As we come to this passage before us in our ongoing study of Mark, we find that the Lord Jesus and His disciples are at the end of a very long, tiring day. Jesus has been teaching and healing all day long, and the crowds were pressing against Him, and thronging Him to the point that He could not teach, so He had entered into a boat by the shore and taught them in parables.
Now we spent the last couple of weeks talking about these parables that Mark records for us. And I don’t want to go back over them in detail. However, it’s noteworthy that these parables in this chapter are the only ones that Mark records for us. Yet we know from the other gospels that Jesus taught more parables than these. Mark, however, only includes these five, yet he indicates in verse 33 that there were many such parables that He taught.
And it’s important that we remember the purpose of parables. Why did Jesus use them as a means of teaching? Well, contrary to normal intuition, He used parables not so much to illustrate the truth, as to veil spiritual truth in a natural illustration. As we have pointed out repeatedly, there is a necessity for spiritual illumination in order to understand the spiritual truth of a parable. So that the principle is that to him who has, more shall be given. In other words, he who has spiritual illumination, spiritual life, receives more spiritual illumination. But to him who does not have, they hear, but they don’t understand.
So Jesus said to them in vs.24, ““Take care what you listen to. By your standard of measure it will be measured to you; and more will be given you besides. For whoever has, to him more shall be given; and whoever does not have, even what he has shall be taken away from him.” Now that sounds as if Jesus is speaking in riddles. And perhaps He is to some degree. But here is what He is saying; By your hearing of the word, you come to believe. And when you believe what you have heard, then more truth will be given to you. But if you hear the word and do not believe in the truth, but reject the truth, then what you have will be taken away from you. What insight you have been given, will be taken away. God will take the spiritual illumination which was given to you away because you did not believe it.
So take care what you listen to. He isn’t necessarily saying, “be careful not to listen to false teaching.” Though that may definitely play a part in rejecting the truth. But be careful to listen carefully. That’s why twice Jesus said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” If you have spiritual ears to hear, be careful to listen to it. Take care of what you hear. Don’t let it go in one ear and out the other. But think on these things. Ponder the truth of God in your heart. And then of course, act upon that truth. That obedience to the truth is an essential part of believing.
Be careful what you listen to because as Romans10:17 says, “So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” Your faith is dependent upon what you hear, and how carefully you hear. Faith comes by hearing the word of Christ, ie, the truth of the gospel.
Now in that context we come now to the final section in this chapter, and though it seems rather biographical than doctrinal as the other sections were, yet it is tied to the previous passages by this principle of faith. Faith is really the lynchpin of our salvation, is it not? The word faith has only been used by Mark one other time up to this point in his gospel. And interestingly enough, it is found in reference to the forgiveness of sins. Back in chapter 2, we have the account of the four friends who brought in the paralytic and it says that Jesus, seeing their faith, said, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” There is a principle in Biblical interpretation, what is called hermeneutics, which is known as the principle of first mention. If you want to understand how to view a term that’s used in the Bible look at how it’s first used. And the word faith’s first mention in the gospel of Mark is in reference to the forgiveness of sins. Forgiveness of sins is called justification in theological terms. Faith is essential then to salvation. Hebrews 11:6 says, “And without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him.” Faith and belief then are synonymous. As in Romans 4:9, speaking of Abraham’s saving faith says, “FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.” Faith produced Abraham’s justification.
So be careful what you listen to because faith comes by hearing, and salvation comes through faith. And through salvation comes spiritual life. And spiritual life is the way of life that Jesus promises to those who believe in Him. That spiritual life, where we are made spiritually alive and receive the Spirit of Truth in us, is the more that will be given to those who believe.
Now the disciples had by this time received spiritual illumination. And they were following Jesus as the source of life and truth. They were trying to understand the things which He was teaching them privately, that is the spiritual truth of the parables. But here in this last section, Jesus is going to give them a personal illustration, a physical experience to help them to understand this spiritual principle or doctrine of faith. Sometimes that is a great way to learn. We can learn things theoretically, but when we learn by experience then we really learn. However, experience can be a hard teacher. I will say to you young people especially, life isn’t long enough to learn everything by experience. If you are wise, you won’t learn things the hard way, you will learn through teaching. But in this case, Jesus is going to teach them by experience and though it’s a tough lesson, it is an essential one which I hope we can learn as well through their experience.
So as the day turns to evening and night falls, according to Matthews gospel in chapter 8:16, Jesus without even getting out of the boat tells the disciples to push off and take them to the other side of the lake. This is the Sea of Galilee. It’s really a lake and not a sea, but it was called both in those days. So it’s evening, it’s getting dark, and they set sail for the other side, and a few other boats, presumably filled with disciples as well, follow them.
The point must be made here that Jesus knows what’s going to happen before it happens. So Jesus knows that a storm is going to occur. And yet He deliberately sends them out into an impending storm. The storms and trials of a Christian are not meant to tempt us, but to teach us. As the hymn writer says in “How Firm A Foundation”, “When through fiery trials thy pathway shall lie, My grace all sufficient shall be thy supply. The flames shall not hurt thee, I only design, thy dross to consume and thy gold to refine.” The trials of the Christian are intentionally produced by God to refine us and teach us.
