Sunday, May 7, 2023

Jesus of Nazareth calms the Storm on the Lake: What are the Storms in your life?

"In April 1988 the evening news reported on a photographer who was a skydiver. He had jumped from a plane along with numerous other skydivers and filmed the group as they fell and opened their parachutes. On the film shown on the telecast, as the final skydiver opened his chute, the picture went berserk. The announcer reported that the cameraman had fallen to his death, having jumped out of the plane without his parachute. It wasn't until he reached for the absent ripcord that he realized he was freefalling without a parachute. Until that point, the jump probably seemed exciting and fun. But tragically, he had acted with thoughtless haste and deadly foolishness. Nothing could save him, for his faith was in a parachute never buckled on. Faith in anything but an all-sufficient God can be just as tragic spiritually. Only with faith in Jesus Christ dare we step into the dangerous excitement of life." -Unknown.

Today we’re looking at three parables of Jesus, and a classic incident in the mystery of Jesus life and ministry. 

The three parables we’ll look at are the lamp on the stand, the growing seed, and the mustard seed.

Then we’ll look at the event which happened at the end of Mark 4, where the disciples cross a lake and find themselves in the midst of a brutal storm.

So I want to move pretty quickly through the parables as a review, and then focus in for the rest of our time on the event in the boat.

Let’s take a look at the parable of the lamp on the stand. It says this: 

He said to them, “Do you bring in a lamp to put it under a bowl or a bed? Instead, don’t you put it on its stand? For whatever is hidden is meant to be disclosed, and whatever is concealed is meant to be brought out into the open. If anyone has ears to hear, let them hear.”

“Consider carefully what you hear,” he continued. “With the measure you use, it will be measured to you—and even more. Whoever has will be given more; whoever does not have, even what they have will be taken from them.” -Mark 4:21-25

Very simply, Jesus is telling his disciples that what I’m telling you in parables, in riddles, in a hidden way, I want you to tell everyone. That is our challenge. Jesus is very strategic, keeping his message slightly hidden, to prevent an explosion too large, but he says tactically speaking now you must tell everyone.

Interestingly, in the NASB translation of this chapter, the parable of lamp is left as part of the parable of the sower. As if Jesus were illustrating the last line of the parable of the sower, verse 20 which says, “And those are the ones sown with seed on the good soil; and they hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirty, sixty, and a hundred times as much.”

So it would connect with the fact that the good seed on good soil produces a multiplied harvest. The seed planted in good soil produces more seed that is spread and produces a harvest. The good seed spreads because we shine brightly, and we don't cover our message over. 

And he includes this warning: With the measure you use, it will be measured back to you. If you share little, you’ll receive nothing, even what you have will be taken away and given to others. But, if you share much, if you get that message out there, you’ll be rewarded greatly. Don’t hide it, Jesus commands them, share it.

We’re moving very fast here, next the growing seed says this:

He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.” -Mark 4:26-29

Jesus is saying here, don’t think that you are the one who is going to make the kingdom of God grow. You simply scatter seeds to the grounds. Just like the seed sower in the parable of the sower. And over weeks and months, after the crop is planted, the seeds grow in the soil on their own.

I think sometimes we try to force the seed to grow, even seed in rocky soil or seed among weeds, and it doesn’t grow and we get upset. But we simply must cast the seed to the soil, and God makes it grow, just like any crop is planted and God causes it to grow.

Thirdly, the mustard seed, Jesus says this: "Again he said, “What shall we say the kingdom of God is like, or what parable shall we use to describe it? It is like a mustard seed, which is the smallest of all seeds on earth. Yet when planted, it grows and becomes the largest of all garden plants, with such big branches that the birds can perch in its shade.”

With many similar parables Jesus spoke the word to them, as much as they could understand. He did not say anything to them without using a parable. But when he was alone with his own disciples, he explained everything." -Mark 4:31-34

The Kingdom of God seems so small at first. We have a conversation with someone about Jesus Christ. We talk to them and plant some seeds. They seem very small. We think, well they’ll just go back to fornicating and drinking and living selfishly, what difference did our words make? Very little. But, like a tiny mustard seed it begins to grow. They become increasingly uncomfortable in their sins. They start to long for something more. They begin to seek after God, and pretty soon they are praising God in a church somewhere. They turn away from their sins, and they begin sharing the message with others. And pretty soon they’ve planted a few dozen seeds. And those seeds begin to grow. And that is how the kingdom of God spreads.

But we’re warned by Jesus, make sure you keep your light on a stand. Sometimes Christians hide it. They fear people, instead of fearing God. They don’t want to make a scene. They just want to go along to get along. They don’t want to be thought of as one of those religious people. Don’t hide your light. Don’t cover it. Let it shine. Let people think whatever they want to think. It’s your job to get that message out there.

Imagine if we think, well, just a few words won’t make a difference. So we say nothing to that unsaved man. Then he stays in his sins. There are no seeds now to grow. He keeps sinning. He leads others into sins. His family never comes to Christ through his conversion, and pretty soon hundreds more people remain in their sins and are never changed, because you hid your light because you wanted to be liked. No, speak up, and it will grow. But you must plant the seed. Believe that it really matters. Even a few words.

