   Jonah says:  Throw me into the storm.  If I die, you will live. 

   That doesn’t happen in this story.  But it will.

In just a few chapters Jesus will face a storm that is much more terrible.

   It’s the storm of God’s wrath for our sins.

   And that storm will destroy every one of us.

   The guilt of our sins will sink us in hell forever.


Jesus allowed himself to be thrown into the storm of God’s wrath.

   He groaned under it, he sweated drops of blood, he went to the cross for you.

If Jesus did not abandon you to the biggest storm of all—

   why do you think he will abandon you in this little storm you are in right now?


How wrong, how petty it is for us to say: 

   Lord, don’t you care that I’m suffering? 

   Of course he cares.  He went into the storm for you all alone.


To the degree that you believe that—

   to the degree it goes in deep, your fears will subside,

   and you will have faith in the storm.

You will row, bail, press on—confident that the one who died for you

   is in the boat, and that you will reach the other side.


CONC:  As we come to the Table, sing two verses of “Be Still My Soul.”

   Favorite of many Christians in the little storms of life.

If you are going through a storm now—take hold of the last line, press into heart.

   “Be still my soul, the waves and winds still know

   His voice who ruled them while he dwelt below.”


The waves, the winds of the storms you are facing today

   are still ruled by Jesus Christ.  Trust him.  Trust him.