Pentecost 5b

Preached: July 1, 2012

“Jesus, Save Me from the Storm”
Mark 4:35-41

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Grace and peace to you from God our Father and our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Amen. The word from God through which the Holy Spirit comforts us with our Savior's grace is Mark 4.

That day when it was evening, Jesus said to them, “Let's cross to the other side.” Leaving the crowd, they took him along in the boat, just as he was. Other boats were also with him. A huge windstorm came up, and the waves beat against the boat swamping it. Jesus, though, was sleeping in the stern on a pillow.

They woke him and said, “Teacher, don't you care that we're drowning?”

He got up and rebuked the wind. He said to the sea, “Quiet. Keep still.” The wind stopped; all became calm. He said to them, “Why were you so timid? Don't you have faith yet?”

A great fear filled them. They kept saying to each other, “Who, then, is he that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:35-41).

This is the word of our Lord.

It has been a long day of teaching and healing in Capernaum along the shores of the sea of Galilee. Worn and tired Jesus gets into the boat when night comes. He wants to cross to the other side. There's work to do there. But now he leaves the sailing in the capable hands of his disciples, several of whom had been fishermen growing up on these waters. He lies down in the back of the boat with his head cushioned and falls asleep.

Think about that. As God, Jesus never slumbers or sleeps, not even after he became flesh taking our human nature into his person. But during his time on earth when he humbled himself as a servant, his body grew weak and tired, just like ours. So, dear friends, he knows the storms you struggle through. He knows them not only as the all-knowing God, but also as one who has struggled himself. He's experienced the exhaustion and fatigue. You know the struggles of his life. He experienced poverty, temptation, loss of loved ones, rejection, ridicule, hatred, betrayal, abandonment, injustice, torture, pain, and death.

So go to him in prayer. Call out, “Jesus, save me from the storm,” whatever that storm may be. For Jesus sympathizes with you and me in our weakness. He's walked in our footsteps. He knows, first hand, what you are going through. He's been there. Confident of his care, call out: “Jesus, save me from the storm.” Remember that theme.

The storm the disciples faced started as a literal storm and became a storm in their souls as well. The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by mountains. The weather can change without warning as a storm system moves between the peaks, the valleys channeling the fierceness of the winds. Suddenly a furious squall sent waves crashing against the hull, swamping the boat. Peter and Andrew, James and John, and any other fishermen with them drew on all their experience and skill. They knew these waters. They knew their boats. But no matter what they did, they were going to drown, so they thought. And Jesus just kept sleeping.

What storms do you go through, dear friends? Storms of hardships and afflictions? Storms of temptation when following God's will seems so difficult and sin's pleasures seem so rewarding? Storms of spiritual fear that God's truth will be swamped by lies and his true Church sink away? Storms of doubt when the very foundation of your faith is shaken and despair breaks in and you wonder whether Jesus is sleeping instead of guarding your soul?

No matter what the storm, whether it's only a cloud on the horizon or an F-5 tornado tearing apart your home, call out, “Jesus, save me from the storm.” Don't keep that prayer in reserve as a final option. Don't trust your own ingenuity and skill or the ability of others, and only if those fail turn to Jesus. You see, sometimes Jesus sends us storms far too great for our own strength and far too great for all the resources of humanity, just like that storm was too much for the disciples' seafaring skills and resources. Don't misuse his promise that he won't give you more than you can bear. He does give you and me more than we can bear on our own or even with the help of others. His promise is that no matter what we bear, no matter what the storm, in him, and only in him, do you or I have the strength, his strength, to make it through. Relying on his strength, call out, “Jesus, save me from the storm.”

Rely on him at all times. Even as we use the experience, intelligence, skill, determination, and opportunities that he's blessed us with, he wants us to use these gifts trusting him. Trust him to see you through, no matter how fiercely the storm rages. Trust him to see you through it even if that means bringing you to the heavenly harbor, that eternal peace before his blessed presence.

Here's a small example. In the bulletin you may have seen that our General Fund has a deficit. That's a kind of storm. Let's face it not with despair and not with idleness. We call out in faith, “Jesus, save us. Help us through this financial crunch.” And that same faith takes action, knowing that Jesus wants to answer this prayer through our gifts. Has you blessed you with the means to help us make ends meet? Might we need to reevaluate how we carry on the Lord's work here? I don't know the answers, but Jesus does. He's not sleeping. We trust him to see us through, relying on his strength, even as we do all in our power as God has enabled us. We trust him calling out, “Jesus, save us from the storm.”

The disciples finally wake Jesus up. “Teacher, don't you care if we drown?” (Mark 4:38 NIV84). With his mere word, Jesus puts the wind in its place. “Quiet! Be still!” (Mark 4:39 NIV84), he commands the waves. A complete calm covers the sea, like a glass mirror reflecting the stars above. “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” (Mark 4:40 NIV84), he says to them.

How much our faith is like the disciples'! They had the faith to finally call out to Jesus, but how weak that faith was so that fear, terror, and doubt plagued them! You and I, dear Christians, have faith that knows Jesus and calls out to him, “Save me from the storm.” But don't the fears, worries, and doubts we feel expose the weaknesses of our faith?

It's easy for us to point out the disciples' weakness. Jesus was right there in front of their eyes. They should have known he would help. Besides Jesus wouldn't drown in a boat because he had his mission of paying for the sins of the world to carry out as the Father had planned. Those silly disciples.

But shaking our heads at those disciples only blinds us to our own weakness. You have Jesus promise that he is with you always. He has not left us as orphans. “But I can't see him, like the disciples did.” But what's harder to believe? That a man whose so tired that he's sleeping through the storm is somehow going to rescue the boat when even seasoned fishermen have failed? Or that the God-man, who rose from the dead in victory and ascended in glory reigning over all things at the Father's right hand, is truly able to help you no matter how fierce the storm? We have so much more evidence of Jesus' power and might than the disciples did at this time. You know the answer to their question, “Who is this? Even the wind and waves obey him!” (Mark 4:41 NIV84). Call out to the mighty God, “Jesus, save us from the storm.”

But what about the disciples' accusation? Does Jesus really care about you and me? Satan points to the storms in life and whispers, “See he doesn't really care, otherwise this wouldn't be happening to you.” Don't believe the devil's lie. Does Jesus care about you? Would he have humbled himself to such a lowly existence, if he didn't care -- gasping for his first breathe of air in a stable of all places? Would he have become our sin to reconcile us to God through his blood, giving us his righteousness as he died in our place? Would he have done that if he did not truly care? Would he have risen from the dead and ascended into heaven to prepare a place for you, if he didn't care? Would he have sent out his apostles to preach and write his word? Would he have seen to it that his Gospel entered your heart through Baptism, if he didn't care about you? Would he come to you with his body and blood in the Lord's Supper sealing his promise of forgiveness to you who eat and drink in faith? Would he do that if he didn't deeply care about you? “Teacher, don't you care” (Mark 4:38)? His grace, mercy, and love have answered that many times over. Look at what his grace has done for you. See his cross revealed to you in his Word and Sacraments. What grace! Call out to your gracious, caring Savior, “Jesus, save me from the storm.”

The peace of God that surpasses all understanding keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

Pastor Gregg Bitter

St. John's Evangelical Lutheran Church
859 5th Street
Hancock, MN 56244
(320) 392-5313