Many commentators have given testimony to the violent nature of the storms that can come suddenly down from the mountains upon this lake. And though it’s a lake and we don’t normally associate huge waves with lakes, yet in this particular lake the storms are well documented as being particularly vicious, especially due to the fact that it is over 600 feet below sea level encircled by mountains and hills. I am not going to try to explain it further, but I will just say that it is a verifiable phenomenon that happens even today.
So Mark says that Jesus and the disciples leave the crowds. Once again we see a pattern here of the crowds following in a sort of superficial manner, and thus not receiving the deeper spiritual truth that was given to His close disciples privately. The crowds were interested in seeing some sort of miracle, were interested in the entertainment aspects of Jesus’s ministry, but they are not interested in learning deeper spiritual truth. And so the light which they had, which was Jesus, was taken away from them. He leaves them on the seashore and puts out into the lake in the dark of the evening with the disciples, with whom He will teach a greater lesson.
Another important lesson in this event is that though we will certainly see the divinity of Christ displayed at the end of this event, we also see the humanity of Christ displayed at the beginning. Jesus is so tired, humanly speaking in His body, that He falls fast asleep in the bow of the boat and sleeps soundly through what must have seemed like hurricane force winds to the disciples. I don’t think He is faking sleep in order to make a point. I think He is completely exhausted. It’s important to remember that Jesus was fully God and fully man. He was not half God and half man. But fully human and fully divine. As Hebrews 4:15 tells us, “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus got tired. I would suspect that Jesus got sick. Jesus knew grief. He had by this time lost His step father Joseph. Jesus grew hungry. He was thirsty. He got dirty and had to take a bath, just like all men. Yet though He suffered in the flesh as a man, He was without sin. He was righteous in all that He did. This composition of divinity and humanity is what theologians call the hypostatic union of Christ. He was fully God and fully man. And we see that illustrated here in this chapter. Thus He is able to save us completely, not only as our substitute who died in our place, but in His role as our Great High Priest who ever lives to make intercession for us at the right hand of the Father.
So sometime soon after the disciples set sail, a severe storm arose on the lake. It reminds me of that old hymn, “The weather started getting rough, the tiny ship was tossed. If not for the courage of the fearless crew, the Minnow would be lost, the Minnow would be lost.” Whoops, I think that’s the wrong song.
No, actually the fearless crew were not that courageous in the midst of this storm. These were seasoned commercial fishermen who were piloting this boat, and they are in fear of losing their lives. I suppose that this storm was worse than anything they had ever encountered before. There is some speculation among some commentators that this was a demonically induced storm. I don’t know if that’s true or not. The Bible doesn’t seem to say explicitly whether or not the devil can manipulate the weather. I am inclined to think that he can. I’ve endured far too many instances of adverse weather when I was trying to conduct a church service or a church outreach when the weather just got crazy. So I’m inclined to think that he can, but I cannot be dogmatic about it. But even if he can influence the weather, that doesn’t mean that every time we get bad weather it’s of the devil. However, I will say that the Bible says that the devil is the Prince of the power of the air. And you can infer from that whatever you may like.
And I will also say that considering where Jesus and the disciples were headed, the other shore being the country of the Gerasenes where the demoniac lived among the tombs, it is entirely plausible that Satan knew that his dominion was under siege by the Lord, and as a result threw everything he could at them in order to try to discourage Jesus and His disciples.
You know, there are a lot of times that we go through trials, and we don’t know if they are of God or they are of the devil. Consider Job. His trials were definitely through the agency of Satan, but they were ultimately under the authority of God. And so I think that is something we need to learn. Not necessarily trying to go about binding Satan so that we don’t have trials, but rather learning, as Shadrach, Meshak and Abednago did, that God may allow an evil prince to put you in the fiery furnace, but the Son of God will be with you in the flames.
Well, I don’t need to embellish the story. I think Mark makes it clear what happened. So we see Jesus awakened by His panicking disciples. And notice what they say to Him. “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Notice they don’t cry out “Help us!” But rather accuse Him of indifference. I think that right there Satan accomplished his goal. That was the point of Satan’s temptation of Eve. That God didn’t really care about their needs or desires. That God was uncaring. And I can tell you from experience that is where my failures of faith often lie. When God doesn’t do what I want Him to do in the time frame that I want Him to act, then I find myself accusing Him of not caring. Of indifference. Not that He doesn’t know about my problems. But that He doesn’t care. In fact, knowing that He knows about my problems and doesn’t seem to act immediately to rectify them seems to me the height of indifference.
But of course, Jesus does care. He does sympathize with our weaknesses, with our trials, and with our heartaches. He not only is aware of our pain, but He shares our pain. The Bible says in Romans 8:26 “In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” Some people think that is referring to speaking in tongues. No, far from it. It’s talking about the Spirit of Christ who is in us, groaning in us as He emphasizes with our heartaches. Jesus knows our hearts. He knows our thoughts. His thoughts toward us outnumber the sand on the sea shore. Nothing can separate us from His love towards us. He is faithful, even when we are faithless.
