Friday, October 5, 2012

Mark 4:35-41

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, "Let us go across to the other side."
36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.
37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.
38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, "Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?"
39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Peace! Be still!" And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
40 He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"
41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, "Who then is this, that even wind and sea obey him?"
(Mark 4:35-41 ESV)

35 Καὶ λέγει αὐτοῖς ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ ὀψίας γενομένης διέλθωμεν εἰς τὸ πέραν. 
36 καὶ ἀφέντες τὸν ὄχλον παραλαμβάνουσιν αὐτὸν ὡς ἦν ἐν τῷ πλοίῳ, καὶ ἄλλα πλοῖα ἦν μετ ̓ αὐτοῦ. 
37 καὶ γίνεται λαῖλαψ μεγάλη ἀνέμου καὶ τὰ κύματα ἐπέβαλλεν εἰς τὸ πλοῖον, ὥστε ἤδη γεμίζεσθαι τὸ πλοῖον. 
38 καὶ αὐτὸς ἦν ἐν τῇ πρύμνῃ ἐπὶ τὸ προσκεφάλαιον καθεύδων. καὶ ἐγείρουσιν αὐτὸν καὶ λέγουσιν αὐτῷ διδάσκαλε, οὐ μέλει σοι ὅτι ἀπολλύμεθα
39 καὶ διεγερθεὶς ἐπετίμησεν τῷ ἀνέμῳ καὶ εἶπεν τῇ θαλάσσῃ σιώπαπεφίμωσο. καὶ ἐκόπασεν ὁ ἄνεμος καὶ ἐγένετο γαλήνη μεγάλη. 
40 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτοῖς τί δειλοί ἐστε; οὔπω ἔχετε πίστιν
41 καὶ ἐφοβήθησαν φόβον μέγαν καὶ ἔλεγον πρὸς ἀλλήλους τίς ἄρα οὗτός ἐστιν ὅτι καὶ ὁ ἄνεμος καὶ ἡ θάλασσα ὑπακούει αὐτῷ
(Μάρκον 4:35-41 GNT)

There are three things in this section that pique my interest.  
  • First, Jesus was asleep;
  • Second, He commands the wind and sea by His word;
  • Third, His allusion to the connection between fear and faith.


"But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion."  Jesus was asleep.  As far as I am able to determine, this story of Jesus calming the storm is the only recorded occurrence of Jesus sleeping (it is recorded in the Gospels of Matthew and Mark). Obviously, I am not suggesting that He didn't sleep on a regular basis, but it's interesting that this instance was recorded.  It is a crucial part of the story.  For two reasons do I draw attention to it.  Primarily, I think it shows the absolute peace and utter lack of fear that Jesus had in these circumstances.  Secondarily, I think it shows us another part of His humanity; that He was tired and needed to sleep.

By His word

27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits' end. 

28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.

29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.

30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
(Psalm 107:27-30 ESV)

Scripture is not soft on declaring God's command over His creation.  I challenge you to read Psalm 104 and not be humbled, even convicted, by the response of the creation to the word of its Creator. We men are often in awe of the immense power displayed in nature. Many even raise nature upon a pedestal because of this, to the point of making an idol of it (Romans 1:21-25).

Yet, man is created in God's image (Genesis 1:26; James 3:9) and charged with ruling over and subduing creation (Genesis 1:28) not bowing down before it.  Considering this, it frightens me to contrast man's posture before the God of the universe, thumbing our collective nose at our Creator, while the rest of creation lays prostrate before Him, submissive to and obeying His every word.  We fool ourselves if we really believe there are no consequences for this.

So, here in this passage we see the Lord of all creation wielding authority over His own. He rebuked the wind. I don't know about you, but I do not use that word very often, if at all. Sure, I can look it up in the current M-W dictionary and read that it means, "a sharp reprimand" or "to criticize sharply".  But, don't you wonder what this rebuke entailed?  