Now put them all together… as a Christian you’re the seed sower. And the seeds you throw out there, are going to have mixed results. Like the parable of the sower. Some though will land on good soil, and produce harvest.

Light on a stand parable, so make sure you’re not hiding it, Jesus knew we’d be prone to want to hide the message because we don’t want to make waves. Jesus says no get it out there, because it has to produce this harvest of 30, 60, or 100 times.

Parable of the growing seed, Jesus knew we might then get confused and think we have to make the seed grow ourselves, he says no, God makes it grow. Just like the farmer watches his crop grow. He can setup good conditions, protect it from insects and such, but only God can make it grow.

Then the parable of the mustard seed, we probably assume how could we possibly participate in this? Faith as small as a little mustard seed is enough. And we might also wonder, can God’s kingdom really take off from these meager efforts we make? The answer is yes, the mustard seed grows to be a huge plant.

Now, let’s get into the incident on the lake.

It says in verses 35-38: "That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”"

A great storm happens as they cross the lake. It comes out of nowhere. Have you ever been on a boat in a lake during a storm? I have once or twice, we would always steam for the dock as quick as we could, to get to safety. But it can be pretty scary. The waves start to grow. The sky turns dark. The rain starts. Lightning and thunder begin.

How much more so in our own lives? Storms often come out of nowhere. Someone dies suddenly. We get very sick. We come under spiritual attack. The enemy tries to lie to us. Stress increases at our job. Uncertainty seems to surround us.

But can we trust Jesus in the storm of life? This whole incident was engineered by Jesus to test the disciples, and apparently the others who were with them on other boats as well.

First the storm hits, don’t wake up Jesus, trust that he's with you in the storm, even though he’s silent. He’s asleep. But, Jesus is with you even though he’s silent.

The lightning and thunder starts. Keep trusting Jesus. He is silent. But trust him.

Then the waves get higher and higher, crashing against the boat, the boat starts rocking back and forth in the storm. The storm doesn’t appear to be ending it’s growing worse.

Don’t wake up Jesus, trust Jesus, he’s with you. He’s silent. He’s asleep. But, trust. Is God really going to let the boat overturn?

Now here’s where probably all of us would have a hard time. The boat starts filling with water. Ok, so now, what do you do? Do you stay in faith? Maybe you start bailing the water out of the boat.

Don’t we face circumstances like this? We do good for a while in trusting the Lord. Even as the storm gets worse. Even as bad stuff happens. We get more stressed at work. We get overwhelmed by the drama in our lives. We get in open fights with loved ones. Even in that we stay in faith. We simply pray saying, "God, I trust you."

But then it gets worse. Then it gets even worse. I think we’re often at the breaking point, and we can’t take much more, then something even worse happens, that’s when we cry out: "Jesus, where are you?" We question his love and presence.

But the whole situation was a test of our trust in God. Can we really trust Him even when the boat is filling up with water and he seems silent? Can we? The storm was bad enough, now the boat is filling up with water.

Sometimes we try to do it ourselves. We try to solve it ourselves. But that doesn’t work either. We don’t want to take things into our own hands. Which the disciples don’t either, which is good. They look to Jesus, so you could say it is a partial pass on the test.

Then it says in verses 39-41: He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.

He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”

They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”

The disciples failed the test you might say. Or like we said, partially passed.

I wonder, what would’ve been a successful situation here? What if the disciples saw the boat filling with water and became afraid. But Peter stood up and said to them, “Brothers don’t be afraid. Jesus is with us. He is silent. But he is with us. Now let us all pray together.”

And they all prayed in the storm, as the boat filled with water. And then Jesus would’ve gotten up and quieted the storm, perhaps? And said well done disciples, you trusted me even though I was asleep. Yet I was with you in the storm.

Or maybe, Jesus would’ve kept sleeping and the storm would’ve ended, by his power, then he would’ve got up and been pleased with them.

Instead they wake him up. He gets up and rebukes them, and the storm. But does he then say well, you can’t be my disciples anymore, you failed the test? No, he doesn’t. He is still their Lord. And the storm is put down.

“Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” That’s what he said to them.

The disciples respond by saying, “Who is this?” They don’t yet have a deep faith. Instead of saying, "This is the Lord!" They say, "Who is this?"

When struggles come our way, we have two options: Be consumed by fear or stay in faith.

We can look at our problems and fear, then turn to God and say where are you?

Or we can look at our problems, stay in faith (even if we feel afraid), then turn to God, and say, I trust you completely. Even if I sink beneath the waves, still I will trust you. Everything will be OK.

Do you have that kind of strong mighty faith in God? But the truth is it doesn’t take strong mighty faith, it takes faith as small as a mustard seed. Just a little bit is actually enough to say, "I trust you God completely, even at the breaking point, even past the breaking point, God I trust you."