Turn to Mark's Gospel chapter 4 for our reading, Mark chapter 4 beginning to read at verse 35: "And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?".
I've entitled my message today 'In The Same Boat'. Now we are entering a new section of Mark's gospel today that spans from our first verse, chapter 4 verse 35, through to chapter 5 verse 43. Therein are contained four of the greatest miracles that were ever performed by our Lord Jesus. So we see Mark's pattern is that after the parables follow the miracles. We have spent four, even five weeks looking at four parables, and now we come to the miracles of the Servant of Jehovah. Now there is a very interesting lesson for us all, because the works of the Lord Jesus are following His words. He had spoken, and now He authenticates His words by the works that He performs - that's very important for us as Christians. It's one thing to say that we are Christians, to quote the verses, but it's another thing to live up to them, to follow in the Master's footsteps.
Here we have a vivid account, more than any other of the writers, of this first great miracle of our Lord Jesus recorded in Mark. Again it indicates that he probably received this account from an eyewitness, most likely Peter the apostle who was in the boat. But I want you to see this morning that, whilst these miracles are coming after the parables, these miracles - particularly here in Mark's gospel, at this moment - are actually parables in themselves, but they, if you like, are parables in action. They are wrought one after the other within the course of a few days, and indeed the one we're going to look at this morning was performed on the very day, the same day that he gave the four parables that He spoke.
First of all we have this storm at sea in verses 35 to 41, which demonstrates the power of the Servant of Jehovah, the Lord Jesus, over the forces of nature. Then in verses 1-20 in chapter 5, we see this wonderful story of the demoniac and his deliverance from the legion of demons, and that demonstrates the power of the Servant over the world of spirits. Then we find in chapter 5 also, verses 25 to 34, that the Lord delivers a woman of an incurable disease, the issue of blood, and that demonstrates the power of the Servant of the Lord over physical illness. Then in this section, finally in verse 35 of chapter 5 to 43, we see that the Lord was able to deliver a young child from death, the power of the Servant over the realm of death.
In each case in this section, these four miracles demonstrate the power of Christ overcoming hostile forces - whether it be the forces of nature, demonic forces, the forces of disease and illness, or the very force of death itself. Mark's emphasis is: man's extremity is God's opportunity. God loves to display Himself in the midst of our problems. There are crises of differing kinds in this section. We have a storm that no seaman could overcome. We have a demoniac that no man could tame. We have a disease that no physician could cure, and we have a tragedy that no parent could avert. These differing trials and crises also differed in the type of people that they affected. You have a storm that is affecting a company of men on the sea, some of them were fishermen, sailors. You have demons affecting one man alone among the tombs. You have disease affecting one woman who sought to hide in the crowd. Then you have death affecting a child in her own father's house.
What Mark is presenting to us is the Servant of the Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, the One who would become the Saviour of the world, proved His sufficiency for every circumstance, and took an opportunity to show it in the midst of men's extremity.
Now let us look at this first miracle that Mark presents to us, this storm at sea. Let me suggest to you first of all - I have three headings, the first is: the satanic storm. I believe that this storm was satanic in origin. If you look at verses 35 and 36, let's read them again: ' And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships'. Now that's an interesting statement that we'll come back to again later on: they took Him along in the boat as He was. Immediately, without any provisions or preparations, after teaching these four parables, they pushed off to sea taking the Lord Jesus in the same boat from which He had preached those parables in that afternoon, during that day. They take Him into the middle of the lake, and other little ships accompany them.
Now I don't know whether you know much about the Sea of Galilee, but it's only about eight miles across, and it's notoriously prone to storms, squalls of a very violent nature. It is situated at about 700 feet below sea level, and it's surrounded west, north and east by mountains that rise about three or four thousand feet above sea level - and that causes a phenomenon, because of the geography of where the lake is, that there is a varying climate at lake level and at peak level of the mountains. The climate varies so greatly that freak storms can happen very suddenly.
You might say: 'Well, if that is the case, and this is nothing abnormal, why are you saying that this is a satanic storm?'. Well, the first reason is that it would seem more severe than the usual storms on the Lake of Galilee. These hardened fishermen - we know that Peter, Andrew, James and John, at least, were experienced in sailing - they were terrified. It would seem unusual that, if they had experience out on this lake and of this type of storm, that they would have been so terrified. But also verse 39 gives us a clue as to the satanic origin of the storm, because the Lord's rebuke of it is: 'Peace, be still' - which, literally in the original language, could be translated 'be muzzled'. It was used in chapter 1 and verse 25 of the Lord's exorcism of a demon, where He told it to be quiet.
