SERMON: What Manner of Man is This? | Mark 4:35–41

What Manner of Man is This? | Mark 4:35–41
Shaun Marksbury | Quacco Baptist Church
Sunday Evening Service | 9 July, 2017

How we answer the question of Who Jesus is will change how we respond to the storms of life.   As our example this evening, we are going to look at the disciples before the might of the storm (vv. 35–38), and then the disciples before the might of the Lord (vv. 39–41).

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Sermon Notes
What Manner of Man is This? | Mark 4:35–41
Shaun Marksbury | Quacco Baptist Church
Sunday Evening Service | 9 July, 2017

I.               Introduction

We approach a passage that has been the subject of countless sermons.  The calming of the storm is a favorite for topical preachers, because it seems to deliver up a simple message: When you’re going through a storm, make sure that Jesus is in your boat!  That isn’t a bad application, but it seems to miss the point a bit.  Consider the simple fact that there are other boats mentioned here—maybe the message is, whenever going through a storm, at least be near someone who has Jesus! 
The truth is we are going to go through storms.  Jesus promised tribulation in this world, so we may have to go through some struggle.  Jesus nowhere promises to calm the storms of life, though He might.  Indeed, the desire for everything always to go peacefully might be an idol in your life—especially if you find yourself only coming to Him when the going gets tough.  Rather than desiring a storm-free life, we need is a bigger image of Who He is.
Last time we were in Mark, we looked at two parables that gave us insight into the nature of the Kingdom of God.  We saw the mysterious growth of the kingdom—God causes all the growth outside of our intervention.  We also saw the chief growth of the kingdom, that it encompasses all peoples and crowds out all contenders.  God works as He wills, apart from our efforts.
The account this evening emphasizes that.  It’s not about us, but about our Lord Jesus Christ.  The key doesn’t come until the last words: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The KJV reads this way: “What manner of man is this?”  This passage shows us just how powerful Jesus Christ is. 
Such will be the way from here through the end of chapter five; we’ll see further demonstrations of Jesus’s power.  He calms the storm here.  He wields power over a legion of demons in the first twenty verses of the next chapter.  He heals a woman with just the fringes of His garment.  He then raises a girl from the dead.  If we continue into chapter eight, we see four more miracles, including Jesus walking on the water.  All these miracles stand in contrast to human despair and desperation, with Jesus performing the impossible; the miracles echo the question of the disciples—“Who then is this?” 
How we answer the question of Who Jesus is will change how we respond to the storms of life.   As our example this evening, we are going to look at the disciples before the might of the storm (vv. 35–38), and then the disciples before the might of the Lord (vv. 39–41).

