Summary: Just as earthly fathers sometimes allow their children to face dilemmas so they can grow and mature, Jesus allowed His disciples to face the life-and-death dilemma of a huge storm at sea, so that He could show His power and inspire them to trust Him.
I think it’s safe to say that the drought in Minnesota is over, don’t you? The pictures and video of the flooding in Duluth are stunning. The good news is that our lakes and rivers are filling up, and most of our farmers are happy with the rain. The bad news is that Donna and I have a bumper crop of little bunnies in our yard who want to eat our flowers and little vegetable plants! *In the summer of 1985 the nation of Israel suffered through a horrible drought. It was so bad they had to pump water out of the Sea of Galilee to irrigate their fields. As the level of the lake kept getting lower from the pumping, it created these huge mud flats. One day two brothers walking along the shore noticed the outline of a boat buried in the mud. Archaeologists were called in, and when they dug the boat out, Carbon 14 dating tests showed that the boat was built in 40 B.C. and was used in the first century A.D. It was 26 ½ feet long and 7 ½ feet wide. It could hold up to 15 people, considering the fact that the average man back then was 5 feet 5 and weighed 140 pounds! Jesus was a shorty! The boat probably had a mast as well as a deck on the front and the back.
Even though it’s called the “Jesus Boat” today, there’s no proof it was ever used by Jesus. But it was a common boat for that lake, and it helps us visualize the stories in the New Testament that talk about Jesus being in a boat with His disciples. A few verses before our sermon text today, Jesus is sitting in a boat just off shore, teaching the crowds. Now it’s evening of that same day. Jesus is worn out from all the teaching. He wants to get away from the crowds so He says to His disciples, “Let’s go over to the other side.” The east side of the Sea of Galilee was a pretty barren, lonely place - a perfect spot to rest. So they got in the boat and started sailing across the lake.
Before they knew it, they were in a huge storm, with waves crashing over the boat and water filling it up. The word for storm here is literally a squall - a sudden, violent, brief storm. The Sea of Galilee is famous for its squalls. It’s 680 feet below sea level, where the air is warm and moist. But the air that drops down over the lake comes from mountains thousands of feet high. When that cold air hits the warm lake air, you have instant storms - even today. That’s what happened in our story. Of course, the disciples were freaking out, just like you and I would be. Mark uses the word squall, but in the book of Matthew, Matthew calls it a seismos, an earthquake effect of the waves pounding against the boat and into the boat. Who wouldn’t freak out? But look at Jesus! Sleeping on a cushion in the back of the boat! How could He? *Years ago I went on a fishing trip with my brother Mike off the coast of California a few years ago. We were on a boat that held 40 people. I wanted to get the best view, so I took a spot at the front. I didn’t realize that that was the bumpiest spot too, the spot with the most motion! After an hour or so hour I started heaving into the water. I threw up 25 times that day! Must have been great fish bait because we caught a ton of them!
Maybe Jesus was asleep because He was in the quietest spot, the back! But he was also dead tired from ministering to the crowds all day. After all, He was human. But He’s also something else. John chapter 1, “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word WAS God…The Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” Jesus is the Word; Jesus is God. He’s Lord of the universe. That’s why He slept so soundly. He has control over the forces of nature.
But the disciples didn’t understand that yet. Jesus knew it. I think there’s a third reason why Jesus was asleep. He wanted to help them understand who He was, so they would put their trust in Him. He was asleep on purpose. It reminds me of Dr. Tim Kimmel’s book Raising Kids Who Turn Out Right. In his book he has a section called Designed Dilemmas. Kimmel is convinced that most modern parents pamper their kids to the point where they don’t ever have to face situations that force them to grow up, mature, learn responsibility. Kids don’t have the work or chore responsibilities they used to have. And they’re protected from difficult situations that might build character. We make our kids’ lives too easy. Our kids need regular, designed dilemmas that force them to demonstrate responsibility. *He tells the story of the time he took his young son Cody to the mall. He took his hand and explained to him that when they got inside, Cody would have to stick close to him so they wouldn’t get separated. But every time Cody saw something interesting, he’d dash ahead of his dad. After 3 or 4 times warning him not to do it again, he did it again. This time, Kimmel let him go. It took awhile, but soon Cody looked around and realized that dad was gone. He was alone. Dr. Kimmel hid. He slipped into the crowded racks of clothes and kept an eye on his boy. He let Cody. Soon the boy was running in circles, in tears, looking for dad. It was hard to watch, but he knew he needed to wait a little while longer. Finally, he moved into the open. Cody ran into his arms. They sat down together on a bench in the mall. This time, Dad had Cody’s ear. He listened. That was a designed dilemma to get his son to stick close to dad. Jesus knew that His disciples needed a designed dilemma to help them trust Him and His strength alone. So He let the seismos terrify the disciples.