Satan, we know, in the Gospels was constantly attempting to disrupt the Servant of the Lord's service in the will of God. You remember the people of Nazareth attempting to push the Lord Jesus over the cliff, but He was delivered from that because He was doing God's will. We see in chapter 5 and verses 1-20 that the Lord is on His way to deliver a demoniac of a legion of devils. He is here to deliver the demon-possessed, and I believe that Satan was trying to disrupt Him in that work. But I want you to notice what seems to be an irony even, some might say, a contradiction, though it is not: although Satan is, I believe, involved in originating this storm, verse 35 tells us that it was the Lord Jesus who said to them: 'Let us pass over unto the other side'. Now right away what that presents us with is the mystery of God's providence.
Let me explain that to you: the Lord said, 'Let us go over to the other side', and yet they're going into the midst of a storm that Satan instigates for them, and the Lord allows them to go through it. It sounds a bit like life, doesn't it? How the Lord permits us to go through certain storms, we don't understand why - and, as the book of Job teaches us, sometimes those storms can be of satanic origin, but God allows them for His own purpose. I can't explain that - neither can you, by the way - but it's a fact. Storms will be allowed into our lives by God, even storms that are instigated by the devil, He will allow them.
Now, as I've already said, this is a parable in action. The message that it gives us right away is that this raging sea is a picture of the storms of life through which all believers are called to pass. The servant is not greater than his Lord, and if He is the Servant of Jehovah and having to go down this path of suffering that will lead to the cross, as Mark so graphically paints for us, we must take up our crosses and go down the same road and face the same storms. We must be in the same boat. Often times it's so perplexing, and we might even wonder if the Saviour cares at all.
Let's see the bigger picture for a moment, because this parable in action is not disconnected from the preceding parables that were spoken. It follows on in the same context. You remember I taught you last Sunday morning that these were the mystery parables of the kingdom, and I'll not go into all of it, but save to say that these particularly spoke prophetically about the interim period when the King was absent. He had presented the kingdom, and the kingdom had been rejected by the Jews, and it is sown in the hearts of men who believe in Him - but He's gone until He comes again to set up His earthly kingdom. So we now have a parable in action that took place on the same day as He spoke those kingdom mystery parables, happening in the same boat from which He spoke them - and what do you think He is saying in this parable in action? 'You will go through storms in my absence!'.
Mark wrote, of course, this gospel to encourage Roman believers who were either facing or about to face Nero's terrible persecutions. It might have seemed for these early Christians that the King was absent, and He didn't care what they were going through - being fed to the lions, and burned to death. Maybe it seemed that He wasn't there because He wasn't preventing these storms taking place, but the Lord wanted these disciples and those who would follow to know He does hear the cries of His disciples, and He reveals Himself in the midst of life's storms. You see, Mark's readers were about to be persecuted, and some of them martyred for their faith, they needed to know that their Lord was the Suffering Servant, who suffered and died for them - but they also needed to know that He was triumphant over death, and in Him they could be triumphant even in the midst of death itself.
It's not surprising that, in the early church Christian art, the church was depicted as a boat driven upon a perilous sea, and Jesus standing in the midst. So this is a parable in action. After giving them these spoken parables about what it would be like when He was away from the earth until He comes again, now He is showing them the type of storms that they would go through - but Jesus will be in the midst! He's telling them there is nothing to fear. Now of course that's the fact, but often it is not the reality that we experience - nor was it the reality that the disciples experienced. They experienced, during this satanic storm, the Servant asleep.
In verse 38 we read: 'He was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: they woke him, and said, Master, do you not care that we perish?'. Let's remember where we are here: the Lord Jesus has just spent the whole day serving the Lord, this is the end of a hectic 24 hours. Remember where we've come from: earlier in the day He has faced opposition from His enemies, who said that He was possessed by Beelzebub. He is misunderstood by His own friends and family. He has just preached to numerous crowds and multitudes several times along the seashore. He had interpreted those same parables privately to His own disciples. He's at the end of the day, He's weary and He's tired. He is now taking the opportunity, as they cross this 8 miles across the lake, to rest.
