Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 24, 2012
Jesus is in control the whole time. That’s what the disciples, in their lack of faith, miss about the whole event. It certainly doesn’t look like Jesus is in control. There arises a great windstorm, as is common on the Sea of Galilee. Only this storm is apparently not common, because these experienced fishermen, nautical experts that they are, believe they are about to perish. Here nature is groaning on account of its subjection to futility (Rom. 8:20 ff.). They are all in a panic for their very lives. And where is Jesus? He is in the stern, asleep on a pillow. Our Lord Jesus is fully human. He is tired after a long day of teaching and ministering to the crowds. Exhausted. His compassion for the crowds rarely allows Him even to eat or to rest. The disciples take Him into the boat, thinking they have it handled. After all, they’ve sailed in all sorts of weather. They know what they’re doing. But now this storm arises. And with terror, they learn a difficult lesson. They are not, in fact, self-sufficient. They are not, in fact, able to handle it on their own. They are not as in-control as they thought. The wind is blowing. The waves are tossing the boat every-which-way. The boat is filling up with water. The disciples are bailing for their lives. And Jesus is asleep. They wake Him. They need Him. At least take a bucket and help out. “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38; ESV). Jesus doesn’t take a bucket. He doesn’t panic. He does not fear. He arises and shows that He’s been in control the whole time. He rebukes the wind and sea. “Peace! Be still!” (v. 39). And what happens? The wind ceases. There is a great calm. There is no transition from chaos to calm. Immediately, the disciples find themselves on a sea of glass. Nothing like this has ever happened before. “Why are you so afraid?” Jesus asks. “Have you still no faith?” (v. 40). “Don’t you know yet who I am?” Apparently not. For “they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey him?’” (v. 41).
You know, beloved, who this is. You know because the Holy Spirit has revealed Him to you in the Holy Scriptures and made you His own in Holy Baptism. Our Lord Jesus Christ is not just a man. He is God. And He commands the wind and the waves and they listen to Him, they obey His will. He is their Creator. He is the Word through whom the Father created them, now become flesh in the womb of the Virgin Mary, making His dwelling with us, as one of us. Our Lord Jesus is one Person, but He has two natures. He is true God, begotten of the Father from all eternity, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the Son. He is God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made (Nicene Creed). And He’s true man, born of the Virgin Mary, sent by God to take our place, as our substitute, to fulfill the Law of God for us, the Law which we have broken, and to make atonement for our sins by His blood and death. God sent Him for this very purpose. And so, you see, He could not have died in the boat that dark and stormy night. It was a divine impossibility. He came to meet death at Golgotha, on the cross, at just the right time, at the time appointed beforehand by God from all eternity. For us. In our place. As the sacrifice for our sins. And then, after three days to rise again from the dead, victorious over death and the grave, victorious over sin, Satan, and hell, having won for us eternal life and salvation, and guaranteeing our own resurrection from the dead on the Last Day.
He was in control the whole time, there, on the sea. Even when He was asleep. He’s the God of the wind and the waves. He’s the God of creation, and the Savior of sinners. After all this time, after all the teaching and all the miracles, the disciples still didn’t believe it. Nor did they believe it in the Garden of Gethsemane, on another night, when one of their own number, Judas Iscariot, betrayed the Son of Man with a kiss. When the soldiers came to arrest Jesus, the disciples fled in fear. When Jesus was on trial before the Sanhedrin, Peter stayed out in the courtyard and denied knowing our Lord. When Jesus was on trial before Pontius Pilate, He stood before the seat of earthly power utterly alone. The soldiers beat Him and mocked Him and spat on Him. They crowned Him with thorns and beat Him with a reed scepter. They forced Him to carry His own cross to the place of execution. They fastened Him to the wood with spikes, piercing His hands and feet. The disciples believed God was sleeping. They believed God didn’t care. They believed all of this was entirely out of our Lord’s control. What they failed to realize is that, while it appeared as though Judas and the Sanhedrin and Pontius Pilate and the soldiers were in control of the events of the Passion, in reality, Jesus was in control the whole time. And all of this was happening for their good and for our good. This is nothing less than the will of God in motion. It results in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world, and His victorious resurrection from the dead, by which we have eternal life.
He was in control the whole time, there, on the cross. He’s not just a man. He’s God in the flesh. And here’s the point for you and me. Jesus is still in control. He is still the God of the wind and the waves, of all creation. He’s the God of heaven and earth. He’s the God of history. He’s the God of the devil. He’s the God of the unbelieving world, and of the hostile forces that would persecute us for the faith. And He’s your God, who gave Himself up for you, to make you His own. He is risen from the dead, and has ascended into heaven to sit at the right hand of the Father, where He rules all things for the good of His people, the Holy Christian Church, for you, beloved. He directs all things for your benefit. Even evil things are conscripted to serve His good and gracious will. He works all things for the good of those who love Him, who are called according to His purpose (Rom. 8:28). He’s in control the whole time. Sometimes He appears to be sleeping. Sometimes we pray and plead with bitter tears, and He seems to be silent. But don’t let appearances deceive you. He knows your need. He hears your prayers. He knows even better than you do what you need and what is good for you. When He seems to be silent, He’s exercising your faith, just as He was exercising the disciples on the storm-tossed boat. The storm brought them to the end of their own resources. They had to confess that they were nothing, that they couldn’t handle it, that they were not in control. And then, in that moment, they could come to realize that they needed Jesus, that He is in control, that He is God, and even the wind and the sea obey Him. You need to realize that. You are at the end of your own resources. You have nothing to hold before God, no righteousness, no good works, no self-sufficiency. You cannot save yourself. You are sentenced to death. You are perishing. But the Lord cares. He will not let you perish. He’s done something about it. He died for you. He lives for you. He baptized you into Himself. You belong to Him. You are not in control, but Jesus is. You are not God, but Jesus is. He is your God. He is God for you. Why are you so afraid? Fear not. Peace! Be still!
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief. This is why the Lord gives His gifts in His Church. It’s a storm-tossed boat, the Church. It appears as though we’re all about to perish. But fear not. We’re safe as long as Jesus is in the boat with us. And He is, in His Word and Baptism and Supper. He’s really present here with us, speaking to us and washing us and feeding us with His true body and blood. By these means the Holy Spirit gives us faith, and sustains us in that faith in Jesus Christ. No more reason to fear. Just be still and know that Jesus Christ is God. He’s in control. And nothing can separate you from His love. In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.