Why Are You Afraid?
Contributed by Thomas Clawser on Jul 5, 2017 (message contributor)
Summary: Do you feel God’s presence and love in the midst of the storms in your life?
Storm-tossed waters are a frequently used metaphor for the turmoil of living.
In 1975, the SS Edmund Fitzgerald went down, and songwriter Gordon Lightfoot recorded a haunting ballad in honor of and as a tribute to the ship and the men who lost their lives. He called it “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”
The Edmund Fitzgerald was a giant ore freighter, 729 feet in length, and was the largest carrier on the Great Lakes from 1958 until 1971. “The Fitz,” as it was known, was labeled “the pride of the American Flag.”
On November 10, 1975, the Fitzgerald was hauling a heavy load of ore to Detroit, Michigan, when it ran into a severe storm. This storm generated 27-30-foot waves with a following sea. During the evening hours the ship disappeared from radar screens; apparently it sank in a matter of minutes. It now rests on the bottom of Lake Superior broken in two with the bow upright and the stern upside down still loaded with its cargo of ore and all 29 hands.
In Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad about the sinking of the freighter Edmund Fitzgerald, he asks: “Does anyone know where the love of God goes/ When the waves turn the minutes to hours?”
What a question; a question people have asked for years. “What is God doing while we are in peril?” Does he know/care what we’re up against?
[Do you feel God’s presence and love in the midst of the storms in your life?]
1. In his gospel, Mark the evangelist shares the account of Jesus and the disciples caught in a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee. His account bears the marks of one who experienced the event (Mark probably gleaned his information from Peter). Of interest is the extraordinary detail in the passage, which is uncharacteristic of Mark:
A. The precise notice of time; the unnecessary reference to the other boats that are present; vivid detail that “the boat was already filling”; the precise location of Jesus’ position (“in the stern, sleeping on a cushion”); the harshness of the rebuke implied in the disciple’s cry of indignation and terror, as well as their bewilderment. All these suggest an eyewitness report.
B. Come with me as we explore this miraculous event: OYBT Mark 4.
II. EXEGESIS (Mk. 4:35-41)
1. Jesus had been teaching the crowds gathered on the shoreline. The crowd grew so large that he gets into a small boat and drifts offshore a bit (4:2). When evening comes, he and his disciples set sail for the eastern shore of Galilee, leaving the crowd behind. The disciples include among their number fishermen who were experienced sailors, and the multitude is soon left in their wake as they move into deeper waters.
2. The Sea of Galilee is known for violent storms that rise and fade quickly, due to the topography that surrounds it. These storms are generally stronger in the afternoon than in the morning or evening, therefore, fishing is nearly always done at night. However, on the rare occasion that a storm arises at night, it is all the more dangerous . . .
A. Guess what; tonight a violent storm erupts. A storm so violent that waves beat the boat, break over the side, and begin to fill it with water. We can estimate the severity of this storm from the fact that apparently even the experienced fishermen are terrified.
B. While all this is going on, Jesus lies sleeping in the stern (rear) of the boat on the pillow customarily kept under the coxswain’s seat for those who are not involved in the actual sailing or fishing.
3. The disciples, stricken with panic fueled by indignation, wake Jesus, crying, “Teacher, are we to drown for all you care?” (Imagine this; the Son of God subjected to the rudeness of men).
A. Jesus gets up, rebukes the wind and says to the waves “Peace (i.e. quiet), be still,” and immediately the storm is completely (NIV) calm.
B. What do the disciples fear? Do they suppose that this Jesus, whom they’ve seen cast out evil spirits, heal the sick and mobilize the lame, will somehow die with them in a sailboat without ever waking up?
C. I believe Jesus’ slumber is no more than a test of the disciple’s maturing faith. Prior to this account, the whole of chapter four has been about faith, trust and spiritual maturity. Suddenly Jesus has an opportunity for an object lesson, and the disciples fail – miserably.
D. Cyril of Alexandria, who lived and wrote in the 4C AD, said it this way:
“And so he sleeps, leaving them in fear, in which their senses would be sharpened to perceive the significance of what was to come. For no one feels what takes place in another’s body as acutely as that which happens in his own.”