So Mark says that Jesus wakes up, and rebukes the wind. Notice how Mark says in in vs39, And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm. He rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Hush, be still.” The fact that Jesus rebuked the wind gives credence to the idea that it was a demonically produced wind. The words he used here are exactly the same words he used when he rebuked the demon that interrupted his discourse in the synagogue at Capernaum, as recorded in the first chapter of this book.
And it’s interesting to notice the order. First He rebuked the wind. Did you know that waves are caused by wind? Those of us that are surfers we know that we get waves from storms many hundreds, and sometimes even thousands of miles away. We can have great waves here in Delaware with beautiful weather from a storm a thousand miles away. The key component is what they call fetch. It’s the tract of water over which the wind blows. And if it blows in our direction long enough, over a broad enough fetch, then we will get waves that will travel many miles to reach our shores. It causes what’s called a groundswell. Well, this lake is only about 18 miles long, so it’s not got a lot of room for a prolonged fetch, but the waves are still caused by the wind.
The thing is that though the wind stops, the waves won’t immediately stop. The waves will continue to move because the wind imparts energy into the water. But Jesus rebukes the cause of the wind, and then He tells the waves to be still. And Mark says that the lake became perfectly calm. That’s not natural, but rather a supernatural occurrence which is not lost on the disciples.
So Jesus rebuked the wind, but He mildly chides the disciples. I don’t think that the text indicates He rebuked the disciples. I think He rebukes the devil. But He chides the disciples for their lack of faith. Notice what He says, ““Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?” In Matthew’s gospel He says that they have little faith. I think the thought is the same. He is accusing them of an immature faith. They have had faith in what they can see. But they don’t yet have faith in what they can’t see, or they can’t explain.
And I think this is the whole point of the exercise. It is to get them to see by faith what they cannot see by sight. Faith is believing. And though they have believed what they could see, Jesus’s humanity, His power, His teaching, His ability to do miracles, to speak divine truth, they now need to be given a greater measure of belief. Belief in what they cannot see. What they cannot understand. Faith, according to Hebrews 11:1, is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen. And by faith, the men of old gained approval from God.
Faith then is not what you can touch or see, or hold in your hand and examine. But faith is believing in what you cannot see, even what is hoped for, that which cannot be seen. Faith is the means of spiritual illumination. It is the means by which we see that which cannot be seen, that which is spiritual truth. And that faith is the essential component of our salvation. By faith, Abraham believed in God, and it was counted to him as righteousness. He was justified by faith. He was saved by faith in the Old Testament, and we are saved by faith in the New Testament. And that faith is comprehended in Jesus Christ. Believing in who He is, who He claimed to be, and what He did for us. That constitutes saving faith.
Now the disciples see the result of this miracle, and their response is to move from one fear to another fear. Notice, vs 41 “They became very much afraid and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?’” Well, Mark doesn’t answer their question, because the answer should be obvious. The wind and the sea obey Jesus because He is the Maker of the wind and the sea. John 1 says, He was the Word, and all things were made by Him and without Him nothing came into being that has come into being. And Hebrews 1 says “in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”
So the disciples become fearful not because of the storm any longer, but because God was in their boat. And when that realization dawned on them, then their spiritual enlightenment, their spiritual walk took a quantum leap forward. They will still have doubts from time to time, they will still have weaknesses, but when you know the God of the Universe is with you, then there is a comfort and assurance and power that comes with that that supersedes the trivial trials of this world.
Listen, it’s natural to feel fear in certain times of trial. The Psalmists cry out to God in the fear and anxiety again and again. Psalm 10:1, “Why do You stand afar off, O Lord? Why do You hide Yourself in the midst of trouble?” Or Psalm 44, “Arouse Yourself, why do You sleep, O Lord, why do You hide Your face.” And lest we think that such despair is sinful, remember Jesus Himself quoted the Psalm when He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast thou forsaken Me?” Fear is a natural occurrence. And I don’t think that it is necessary sinful.
I remember hearing of a battle hardened soldier who said something to the effect, that everyone in battle feels fear. Courage is not a lack of fear. Courage is doing what is necessary even though you feel fear. When we find ourselves in a spiritual battle we may feel fear as we encounter things that seem beyond normal. They may even seem demonic. But though we may feel fear, we need not react in fear, but take courage that Jesus has promised to be with us in the trials and storms of life. And He will never leave us nor forsake us. We have been given life through His death, because of God’s immense love for us. So nothing can hurt us without going through the hand of God.
Romans 8:28 is a verse everyone here has probably memorized. But nevertheless it bears repeating. This verse comes right after the one we quoted earlier about the Spirit groaning in us through our weaknesses. Vs. 28 says, “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.”
I trust that you have been called according to God’s purpose. I pray that you have not rejected the light that God has given you. But that you have believed in that light, and have followed in that light, so that you may continue to fulfill His calling upon your life. Be careful to consider all that God has taught us today concerning His Son. He was fully man and fully God, that He might become our Savior and our Substitute, that we might receive the righteousness of Christ by faith in Him. And having received Him, we love Him. And having loved Him, we obey Him. And as we walk in the light of His truth, He will one day glorify us so that we might be like Him and be with Him forever. Amen.