I looked up the Greek word (ἐπετίμησεν - epetímeesen - Strong's: 2008) in a lexicon to try to get a better idea.  It says, "to lay a value upon" and then goes on to explain it as "to lay a penalty on" or "to blame, find fault with".  Well, that helps a little. The next step is using a concordance to see other places in the New Testament where this word is used.  Perhaps we can derive some meaning from the greater context.
  • Matthew 16:22 - epitimán (2008)
  • Mark 8:32 - epitimán (2008)
  • Luke 17:3 - epitímeeson (2008)
  • Luke 19:39 - epitímeeson (2008)
  • 1 Timothy 5:1 - epipleéxees (1969)
  • 1 Timothy 5:20 - élengche (1651)
  • 2 Timothy 4:2 - epitímeeson (2008); élengxon (1651)
  • Titus 1:9 - eléngchein (1651) - to convince
  • Titus 1:13 - élengche (1651)
  • Titus 2:15 - élengche (1651)
  • Jude 9 - epitimeésai (2008)
  • Rev 3:19 - eléngchoo (1651)
These passages are the results of an ESV concordance search of "rebuke".  There are two root words commonly translated rebuke or reprove.  I think it helps to see the general idea behind "rebuke". To rebuke a person or thing appears to be an authoritative action. This does not seem to be a request or gentle counseling.  The one giving the rebuke believes they stand in a position of authority over the one being rebuked.  I say "believes" because we see Peter rebuking Jesus, which sheds a bit of light on the mindset of Peter at that time.  

All else being equal, rebuking someone or something seemingly involves a bold declaration of having found fault with the subject being rebuked and demanding immediate cessation of the offending behavior or action.  So, there it is.  It still doesn't really answer it completely.  Did Jesus say something particular in this rebuke?  Is, "Peace! Be still!", the rebuke?  

Faith | Fear

He said to them, "Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?"

Does faith equal "no fear"?  I think maybe that's too all-encompassing of a statement, but we do see that the disciples obviously were lacking faith in Jesus' command of the situation.  I believe this is often true of me.  I am slow to understand that He is in control; that He is the Master of every situation.  I may not voice it out loud, but internally I can ask, "Lord, do you not care?"  It can only be called what it is: a lack of faith.  But I would caution against blind faith in anything.  Nowhere does the God of the Scriptures call us to act on "blind faith".  Our trust in Him is not baseless, but is rooted in a consistent history of His having fulfilled His promises, and His continuing to do so.  We are not ignorant of His deeds - the Scriptures record God's faithfulness over and over again.  Therefore, when I fail to trust His sovereignty, and cower in paralyzing fear in the midst of trouble, I am effectively declaring that I do not know if He cares enough about me.  Like the disciples, I am choosing to forget what I know He has done.  I am living out my faith, and in that moment I am living without faith.

Scripture speaks to this many times.  One such instance occurs in Deuteronomy 7:17-26.  There Moses tells the people to not be afraid when they come up against the people-nations that currently possess the promised land.  However, he doesn't just tell them not to be afraid because they're "big boys and girls now" or something like that.  He explains that, "you shall remember what the Lord your God did to Pharaoh and to all Egypt".  Israel is not called to "blind faith" when going into battle, but to a faith based on the works they have witnessed God performing in rescuing them from slavery in Egypt.

Finally, when it comes to a basis for faith, I believe there is something even more important than God's faithfulness in the past.  I believe that the follower of Jesus Christ bases his faith more so on the promises of God.  Hebrews 11:1 tells us, "Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen."  These assurances and convictions are forward looking.  Yet. this does not diminish the benefits of looking upon already fulfilled promises, but the greater glory lies yet to come.  The faith that pleases God (Heb. 11:6) is one that believes His promises and acts on them.  The eleventh chapter of Hebrews fleshes this out more fully, but the theme is of men that trusted God to do what He said He would do, and so obeyed by faith.  Consequently, their belief was counted to them as righteousness.  And let's not divorce their acting on their belief from their belief.  As James 2 teaches, Abraham didn't just sit down and say, "Yep, I believe God" but he acted on that belief.

How will this faith look in the context of fear?  How do I grow in my faith so as to not sucuumb to fear during the troubling times of life (John 16:33)?  Paul tells us.

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. (Romans 4:20-22)
Giving God the glory when in the day-to-day course of life we overcome sin, or undeniably perceive His working in that trial.  Giving Him the glory and praising Him for His faithfulness.  That is the answer.

Praise God in his sanctuary; praise him in his mighty heavens!
Praise him for his mighty deeds; praise him according to his excellent greatness!
Praise him with trumpet sound; praise him with lute and harp!
Praise him with tambourine and dance; praise him with strings and pipe!
Praise him with sounding cymbals; praise him with loud clashing cymbals!
Let everything that has breath praise the Lord! Praise the Lord!
(Psalm 150)