II.            The Disciples’ Before the Might of the Storm (vv. 35–38)

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
The text says, “on that day, when evening had come.”  So, this is the same day as the parables on the kingdom, in the early evening.  As A. T. Robertson points out, “It had been a busy day. The blasphemous accusation, the visit of the mother and brothers and possibly sisters, to take him home, leaving the crowded house for the sea, the first parables by the sea, then more in the house, and now out of the house and over the sea.”[1]  What an emotionally and physically exhausting series of events!
So, Jesus basically says, “Let’s go.”  They are passing into farming country on the other side of the Sea of Galilee, west-to-east.  They are going to be headed to the Decapolis (5:20; 7:31), ten cities east of the Sea of Galilee.  This is a largely Gentile region, but with fewer people.  As such, the Lord and His disciples could get away from the crowds for a reprieve.
We can imagine that both He and His disciples would also be looking forward to this.  So, after dismissing the crowd, v. 36 says, “they took him with them in the boat, just as he was.”  In other words, this is the same boat from which He was teaching, and He didn’t leave to change, eat, or nap first.  They immediately departed.
Mark adds a little note: There were “other boats were with Him.”  Perhaps these are some of Jesus’s other disciples, and perhaps some of the crowd is just following Jesus.  Steve Lawson reminds us of George Whitefield here, who would depart for the next town, only to find that men were following him on horseback to hear more of his preaching.  Sometimes it’s difficult to get away, and this is the only time of relief our Lord is going to receive.
The disciples didn’t know the storm they were about to encounter, as is often the case.  The Sea of Galilee is low, 690ft below sea level, and the surrounding mountains are high (Mt. Hermon on the northern shore is 9,200ft above sea level); it’s a shear drop of thousands of feet.  High winds at certain times of year are common occurrences and whip downward and through ravines.  Couple this with a varying climate: “Tropical conditions prevail around the lake’s surface, where even bananas are grown today. Yet the higher elevations can produce chilling night air.”[2] 
If you know much of anything about meteorology, it shouldn’t surprise you that storms would result from this interplay of cold air pushing against warm air.  Some of these storms can be intense; “In 1992, one such storm generated ten-foot high waves on the lake, causing flooding and damage to the city of Tiberias.”[3] 
While the term “arose” is here, and how we might describe a storm forming, it would be more accurate to say that the galestorm “came down,” which is what Luke 8:23 has.  This windstorm is particularly sudden and violent, and the Greek word is translated elsewhere as “whirlwind” (Job 38:1).  This is the same description of the storm that terrified the Gentile sailors in Jonah 1:4.  Matthew 8:24 calls it “a great storm at sea” or “a mighty tempest”— σεισμς (the word from which we get seismology)—shaking like from an earthquake. 
The waves were beating into the boat.  Or, as Mt 8:24 says, “so that the boat was being swamped by the waves.”  They were taking on water and fighting a losing battle.  We understand now that, though these were experienced fishermen, they feared that they were in dire straits.  How quickly and drastically the weather changes!
Still, with all of that going on, v. 38 says, “But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion.”  In fact, the “He” is emphatic in the Greek, contrasting His rest to the pains of the disciples.  They’re fearful, but He’s peaceful.  What a contrast it is!
How can Jesus be so calm at a time like that?  There are really two reasons.  First, He’s simply tired.  Indeed, He’s made a pillow of the coarse, leather cushion for the steersman.  Luke says that Jesus fell asleep (Lk 8:23), and Matthew also has that Jesus was sleeping (Mt 8:24).  After such a long day, we couldn’t fault anyone for succumbing to sleep.  Because He was also fully human, He experienced exhaustion.  So deep was His sleep that the storm does not seem to rouse Him.
Still, He had to be somewhat aware of what was happening.  That leads us to the second reason: Because His is the rest of one trusting in the Heavenly Father.  Does this describe your sleep, even when the storm rages?
  • “I lay down and slept; I woke again, for the Lord sustained me” (Ps 3:5). 
  • “In peace I will both lie down and sleep; for you alone, O Lord, make me dwell in safety” (Ps 4:8).
The disciples are supposed to be learning to be like Jesus, and He was at rest.  There are times at which our Lord is angry, and we should be angry at what angers Him, such as sin.  There are people whom He loves, and we should love Him.  And when He says we models rest, even though we’re going through the storms of life, we should be at rest.
They do not understand this, so they rouse Him and ask, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  This is an impersonal address, literally, “be a care to one, to you?”  Matthew 8:25 and Luke 8:24 use the same word with the same form—they are dying.  There’s a question here as to whether the disciples meant “we” inclusively, meaning they and Jesus were perishing.  That seems to be the route that the translations go—we’re all about to die, and you can sleep at a time like this?   This parallels the account of Jonah, where the captain said, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish” (Jonah 1:6).
They figured that, of He was not active at the moment, He didn’t care.  As such, their fear says more about them in the moment—the storm aroused their faithlessness and distrust.  That’s what must be addressed.