That's a comfort, isn't it? Even the Lord Jesus needed to rest. He wasn't weary of the work, but He was weary in the work. It presents to us the mystery of the humanity of the Lord Jesus. In a moment, of course, His divinity is going to be displayed, but most of you will know Psalm 121 verse 4: 'He that keepeth Israel neither slumbers nor sleeps'. Yet here the Lord Jesus is sleeping, why? Because though He had His divine nature intact when He was on the earth, He took to Himself another nature, a human nature, the likeness of our sinful flesh - not only that He might taste death for every man, but that He might live life for every man, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest - isn't that what Hebrews 2:18 says? 'For in that he himself hath suffered being tested', or tempted, 'he is able to succour them that are tested', or tempted. It's wonderful, isn't it?
The Servant sleeps. Now this is the only record that we have in the Gospels, this miracle of the Servant sleeping and yet He is interrupted in His sleep by those He has come to serve. It's interesting that He is so tired, so wearied, that He's not wakened by the violent squall, and yet the cries of His own disciple arouses Him immediately. I think that's lovely. It's like some of you mothers, you might sleep through a thunderstorm, but the faintest whimper of your little infant instantly awakens you from rest. But the tragedy of this event is that the disciples did not know or understand His control over the circumstances that were around them, or indeed His care for them in the midst of it. So they wakened Him with the cry: 'Carest thou not that we perish?'. What was their problem? Well, like us, they judged the Lord by feeble sense, but did not trust Him for His grace. They failed to see that behind a frowning providence, there hides a smiling face. Like us, so often they saw the wind, they saw the waves, and they doubted - yet they should have trusted, even in His sleeping, Christ!
I don't know about you, but there are times in life where one can feel that God is unconscious to the storms of your life. Maybe you're too pious for that, but the Psalmists felt it, the prophets felt it, the disciples felt it, the apostles felt it. Times when you maybe think God has gone to sleep, God is unconscious, He's not aware of what you're going through - or if He's aware, He obviously doesn't care, or He's not answering the cries that are from the depths of your being. Listen to the Psalmist in 13 and 1: 'How long wilt thou forget me, O LORD? for ever? how long wilt thou hide thy face from me?'. Some of you would put him aside, and tell him about God's sovereignty and all the rest - but that's the way he felt. The Song of Solomon pictorially speaks about how the Shulamite opened to her beloved, but her beloved had withdrawn himself and was gone, and she says: 'My soul failed when he spake: I sought him, but I could not find him; I called him, but he gave me no answer'.
Do you ever feel like that with God? Do you ever experience what some have called 'the dark night of the soul'? Can I say to you: if you've never experienced it, and you're truly a child of God, one day you will experience it. It is inevitable - why? Because the servants of the Lord must tread the path of the Servant of the Lord, and it's not always a path of roses, but it certainly is a path of crucifixion! Maybe you find yourself just now in a storm, and God seems millions of miles away, and you're asking like the disciples: does He care? I mean, did Jesus know this storm was coming? Do you think He did, when He put His head upon the pillow? It's like the question: did Jesus not know that Lazarus was going to die? So the question comes from his sisters: 'Lord, if You had been here my brother would not have died'. Did He not know? Of course He knew! He knew Lazarus was going to die, He knew the storm was coming, but it was all part of that day's curriculum for those servants of the Lord.
They were in His school of faith, and these were lessons that could only be learned through storms and through trials - and this is a hard lesson in itself to learn. John Newton found it difficult to get his head round it, and he put this mental and spiritual struggle into a poem which is very dear to me, and I've shared it with many of you. It goes like this:
'I asked the Lord that I might grow
In faith, and love, and every grace;
Might more of His salvation know,
And seek, more earnestly, His face.
Twas He who taught me thus to pray,
And He, I trust, has answered prayer!
But it has been in such a way,
As almost drove me to despair.
I hoped that in some favored hour,
At once He'd answer my request;
And by His love's constraining pow'r,
Subdue my sins, and give me rest.
Instead of this, He made me feel
The hidden evils of my heart;
And let the angry pow'rs of hell
Assault my soul in every part.
Yea more, with His own hand He seemed
Intent to aggravate my woe;
Crossed all the fair designs I schemed,
Blasted my gourds, and laid me low.
Lord, why is this, I trembling cried,
Wilt thou pursue thy worm to death?
'Tis in this way, the Lord replied,
I answer prayer for grace and faith.
These inward trials I employ,
From self, and pride, to set thee free;
And break thy schemes of earthly joy,
That thou may'st find thy all in Me'.
