He Is Not Tame Or Safe, But He Is Good

Painting by Steve Dawson
Text: Mark 4:34-41

To Him who loves us and has washed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever.  Amen.

They were grown men, with a great deal of strength, and survival instincts.  They were experienced fisherman as well; probably had weathered many storms at sea over their years.  However, in our Gospel reading from today, we hear that this storm may have been a bit different, for the disciples were afraid.  They were perishing to be precise.  The waves and wind were pounding against them and the boat was filling up with water.  The ratio of water entering the boat versus the amount of water scooped out of the boat was not good.  As water splashed into the boat, terror came in as well.  As the wind growled, their souls groaned.  It was one of those storms where the rolling black waves curved up and down as if the water was smiling the grin of death.  It was one of those storms that would cause one to think of their loved ones, their children, and what it would be like for their soon to be widowed wives.  The storm was bad; it looked like the end. 

As for Jesus, He was not in the midst of their panic and fear. 

Where was He then? 

Was He off in the distance majestically walking on the water?  Was He rowing an oar with confidence or scooping water up with determination?  Was He in the corner of the boat praying diligently, while hugging a life preserver? 

No, none of these were the case.  He was actually asleep in the boat.

Asleep in the boat, that does not make sense?  Why would He be sleeping?

Well, the only logical conclusion was that He didn’t care.  He probably did not even love them.  If He did, He would not have been sleeping, but awake and rowing an oar or at least praying for them. 

This is the conclusion that the disciples came to, for we hear them cry out to Jesus saying, “Does it not matter to You that we are perishing?”

With this crying accusation, Jesus is awoken.  His opens His eyes, He stands, looks at the situation, and then with four simple and direct words makes everything right, “Be Still; Be Silenced!” 

Like simply turning off the facet, the rain stopped.  Like simply flipping the switch on a fan, the wind ceased. 

A great calm settled. 

No splashes of terror; no growling wind.  A great tranquility came forth, so great that the water seemed like glass.

This was more than the disciples had asked for though.  It was more than they bargained for.  They simply wanted another person to row, maybe another person to scoop water, or maybe their teacher to at least pray.  But to turn the raging sea off, like switching a light to the off position?  They had not asked for this, nor were they prepared process it. 

As a result, fear of the sea turned into fear of Jesus.  Who was this Messiah who could exercise authority over a legion of demons, over sickness, over death, and now over nature, simply by speaking words?  No waving of a magic wand, no special potions, no pushing of top secret buttons, and no flexing of muscles; just words, simple clear words. 

Be clean!

Stretch out your crippled hand!

Come out of that man you unclean spirit!

Get up and walk!

Waves and rain: shut up, be still!

Like the disciples, we too are quick to blame the Lord when it appears that the Lord is sleeping or is nowhere to be found in helping us with the storms of our life. 

For example: we may want the Lord to grab an oar and help paddle us out of our financial debt.

Or, we may want the Lord to grab a bucket and help us scoop away our marital problems.

Or, we may want the Lord to steer the boat away from the rocks of physical suffering. 

Regardless of our circumstance, the point is the same, we want the Lord to awake from His slumber and deal with our belly-aching right away, for the time is urgent.     

But the Lord does not help you and me.  He appears to just lie there, sleeping in the boat like some passed out deadbeat father.  While we are screaming our heads off in fear of all the fierce waves of life that threaten to destroy us, He just lies there sprawled out, asleep, or so it seems. 

“[These] are the times when it’s easy to pray with the psalmist, ‘Awake! Why do you sleep, O Lord?  Why do You hide Your face and forget our affliction and our oppression?’ (Ps. 44:23-ff).’  [Otherwise stated,] are You [O Lord] in Your [heavenly] easy chair, catching some Z’s while I’m down here [being wounded, getting sick, and] catching hell?  Do you not care?  Have you retired from your job as rescuer?  Do you have Alzheimer’s, living in the past, as if the world is still a trouble-free paradise, forgetting who you are, where you are, who your children are, ignoring their prayers?”[1]

There is no doubt about it, it is easy to grumble like this and it is easy for us to want the Lord to respond to our demands and to help us the way we want, when we want, and how we want, for we have convinced ourselves that we certainly know what is best for ourselves and we also get afraid quite quickly and begin to doubt.