III.         The Disciples’ Before the Might of the Lord (vv. 39–41)

39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
They had roused Him with their pleas.  However, He did not respond with His own fear or dread, and their anxieties did not excite His own.  He knew what would happen.  This is unlike Jonah, who only reluctantly told the truth after being awakened, and who then became a victim of the waves.  After Jesus is awakened, He rebukes the storm.  Remember that, in Matthew 12:41, Jesus said that He is greater than Jonah—and therefore, this generation will be condemned if it does not repent at His preaching.
So, He rebuked the wind and sea.  This is the same term used back in 1:25 for Jesus silencing the demon.  He speaks to the wind and sea as though they were as rational as spiritual beings, though they are impersonal forces.  He muzzles the storm.  Nature doesn’t need to hear and understand the voice of the Lord to respond; it simply does.
The rest of the verse says, “And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.”  Don’t let that pass by you—there’s a suddenness to the silence.  There would be no denying the connection between His rebuke and the storm dissipating.  As suddenly as it arose, its violence and fervor disappeared.
This isn’t just a calming, as though the wind began to abate and the sea returned to normal.  This was a calm that stood in contrast to the storm that existed mere seconds ago.  The water was placid and the air still, an evening lacking any evidence that a storm even existed.  Regardless of the amount of trouble or the power generating turmoil, the Lord remains in total control!
As such, He turns to rebuke the disciples!  We can only imagine their shock, the fear welling up in them as Jesus speaks to them.  Still, we see His grace: He asks them questions instead of giving short commands, indicating perhaps a softer tone than He just used to dissipate the storm.
He asks, “Why are you afraid?”   The term here is cowardly.  None of God’s children should ever cower from what this world has to offer.  We worship the Lord of Creation—and even if He seems quiet, we should remain confident in that fact.  Even so, they are still processing Who He is.
As such, v. 41 literally says that “they feared a great fear.”  They marveled, as well (Mt 8:27, Lk 8:22).  Clearly, they had feared the storm, as their panic is clear in their statement that they were perishing.  Here, however, they have a far greater fear for the Lord.  Paul D. Tripp in his sermon on this passage points out that this is when fear defeats fear. 
This is the natural reaction to just Who Jesus is.  By contrast, consider those heavenly-tourism books, where folks claim to see God.  There are also those supposed modern-day prophets who claim that Jesus bodily visits them and they have chats.  Yet, we see here the fear that the disciples have as they begin to realize just Who Jesus is.  Theirs is hardly different than the response of anyone else in Scripture.
·        Abraham said, “Behold, I have undertaken to speak to the Lord, I who am but dust and ashes” (Gn 18:27).
·        Job—“I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42:5–6).
·        Samson’s father, Manoah—“We shall surely die, for we have seen God” (Jdg 13:22).
·        Isaiah—“Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips; for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts” (Is 6:5).
·        Ezekiel—“I fell on my face” (Eze 1:28)
·        Daniel—“I fell on my face in deep sleep with my face to the ground.” (Dn 10:9).
·        Peter—“he fell down at Jesus’ knees, saying, ‘Depart from me, for I am a sinful man, O Lord.’ ” (Lk 5:8)
·        Paul—also fell to the ground (Acts 9:4)
·        John—“When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead” (Rv 1:17).
They were filled with fear and marvel.  As such, they ask each other, “Who then is this?”  Previously, after He had cast out the demon, they were questioning His authoritative teaching (1:27).  The question now becomes, Who can control all of nature?   This question forces the reader to reevaluate the claim that Mark lays out since 1:1, “Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”
·        God is described in Psalm 65:7 as He “who stills the roaring of the seas, the roaring of their waves, the tumult of the peoples.”  
·        Psalm 89:9 says, “You rule the raging of the sea; when its waves rise, you still them.” 
·        Psalm 107 talks about deliverance from the stormy sea.  When the sailors were at their wits’ end (v. 27), “they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress.  He made the storm be still, and the waves of the sea were hushed.  Then they were glad that the waters were quiet, and he brought them to their desired haven. Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love, for his wondrous works to the children of man!” (vv. 28–31).
He is the Lord Jesus Christ—completely human, even growing tired, but also completely God.  One of the historical debates concerning Jesus Christ concerned His nature or, more accurately, His natures.  The early church struggled to see that He indeed came in human flesh.  Of course, many also wondered at His divine nature.   The Christ revealed in Scripture is both completely human and completely divine, as we see in this passage.
His two natures are essential to what we believe about Jesus Christ.  Because He’s both human and divine, He’s able to destroy the devil and deliver all of us (Hb 2:14–15).  He became a “merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (v. 17).  It is only because He has two natures that He can be our Lord and Savior.

IV.         Final Thoughts

It’s well-said that the fear of the Lord is the fear that drives out other fears.  Get to know the Lord, how He has revealed Himself in Scripture, how He reveals Himself in this passage.  As counterintuitive as it sounds, there’s no greater means of finding rest in the Lord than fearing Him more than the concerns of this life.  
Know this, though.  The storm you need to fear in this life isn’t unpaid bills or work or family matters or anything of the sort.  As Paul Tripp says, the greatest storm of your life is sin—and like the disciples in the boat, you have no chance to defeat it.  Our struggle against the waves of sin confronts us with the fact that we need Christ, every moment of every day.  And we need to fear Him more than we fear any the temptations to sin.
So yes, if you’re going through a storm, you better make certain that you have Jesus in the boat.  Sometimes, God allows storms in our lives to help us realize that we need Jesus.  You’re not promised a storm-free life with Jesus, but you won’t have any hope to survive without Him.  Indeed, the greatest storm for you is yet to come, an eternal one in which you are being judged by God for your works.  He’s our only hope for deliverance, so get to know Him if you don’t already!




[1] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Mk 4:35.
[2] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville: T. Nelson Publishers, 1997), Mk 4:35.
[3] John MacArthur, Mark 1–8, 229.

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