The Lord allows the storms that our faith would grow stronger in the test. If we enter the satanic storm and the Servant seems to sleep, it's a test, it's a test of our faith. These disciples failed it, I have failed it, many of us will fail it. So the Saviour comes to them and to us with His censure, this is the censure of the Son of God in verse 39, look at it: 'Do You not care that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm', and then in verse 40, 'he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?'. Now first of all He rebuked the winds and the sea, He said: 'Be muzzled!'. It's used, as I've said, in chapter 1 verse 25 of His exorcism of a demon, it's also used of the muzzling of an ox, and it's used of the Lord Jesus silencing the Pharisees. Now what this was was the Lord displaying His divine nature, this was a divine act, and in the Old Testament the stilling of the sea and the storm was ascribed only to Jehovah.
Listen to one Psalm, there's many, 89: 'O LORD God of hosts, who is a strong LORD like unto thee? or to thy faithfulness round about thee? Thou rulest the raging of the sea: when the waves thereof arise, thou stillest them'. The Lord was revealing Himself to these doubting disciples as the Creator whose creation would be subject to the Creator's voice. Yet how slow their minds were to realise the significance of His actions. They should have acknowledged Him as the Son of God, as the Jehovah of the Old Testament in Jesus of Galilee, and they say in verse 41: 'What manner of man is this?'. Who is this? That's not a commendable thing - we quote it like that - they still haven't got who He is!
'Who is this, a Man of sorrows, walking sadly life's hard way,
Homeless, weary, sighing, weeping, over sin and Satan's sway?
Tis our God, our glorious Saviour, who above the starry sky
Now for us a place prepareth, where no tear can dim the eye'
He rebuked the winds and the waves, and they still didn't get it, so in verse 40 He rebukes them. He gently chides His disciples - why? Because they feared, and they feared and therefore failed the test they needed faith to pass. They should have believed. Now let me give you very clearly what they should have believed, as one who has failed this test many times. First of all they should have believed His promise - promise? Yes, there's a promise here in these verses. Verse 35, look at it, before they set out in that boat across the lake He said to them: 'Let us pass over unto the other side'. He didn't say: 'Let us attempt, or make a go of getting over - because, you never know, a storm might come, and we might be all lost and drowned' - no! He said: 'Let us go over to the other side'. He promised them!
Now here's a lesson, Romans 10:17 says: 'Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God', and they never heard that, you see, or if they heard it they didn't remember it. This was a practical test of what they had already heard. He had spoken His word in the boat, in the parables, He had spoken His word before He set off at the shore, and this was a test of whether they believed His word that they would get over to the other side. God permits trials in our lives because it's not enough to learn lessons - did you hear that? It's not enough to learn lessons, we are expected to live lives. We're meant to live our faith, and claim the promises of God, and live in them in the midst of the darkest devilish storms! I know it's hard, but it's a question whether or not we believe God.
They should have believed first of all because of Christ's promise, but secondly they should have believed because of His presence. It's bad enough that they didn't recognize that the Servant of the Lord was the Son of God, but they failed to comprehend the significance that they were in the same boat as Him. I think this is so interesting, verse 36 where it says they took Him along in the boat as He was - now what does that mean? He was tired after the day's ministry, He was - we could say - exhausted physically, but they thought - I think - 'We'll take care of Him. Boy, He's had a hard day, all those people to teach, and explaining things to us, and blasphemy from His enemies, and unbelief from His own family! We'll take Him as He is into this boat, and He'll be able to have a good rest. He's in our care now'. By their sight they only saw the humanity of Christ, even in infirmity and weakness, but they failed to see by faith that even when He was asleep the divine Lord was taking care of them!
J. N. Darby puts it very well, and so I'll just quote him: 'They should have remembered their own connection with Him. They think only of themselves. Now faith would have recognized that they were in the same ship with Him, that is to say: if Jesus leaves', thinking of the parables He's spoken, 'the seed He has sown to grow until the harvest, He is, nonetheless, in the same vessel; He shares, not the less truly, the lot of His followers, or rather they share His. The dangers are the danger He and His work are in. That is, there is really none. And how great is the foolishness of their unbelief. Think of their supposing, when the Son of God is come into the world to accomplish redemption and the settled purposes of God, that by, to man's eye, an accidental storm, He and all His work should unexpectedly sink in the lake! We are, blessed be His name, in the same boat with Him. If He is the Son of God it will not sink, neither shall we'.