After our ranting and raving and our apparent success in waking the Lord up, we come next to find out that the Lord does not help us or respond in the way that we ask.  He will not do things the way we want Him to.  He has His own idea of what is good for us and it is typically not heeding to our demands and our desires.  Otherwise stated, He does not help, but rather, He does far more.  He forgives.

We cry, “Lord, grab an oar and help me paddle out of financial debt.”  He speaks to you, “Be still, be silent, dear child, your sins of greed are forgiven.”

We cry, “Lord, grab a bucket and help me scoop away my marital problems.”  He speaks to you, “Be still, be silent, dear child, I forgive you for your lust, your pornography, and your neglect of your spouse.”

We cry, “Lord, steer the boat away from the rocks of physical suffering.”  He speaks to you, “Be still, be silent, dear child, do not fear; I have redeemed you, called you by name, and have promised you a resurrected body after this life in the vale of tears is over.  I am your life and your salvation, you shall not be afraid.  Your health may fail, and your spirit may grow weak, but I remain the strength of your heart and you belong to me forever.” 

Dear friends, no the Lord often does not help you the way that you want.  He does not paddle your oars and He does not scoop the water out of your boats and He does not steer you away from rocks… He does so much more, He arises and speaks a word to the chaos of the storm, “Be still; be silenced.” 

Why would the Lord have to paddle or scoop, when He can end the storm?  Why would He have to be frantically jarred out of slumber, when He has complete power and authority over the curse of sin? 

What we learn from this text is that the Lord Jesus Christ is not tame and He is not predictable.  We want to make Him paddle and scoop, but He will not succumb to our agendas and our plans.  Furthermore, He does not heed to our time table.  Like the Lion Aslan in C.S. Lewis’ books “The Chronicles of Narnia,” the Lord is not tame or safe, but He is good.  This frankly and quite literally scares the hell out of us, as it did the disciples in our Gospel reading from this morning.   

You see, we want an extra set of hands to paddle, and we are given nailed-scarred hands with the imprint of salvation instead. 

We want someone to scoop water, and we are scooped up in a baptism into Christ’s death and resurrection. 

We want someone to help us keep the bitter water out of our mouths; however, we receive the body and blood of Christ poured into our mouths and down our throats as we hear, “Given and shed for you for the forgiveness of your sins.” 

We want a Savior that responds to our needs before we even cry out, yet we are given what seems to be a slumbering Savior.   We cry out, “Does it not matter to you that we are perishing?”  And we hear the words, “Peace!  Be still!  You are forgiven!  I died, was buried, and am resurrected—for you.”

Blessed Baptized Saints, truly our Lord is not tame or predictable, but He is good.  Therefore, do not be afraid.  Whether He seems to be sleeping or awake, He is with you in the storms of your life, in order to speak to you and deliver to you the forgiveness of sins.

This is the kind of God, “the kind of Savior, you have.  He only seems asleep.  Trust me.  Or, rather trust Him.  He who made the sea and its waves knows full well when storms rage.  And if it seems God is asleep, then get some shut-eye yourself, for it’s better to snore with the Savior than remain awake [by yourself in the cold storm with fear and unbelief.]  When the time is right, He will do what must be done.  He knows [what is] best.  [He is no dead-beat dad.  He is not dead.]  But a living, loving savior and friend.  All for you.”[2]  

Listen again, “Be still, be silent, I am the Lord your God.  Your sins are forgiven; sin, death, and the devil are defeated.  Do not be afraid, believe in me, for I am yours and you are mine. ” 

The peace of God, which passes all understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus. Amen.

[1] Chad L. Bird, Meditations and Sermons (Copyright 2014), 92.

[2] Ibid.

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