And the wind ceased and there was a great calm – Mark 4:39b
Trials and overwhelming situations seldom if ever come announced or expected. In fact, that is what makes them overwhelming; we don’t have time to prepare for them. Even when we are warned of an impending storm, we don’t know just how powerful it will actually be until it hits. The storms that overwhelm can take many forms. We may hear a new peculiar noise emanating from our car, but until we go to the dealer or garage we don’t know the full expense it will cost for the repair. Our roof may leak, we may step through a floor, or a tree may fall on our property or a neighbor’s, but until we get someone to assess the situation we have no idea of the cost. We may be called into the office at work, but until we actually get the pink slip we have no idea of all the ramifications. We may sense that we’re sick or that someone else is ill, but until the doctor is seen and a diagnosis is made, we don’t know the extent of the illness. We may watch threatening weather forecasts made by well-paid meteorologists, but until the storm actually hits, we don’t know the extent of the damage that will be done.
Jesus had just spent the day teaching. He had taught His most important parable of the Sower and had followed that up with three other parables (Mark 4:1-34). As the sun set Jesus told His disciples they were going across the Sea of Galilee. The account of what followed instructs us on how to overcome overwhelming situations. The account of Jesus in the storm helps us to take precautions so that even though a storm may crash in on us, we will know what to do to weather the storm. This account will help us in Overcoming the Overwhelming.
The objective. The account opens with the words, “On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” (Mark 4:35). It was the end of a busy day in the ministry of Jesus. The sun had set, evening had come. When the sun sets there is always a cooling, even maybe a chill in the air. This was the setting for Jesus words, “Let us cross over to the other side.”
Jesus had a mission objective. His objective involved His disciples and those who were with Him. God has a plan for our lives. He demonstrated this in His dealings with the nation of Israel (Jer. 29:11-14). And He says similarly that He has a mission objective for each of our lives (Eph. 2:10). God has a way of accomplishing His mission. When Jesus told His disciples that they were going to cross over to the other side of Galilee they should have had confidence in Him. The Holy Spirit had descended upon Him and He had passed the wilderness testing (Mark 1:9-13). He had already demonstrated His power by casting out demons (e.g. Mark 1:21-28) and healing numerous people (e.g. Mark 1:29-45; 2:1-12; 3:1-12). Jesus was impressive enough that the disciples had answered His call and followed Him (Mark 1:16-20; 2:13-20; 3:13-21). So when Jesus said they were to go over to the other side of Galilee they should have had a certain amount of confidence and trust in the Lord.
The occupants. It states, “Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him.” (Mark 4:36). Jesus and the twelve left the multitude. He got into a boat with the twelve. He didn’t make any special preparations. He simply got in the boat, “as He was.” But it states “other little boats were also with Him.” People followed Him in smaller boats. They wanted to see what Jesus would do next. They wanted to watch Him; be close to Him. There are always people in smaller boats looking to see what Jesus is going to do in and through us. Are you aware of those in the little boats around you?
The overwhelming obstacle. Storms on the Sea of Galilee can come quickly and unexpectedly. And that is exactly what happened. It continues, “And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.” (Mark 4:37). Those in the boat with Jesus and those in the smaller boats without Jesus probably had no idea a storm was coming. If the larger boat with Jesus was filling up with water, how much more were the smaller little boats that were following Him. If Jesus is in our boat and we’re scared, how much more frightening is it for those in the storm in little boats without Jesus? They feared capsizing and drowning in the stormy waters. That would be overwhelming.
The obtuse objection. First we see how not to respond to overwhelming storms. Jesus was calmly sleeping in the back of the boat. The disciples went to Him and it states, “But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). Really? “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Jesus had hand-picked them. He allowed them to see up close and personally His compassion and healing touch. Jesus had taken the time to give them a private explanation of His teaching. They had every reason to believe that Jesus grooming them for leadership. And they ask, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
When we face overwhelming situations the temptation is to blame God in some way. We question His power. We question His sovereignty. We question His love for us. We may even question His existence. That is exactly what the enemies’ tactics are designed to do. But we need to ask, are all storms from the Lord?
The opponent. Jesus’ response is recorded with the words, “Then He arose and rebuked the wind, . . .” (Mark 4:39a). Now ask yourself this question, “If the storm had been from God, would Jesus have rebuked it?” The word “rebuked” (Greek - ἐπιτιμάω - ĕpitimaō, ep-ee-tee-mah´-o) here means, rebuke, censure, to adjudge, or to find fault with. Is this really the way Jesus would respond to something if it were sent by His Father? It is not unprecedented that a storm comes from Satan (cf. Job 1).
The overcoming Lord. It goes on to state, “and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39b). The storm was great and terrifying. The wind and waters of the sea were filling the boat in which Jesus and the disciples were and doing even worse to the little boats that were following them. With a shout Jesus overcame the overwhelming obstacle of the storm. “Peace be still!” Jesus exclaimed. And the wind instantly died down and the waters reduced to a glassy sea. “A great calm” came in the storm.
The Bible says, “When the enemy comes in like flood, the Spirit of the LORD will raise up a standard against him” (Isaiah 59:19). A standard is a banner identifying an army. Jesus Himself served as the standard on this occasion. But whenever followers of Jesus stand in the storm and proclaim the peace of Jesus they too become the Spirit’s standard.
When our hearts are overwhelmed we need to run to the LORD (Psalm 61:1-2). Build on the rock of Jesus word and you will be stable in the storm (Mat. 7:24-27). Jesus is our Cornerstone (Eph. 2:20). Through prayer and faith we can overcome the overwhelming by resting in Jesus (e.g. Phil. 4:6-7).
The Overcomer’s observation. Why had the disciples felt and nearly been overwhelmed by the storm? It states, “But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” (Mark 4:40). Fear is the foe of faith. Fear contradicts faith. Fear is the evidence of a lack of faith. Faith is trusting in the midst of the storm. Faith is trusting Jesus even when things look bad.
Faith is defined as, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” (Heb. 11:1). In the storm we can’t see our destination, but we can always see our Captain Jesus. And with Him in sight, no storm should get us off course.
We overcome our fears with faith. And faith is built with God’s word. “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Rom. 10:17). When we look in scripture and see the faithfulness of God, when we see Jesus faithful in the storm, it encourages us; it builds our faith. If Jesus got the disciples through the storm He can get us through the storm.
The outcome. The account concludes, “And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41). When Jesus stills the storms of life, all we can do is stand in awe of Him. When He brings peace in the midst of the storm or brings good from the storms that hit us, we simply stand in awe of Him. And those who know Him best will worship Him.
Is Jesus in your boat? Are you trusting Him in the storm?