What's the lesson? Well, the first lesson in this parable in action is: His servants will not be exempt from the storm. Satanic storms of persecution and trials will come, but they didn't deviate the Lord Jesus Christ from God's will and from that course. We will be persecuted and tried if we faithful, but if you're going to survive through those storms, even the satanic ones, you must have faith in Him even when He seems to be farthest away than ever - cry out to Him! So often in the darkest storms, at the last minute, the Lord Jesus allows the storm to reveal Himself. Cry in faith, not in unbelief, and He has promised He will come to you! Where has He promised that? John 14:18: 'I will not leave you orphans, I will not leave you comfortless, I will come to you'.
Here's a second lesson, not only will we go through these things, but I'll teach it to you in a question: does this parable in action teach us that Christ will always miraculously deliver from storms? Is that what it teaches? Some present it like that, but it doesn't teach that, because in Acts 27 Paul went through a storm, and the Lord didn't calm it for him. Paul was a man of great faith, and these disciples, Jesus said, had no faith. Now listen carefully: their faith had got nothing to do with the calming of the storm, Jesus calmed the storm because it was God's will to do it - but their faith had everything to do with believing that they would come to no harm because Christ was in the boat with them. And therefore, if Christ was in the boat, or to put it better, if they were in His boat, it could never sink!
Paul got that message in his storm, though his boat was dashed, because he said to the crew: 'There stood by me this night the angel of God, whose I am, and whom I serve, Saying, Fear not, Paul; thou must be brought before Caesar: and, lo, God hath given thee all them that sail with thee. Wherefore, sirs, be of good cheer: for I believe God, that it shall be even as it was told me'. That was before the storm. The faith isn't to get you out of it, the faith is to get you through it. Warren Weirsbe put it well when he said: 'The greatest danger was not the wind or the waves, it was the unbelief in their hearts. Our greatest problems are within us, not around us' - that is profound. Our greatest problems are within us, not around us. Sometimes God does save us from trouble, praise His name; sometimes He saves us in the trouble. Sometimes He saves us from death, like Peter who was delivered from jail and death itself; but sometimes He uses our deaths to glorify His name, like the beheading of the apostle James.
The point is: we are in the same boat as Christ - have you got that message? That is, I believe, what was behind, in a sense, Paul's writing as it is written in Romans 8: 'For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter. Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him that loved us. For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord'. Verse 28: 'We know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose'.
Does He always deliver from the storm? No, but if we believe in Him, He always delivers in it, always; and always reveals Himself in it. In the mid-seventies the KGB in Moscow were picking up underground church leaders, and they picked up a Baptist leader who they suspected was printing illegal Scriptures on a home-made printing press. They beat and tortured him to find out the whereabouts of the press, but he didn't utter a word. In desperation they brought his 16-year-old son, and they said 'We will beat him to death in front of you unless you tell us where it is'. Immediately the man began to waver, as any of us would. This was too much, how could he watch his precious son die? Then the blows began to descend upon that young lad. He heard the crunch of bones, and the screams of agony. Those sounds went straight to that pastor's soul, and he was just about to cry out: 'Stop, I'll tell you, save my son!', when suddenly the boy cried in the midst of his pain: 'Dad, don't give up, I can see Jesus coming for me and He's beautiful'. 'Dad, don't give up, I can see Jesus coming for me and He's beautiful', and with those words, the son died.
God's Servant is the Master of every situation, and the Conqueror of every enemy, and if we trust Him and follow His orders, we need never be afraid - ever! Amy Carmichael put it like this:
'Thou art the Lord who slept upon the pillow;
Thou art the Lord who soothed the furious sea.
What matter beating wind and tossing billow
If only we are in the boat with Thee?
Keep us in quiet through the age-long minute' - do you know what an age-long minute is? A minute in the storm that feels like an eternity.
'Keep us in quiet through the age-long minute
While the waves are high, and wind is shrill:
Can the boat sink when Thou, dear Lord, art in it?
Can the heart faint that waiteth on Thy will?'.
The answer is: 'No'. No water can swallow the ship where lies the Master of ocean and earth and skies - because we're in His boat, you're in His boat, you cannot sink.
Now unto Him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of His glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God, our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever, Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Evangelical Church in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the twenty-sixth recording in his 'Studies In Mark' series, entitled "In The Same Boat" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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