From the very Beginning of Scripture we have imagery of the creational Spirit of God moving in a setting of a chaotic water existence bringing order into being by God’s Sovereign Word.
The earth was without form, and void; and darkness was on the face of the deep. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the face of the waters.” (Genesis 1:2)
This theme of water being associated with the dark forces of chaos as chief enemy to man and in opposition to God is a theme that is traced all the way through Scripture. As is the theme that God has sovereign control over these forces of chaos.
As said, we find it first in Genesis 1:2 but notice the theme played out throughout Scripture.
“The seas have lifted up, O LORD, the seas have lifted up their voice; the seas have lifted up their pounding waves” (v.3). Yet, as mighty as the waves seem, Yahweh is sovereign over them: “Mightier than the thunder of the great waters, mightier than the breakers of the sea– the LORD on high is mighty” (v.4).
Again we see here the combination of the mighty power of the chaotic seas but the even mightier power of God.
God is so sovereign that the chaotic seas are under his command so that He can churn up the seas
Job 26:12a He stirs up the sea with His power,
And He stills the seas by that same power
Job 26:12b — And by His understanding He breaks up the storm.
Psalm 89:9 You rule the raging of the sea;
When its waves rise, You still them.
In Psalm 107:23-30 God toys with these great forces as His own so that those who ply their trade on the Seas is dependent upon God.
23 Those who go down to the sea in ships,
Who do business on great waters,
24 They see the works of the Lord,
And His wonders in the deep.
25 For He commands and raises the stormy wind,
Which lifts up the waves of the sea.
26 They mount up to the heavens,
They go down again to the depths;
Their soul melts because of trouble.
27 They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man,
And are at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble,
And He brings them out of their distresses.
29 He calms the storm,
So that its waves are still.
Over and over again this triumphing of God over the watery forces of chaos is seen throughout the Scripture.
Psalm 65:5-7 5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior, the hope of all the ends of the earth and of the farthest seas, 6 who formed the mountains by your power, having armed yourself with strength, 7 who stilled the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, and the turmoil of the nations.
Psalm 66:5-7 5 Come and see what God has done, how awesome his works in man’s behalf! 6 He turned the sea into dry land, they passed through the waters on foot– come, let us rejoice in him. 7 He rules forever by his power, his eyes watch the nations– let not the rebellious rise up against him. Selah
Isaiah 23:11 11 The LORD has stretched out his hand over the sea and made its kingdoms tremble. He has given an order concerning Phoenicia that her fortresses be destroyed.
Then of course there is the flood account of how God unleashed the watery chaos upon the earth in order to be judgment to those who opposed Him and salvation to those who found grace in His sight. Neither can we forget the Exodus stories how God tamed the river Nile and the gods associated with it to do His bidding. Or how God made a ally of the Red Sea by making it serve His ends of deliverance for His people.
In all of this God is like the one who masters the wild bronco to make it serve his ends. The beast is wild but God is greater than the beast.
Indeed so great is God’s power that when we get to the book of Revelation we see the sea their again but this time with a meek and tamed presence.
Revelation 4:6says, “Before the throne there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal.”
Revelation 15:2says, “I saw what appeared to be a sea of glass mingled with fire.”
The fact that it is a “sea of glass” in my estimation speaks to its calmness. It is so tamed it is as glass.
When I was a boy we’d wake early in the morning to go fishing and with a lake less than 100 yards from our back door we would look out the windows and and on still days often say, “the water is like glass.”
Now with all this as backdrop let us turn to the account in Mark as read this morning and without me even taking a second to explain any of this you already get it. You see what this demonstration of our Lord Christ over the winds and the waves is all about. It is a proclamation that the Lord Christ as Creator has the authority that God has always had over the elements. This account my Mark is placed here to demonstrate that the Lord Christ is very God of very God.
Psalm 107:23-30 is being played out before them in real time.
When we consider the particulars in this account in Mark 4 we should remind ourselves that the “Sea” of Galilee is a large, shallow body of water. Being shallow it is comparatively prone to be easily whipped up when the wind hits it. Pigeon Pass in the mountains west of the lake forms a funnel for the prevailing winds blowing in from the Mediterranean over the lake, as many fishers and boaters have learned to their dismay over the centuries. So the wind rises and the geographic features make for an accentuated affect. This may well be what happened when this storm suddenly descended upon them. Now there they were … these seasoned and salty Fisherman and they are suddenly in a panic.
And like Psalm 107 they 28 Then they cry out to the Lord in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. 29 He calms the storm, So that its waves are still.
What Mark is communicating here is just what he has labored so assiduously to demonstrate in other ways thus far. He is communicating to those who have eyes to see that the long promised King and Kingdom have come. Previously Mark has communicated that via the casting out of Demons, the healing of the sick, the cleansing of the unclean. The Chaos in the Hebrew mindset would have been associated with demon possession, sickness, and in the natural world the violence on the waters. At the command of Christ all are stilled and relieved.
Subsequent to this account Jesus will continue with this ministry even to the point of raising the dead (Mark 5:21f). Calming of Waters is commensurate with casting out of Demons, healing the sick,the forgiving of sins, and raising the dead. All manifest chaos in the lives of people which is the descriptor of those who live in and belong to this present evil age. They are the chaotic ones. The Kingdom as come with Christ the King and so Chaos is being rolled back at every turn.
