Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

Location: Moscow, Idaho

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost

Fourth Sunday after Pentecost (B—Proper 7)

June 21, 2015
Text: Mark 4:35-41

            Times of tribulation and sudden catastrophes betray our struggle with faith and doubt.  At these times we ask the really hard questions.  Where is Jesus?  Why is He allowing this to happen?  Can He help?  Does He even care?  When life gets particularly difficult; when it becomes clear to us and to everyone around us that we are broken and perishing people at the mercy of wind and wave, time and circumstance; when we have to admit that we are utterly helpless, that even our lives are a big, filthy mess of sin and death; we cry out to Jesus: “Lord, don’t you care?!”  And it seems like He is asleep on a cushion, unconcerned and unmoved by our plea.
            The disciples took Jesus into the boat after a particularly exhausting day.  There had been great crowds, probably healings, and certainly much teaching.  Our Lord was tired.  The disciples, being experienced fisherman who knew their way around a boat and the lake, were eager to give their Teacher a rest.  They could handle it.  The weather looked good.  The conditions were favorable.  And this is what the disciples did for a living.  Take a break, Jesus.  We’ve got this one.  Go take a nap on the cushion in the stern.  So He did.  That blessed sleep after a hard day of labor.  Then, all at once, the weather took an unexpected turn.  A great windstorm arose.  This kind of storm is not all that uncommon on the Sea of Galilee.  The Sea is surrounded by mountains and hills, and when cold wind blows in from the mountains over the warm water, it can make for tumultuous weather.  But this storm came out of nowhere.  The waves were breaking over the boat.  The disciples were bailing, but they couldn’t keep up with the water now filling the boat.  The situation looked hopeless.  And though everyone else was in a panic, bailing for their very lives, where was Jesus?  Asleep on the cushion.  Apparently unconcerned.  Apparently unmoved by the cries of distress.  “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38; ESV). 
            In fact, it may be worse than that.  It just may be that Jesus is doing this on purpose.  Consider the evidence.  Recall that the disciples had earned their sea legs.  They knew what they were doing.  They were pretty good meteorologists, and they wouldn’t have risked life and limb and precious fishing vessel if they knew a dangerous storm was brewing.  Furthermore, what is going on with Jesus?  When waves are tossing you every which way and soaking you to the bone, you don’t just sleep through that.  So the storm came out of nowhere and Jesus kept right on snoozing as though He had nothing to be concerned about.  And so the verdict: Jesus planned this whole thing!  Jesus is responsible for the storm!  He did this on purpose!  Well, He is God, remember?!  Ah, and that is what this is really all about.  Jesus is teaching His disciples (those in the boat with Him and those in His Church this morning) some profound facts.  There will be storms in this life.  They will be unexpected and they will be violent.  No, we cannot handle it.  We are insufficient and we are broken, and on our own, we perish.  Jesus sends the storms for this very reason, that we may know our place before Him.  But He also sends the storms that we might know who He is and what He has come to do.  He is God, the Creator of wind and wave, and He has come to save us.  And awake or asleep, no matter how violent the storm, we are safe in the boat with Him.  That we may know this, Jesus arises and rebukes the wind and says to the sea: “Peace!  Be still!” (v. 39).  And immediately, there is calm.
            This is, of course, a classic example of how Jesus works.  The disciples don’t recognize the pattern until the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, but look at how this is a little picture of Jesus’ ultimate saving work.  Talk about a sudden storm: Judas, the soldiers, the arrest in the Garden, the trial. I mean, they had just been celebrating the Passover with their Lord, and now all this.  Pilate, the scourging, the mocking, the cross.  Everyone panics.  Everyone runs.  The Lord Jesus sleeps the sleep of death.  The disciples believe they are perishing, and that God doesn’t care.  All is ruined.  It’s all over now.  But on the Third Day Jesus rises from the dead.  And what is the first thing He says when He appears in their midst that Easter evening?  “Peace” (Luke 24:36).  “Peace to you.”  And now the very storm of death has been stilled.  The thundering of the Law has been silenced.  The howling wind of Satan’s lies is muted.  The waves of our sin can no longer drown us.  Jesus has done all that to death.  And now there is peace.  “Why are you so afraid?  Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40).  Jesus is God in human flesh.  And He has come to save you.
            Here you sit in the boat that is the Holy Christian Church, and God knows this boat is battered and tossed by wind and wave.  You’re drenched, every one of you, as wave after waves spills out from the font and drowns you.  But this is a different kind of drowning.  It’s a drowning unto life, a dying to live.  It is death with Christ, and resurrection in Him.  It is a peaceful sleep in the midst of the storm, from which you arise with stillness and peace.  Oh, the storm rages.  There is cross and cancer, car wrecks and crime.  There are flooded fields and flooded basements and pillows flooded with your tears.  But if you take nothing else from this sermon, cling to this: You are always safe when you are in the boat with Jesus.  Jesus will navigate you safely to the other side, to your home in heaven.  No matter the storm, there is peace in Jesus.  For Jesus is God, and He has come in the flesh to save you.
            In fact, He sends the storms for your good.  He sends them so that you despair of yourself and run to Him for help and salvation.  He sends them so that you trust only Him to deliver you.  And He sends them so that you might witness His deliverance, that you might know His peace.  We don’t always know why our Lord sends the storms He does.  That is what God teaches Job in our Old Testament reading (Job 38:1-11).  “Where were you when I laid the foundation of the earth? … Who determined its measurements… Or who stretched the line upon it?” (vv. 4-5).  If you know… If you were there “in the beginning,” then you can question God.  He is God and we are not.  That is the point of the Job text.  So you just have to trust Him, that He knows what He is doing, and believe His promise that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28).  He does all things well. 

            And He saves you.  He delivers you from every cross and trial, just as He delivers you from sin and death by His own death and resurrection.  Of course He can help.  Of course He cares.  He is God.  And He has come to save you.  And that you believe this, He has left you a Meal: His very Body, His very Blood, given and shed for you for the forgiveness of all of your sins.  Jesus is present here in the boat.  He’s here in the flesh.  And you are safe.  In the Name of the Father, and of the Son (+), and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.       


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