Summary: Our faith must not be in the place we are standing but in the person with whom we are standing.
20150621 4th Sunday after Pentecost B
Title: With whom are you standing?
Text: Mark 4:35-41
Thesis: Our faith must not be in the place we are standing but in the person with whom we are standing.
In mid-May Dean Potter, known as an extreme climber, base-jumped wearing a wingsuit from Taft Point in Yosemite National Park. Taft Point is 3,000 feet above the floor of Yosemite Valley. While attempting to navigate through a notch in the cliffs he and a fellow jumper smashed into the rocks and fell to their deaths.
Yosemite’s chief of staff said off Potter, “Dean was part of this community and had such an impact of climbing. He was a luminary and in the pantheon of climbing gods.”
Base jumping, which is essentially parachuting from a fixed structure or cliff, is illegal in national parks, and Yosemite officials have tried to curtail the practice. But Potter fought and flouted the rules for many years. He was a proselytizer for climbing, Base jumping and living free. (John Branch, Dean Potter, Extreme Climber, Dies in Base-Jumping Accident at Yosemite, the New York Times, May 17, 2015)
In other words, Dean Potter was an advocate of climbing and jumping and encouraged others to follow him to those dizzying heights and dare-devil leaps.
To say Dean Potter was a risk-taker is an understatement… however it could be said that Jesus was something of a risk-taker as well. He was not a selfie, self-aggrandizing risk-taker but he knew what it was to be in risky situations. And in our text today we see Jesus in such a circumstance along with those he had called to follow him.
This morning I would like to speak to Five Tensions I see in this text.
I. Is Following Jesus Safe or Risky?
As evening came, Jesus said, “Let’s cross over to the other side of the lake.” So they took Jesus in the boat and started out… but a fierce storm came up. High waves were breaking into the boat and it began to fill with water.” Mark 4:35-36
One thing that is clear is that it was Jesus’ idea to get into the boat that evening and cross over the Sea of Galilee to the other side. If this was a Laurel and Hardy skit, Oliver Hardy would say to Stan Laurel, “This is another fine mess you’ve gotten us into!”
The Sea of Galilee is the largest lake in Israel. It is 33 miles long and 8 miles wide and is 141 feet deep. It is a small, relatively shallow lake 680 feet below sea level. The hills around the lake rise to 2,000 feet. So the high cool air funnels down through the hills and collides with the low warm moist air which results in some pretty vicious weather. The lake is historically known for vicious storms. The Matthew account says, “Suddenly, a fierce storm struck the lake with waves breaking into the boat.” Matthew 8:24
If you are at all cynical you might wonder, “Why would Jesus ask his friends to take an 8 mile long evening cruise across the lake knowing that a storm was a distinct possibility?”
In his book, A Sweet and Bitter Providence, John Piper wrote, “Life is not a straight line leading from one blessing to the next and then finally to heaven. Life is a winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback. And the point of biblical stories like Joseph and Job and Esther and Ruth is to help us feel in our bones (not just know in our heads) that God is for us in all these strange turns. God is not just showing up after the trouble and cleaning it up. He is plotting the course and managing the troubles with far-reaching purposes for our good and for the glory of Jesus Christ.”
It is important to point out that Jesus did not send them into a storm… Jesus went with them into the storm. Jesus was in the same boat as were they. So it is easy to make the leap of faith and trust that as we make our way through life and encounter the storms of life or as Piper put it, “the winding and troubled road. Switchback after switchback… God does not just show up after the storm and clean things up. He rides with us.”
So is following Jesus safe or risky? The answer is yes! It’s safe and risky!
There is a second tension that comes to mind…
II. Is Jesus’ Indifferent or Caring?
Jesus was sleeping in the back of the boat with his head on a cushion. His disciples woke him up, shouting, “Teacher, don’t you care that we’re going to drown?” Mark 4:37-38
You have to kind of worry about some of those guys. They were seasoned fishermen. This was not their first rodeo. You would think mariners would be accustomed to rough seas…