As an aside here we should note then that this is a classical Miracle. This miraculous work of Christ is a sign pointing to the reality of who Jesus is as the Divine Messiah. This was always the purpose of Miracles and when we speak of something being a Miracle today we cheapen the idea of Miracle as demonstrating Christ’s person and work in the Scriptures. Better to speak of God’s inexplicable care today in terms of “remarkable providence” then downgrading the word Miracle.
The mastery of Christ over the sea by way of Miracle is taken up again by Mark in chapter 6, where Christ walks on the water thus emphasizing again that the Lord Christ has all the authoritative virtue of the Father.
Note also for Mark that the ministry of the Lord Christ is a word and deed ministry. This miracles comes immediately upon the word ministry of the Lord Christ where He teaches His disciples on the nature of the Kingdom. The Gospel writers routinely link the mighty deeds of Christ with his teachings so that the mighty deeds legitimate the teaching ministry.
This combination of ministry of Word and Deed is also a theme we see in Scripture. St. Paul can tell the Thessalonians, “as it pertains to our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power.”
To the Corinthians St. Paul could say,
my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.
Christ who is the Word demonstrates not only the wisdom as Word in His teaching but then also the power of the Word in Miracle.
Let us consider something of this control of God and His Christ over chaos as it applies to us today. This metaphor of the waters standing in for the powers of chaos end up being applied in other ways in Scripture. One example that we don’t have time to consider in any depth this morning is how the pagan nations are characterized by the chaos that is conjoined to the violent sea.
Psalm 65 equates the “roaring of the seas” with the “turmoil of the nations” (v.7). Daniel sees, in his vision at night, “the great winds of heaven, churning up the seas” out of which four beasts emerge (Dan. 7:2-3). These beasts are later identified as four nations (Dan. 7:17). Egypt is also depicted as the great monster of the deep: Rahab (Ps. 87:4; Is. 30:6-7; Is. 51:9-10).
Another example I do want to spend a wee bit of time looking at is how the life of unbelief is characterized by the same chaos that is conjoined to the violent sea.
Isaiah 57:20 20 But the wicked are like the tossing sea, which cannot rest, whose waves cast up mire and mud.
The life of the wicked is a going from chaotic unto chaotic. Instability is pursued with abandon. Passions and lusts like wind and waves are storms set loose unto the destruction of themselves and potentially all those around them. Anyone living in contradiction to God’s authority and God’s Law Word is a tossing sea which cannot rest. Like the sea they are unstable in all their ways.
Typically, especially in our culture, the chaotic tossing sea character is demonstrated by the wicked in their inability to control their lusts. Scripture speaks of these chaotic people as being
18 darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity.
As your Pastor I plead with you to keep yourself from the chaos of lusts that can mark people as being like the tossing sea. Do not give into your wicked lusts that might push you towards porn on the web or which might push you towards illicit affairs. Check your entertainment habits for the stirring up of mud and mire. Your lusts lie and can not provide for you what they promise. I beg of you to turn to Christ who alone can still the chaos of your lusts just as he stilled the chaos of winds and the waves.
We live in a culture that is as chaotic as the Sea of Galilee in Mark 4. Only God in Christ as Sovereign can deliver us from our lusts which make us like the tossing sea casting up mire and mud. Everything in our culture screams at you to live dissolute lives, from our education centers which teach “safe sex” to children, to our Jewish media outlets, to our Churches who speak nary a word on modesty or chivalry the winds blow that would toss us like the Sea. Only the Lord Christ can calm those lusts.
Now, in rounding off we look at the “faith and fear” mentioned in the text (4:40-41). Six times in Mark, the disciples are said to be seized by a “fear” that blends terror and awe (phobos, or the verb phobeomai).
Two are in the stories of the storms at sea (4:41; 6:50). Two others accompany predictions of the death of our Lord Christ (9:32; 10:32). The others are at the Transfiguration (9:6) and the empty tomb (16:8).
Four out of the 6 of these find the disciples in the presence of God in the context of epiphanies.
This teaches us that the fear mentioned is not sinful. This is not the fear of the wicked in rightly being destroyed. This is a fear that bespeaks being in the presence of God. This is the fear of Isaiah crying out in the presence of God. This is the fear of John in his apocalypse falling as dead before Christ.
Would to God that we might have more of this reverential awe as we walk before God.
The liberal voice
I’ve tried to warn you about the Higher Criticism school. You will recall that this is the School of thought that presupposes the supernatural can’t be true and so reinterprets all scripture in light of that presupposition. I found some of that in my study this week.
Here is an example and notice the subtlety and the not so subtle.
Did Jesus perform a miracle, controlling the forces of nature by a simple word? Or is this a simple story of a stormy day on the lake that the gospel writer inflated into a “fish tale” about Jesus’ power? In either case, what difference could it make to believers living in the twenty first century?
Note how the supernatural is irrelevant. This theologians says “in either case…” Whether it be supernatural or not is unimportant, what we need to look for is what difference this true or false story could make to us today.
Well … if it is not true, the only difference it might make is the necessity to not be fooled by BS 1st century fairy tales.
Perhaps that is what happened one day when Jesus was napping in the boat with some disciples, who woke him because it was getting dangerous. He reassured them, and the storm stopped. Coincidence of time was interpreted as cause, seen in the light of faith.
This one is fairly obvious.
There is a great deal of this about. Until a couple years ago this approach was taken by a prominent church in Lansing. One sees it frequently.