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Who's in charge here?

Matthew 8 & 13, Mark 4, Luke 8

Mark 4:35-41
And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, "Peace, be still!". And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?

Ministry Can Be Difficult
It is clear that Jesus did not have an easy life. His public ministry only covered three years, yet the gospels mention "multitudes" 87 times, often preceded by the adjective "great." The mention of multitudes is usually associated with the Lord's ministry, but Jesus also made many enemies. It was a multitude that cried, "Crucify him!" (Matthew 15:6-15).

The first words of our text read, "And the same day…" It had been another long, hard day for Jesus. Earlier that day, his teaching and preaching were interrupted by a confrontation with his mother and siblings (end of Matthew 12 and beginning of chapter 13). Luke says that Multitudes came from "every city" (8:1) and it became necessary for Jesus to get into a boat in order to speak to them. There were no microphones and PA systems in those days, so he had to speak at the top of his voice – for hours on end!

Evening Came
Jesus told his disciples to get in the boat and sail across the sea. Jesus gave the command, but then the disciples seem to have taken charge. The disciples were mostly seasoned fishermen who were at home on the sea. "They took him as he was" (physically exhausted). Other smaller boats accompanied them at least in the beginning. The scripture doesn't say what happened to them nor how those fared who had to walk home in the storm.

Jesus fell asleep
I can almost hear the disciples saying: "Jesus must must be very tired. It's good that he can now get some sleep. We fishermen know how to handle a boat."

A storm came up
It got worse. After a time, the boat was filled with water and started to sink in spite of their efforts to keep it afloat. The disciples feared for their lives. They saw Jesus sleeping, woke him up and scolded him, "Master, carest thou not that we perish?

Jesus woke up and was soon on his feet, but he didn't scold the disciples. Instead, he rebuked the wind and the waves: "Peace! Be still!" Immediately the wind ceased and the sea "became a great calm."

Two Underrated Dangers for Christians

The "Great Calm"
A friend of mine, Marvin Creamer, accomplished something that no other human has ever achieved. He circumnavigated the world in a sailboat using no navigational instruments. No sextant, no compass, not even a wristwatch. He wrote a book about his voyage in which he described violent storms with 40-foot waves and three knock-downs with the mast 45 degrees under water. There were numerous close calls with death, a fire in the galley, the supposedly indestructible stainless steel tiller broke in a storm, one crew got frostbite and Creamer dislocated his shoulder.

But Creamer claimed that a sailing vessel's greatest danger is in the doldrums! The wind and waves can be dangerous, but a boat needs these to reach its destination. "The great calm," (doldrums), renders sailors and their vessels helpless and useless. Many sailors have gone berserk in the doldrums. Creamer and his crew had to deal with months of continuous and absolute calm, but they were prepared for this.

Someone has said, "Idle time is the devil's playground." God's people seek divine help in the storms of life, but we also need him in the doldrums – pandemic – lockdown – isolation - quarantine. The greatest danger for a Christian is not in troublesome times, but the very opposite. When everything seems to be going smoothly we have time to relax and enjoy life, but that is when we run the greatest risk of falling into sin (David and Bathsheba). People read the book of Job and talk about the way he handled adversity, but his greatest testimony was how he handled wealth, influence and blessings.

"Exceeding Fear"
Fear is a normal, healthy component of life. When we learned to walk or ride a bike, fear played an important role. It is important that we learn to manage our fear. This is especially true of sailors. When a good wind came up, the disciples must have gotten excited. That is a type of fear. If a sudden gust of wind threatens to tip the boat, we have several options, but allowing fear to rule is not one of them! When the wind and waves began to buffet their boat, the disciples had a different kind of fear. They turned their attention from sailing to keeping the boat afloat. There are frequent storms on the Sea of Galilee, but fishermen are accustomed to these. This particular storm was a bad one that caused the disciples to fear for their lives. Even their attempts to keep the boat from sinking were failing!

Sailors need wind and strong wind is exciting. When the wind and waves get really strong, it becomes challenging, but there comes a point when a person can get gripped by "exceeding fear."

The disciples made at least five mistakes in this story.

First they made the mistake of thinking that they didn't need Jesus. They were confident that they could handle the situation.
Secondly, they waited until it was a real emergency to call upon him.
Thirdly, instead of apologizing and asking him to help, they accused Jesus of not caring if they died!
Fourth and Fifth: Jesus told the wind and sea to "Be still!" Then, he asked his disciples, "Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith?"

What could the disciples answer? They were not afraid of the storm (it was gone!). They were not afraid of the doldrums. They probably welcomed the calm after the storm. The Sea of Galilee is very deep, but not that large. Their fishing boats could also be rowed to shore if there was no wind.

But when Jesus commanded the wind and waves, the turbulence suddenly ceased. The disciples came to realize who they were dealing with and "feared exceedingly." It was not the conditions that caused their fear, but the realization of who Jesus was!
* The one they thought they could do without because he was tired.
* The one they thought needed them. They knew how to handle a boat.
* The one they accused of not caring if they died!
* The one who could control the wind and sea was the Messiah, the Son of God!
* He was the king of kings and Lord of lords!

Real sailors don't quit sailing because they experienced a bad storm. They learn to utilize the winds and the waves to urge the ship forward to its destination. They use doldrums to make repairs, clean up the ship and prepare for storms.

Genuine Christians trust in God and learn how to use opposition, storms of life, persecution and even the doldrums (COVID 19), for the cause of Christ; the salvation of lost sinners. In the storms of life, God helps us to use "stormwinds and rough seas" for his purposes and he also teaches us to use doldrums (quarantine) for his purposes. Once in a while, we need a rude awakening to grasp who Jesus is. We need to get to know our LORD.

Are we sometimes or perhaps often like the disciples?

Four hundred years ago on this day [November 8, 2020], the ship Mayflower was in the eighth week of its nine-week passage to America. The passengers were mostly poor and were packed into baggage holds with few amenities. Large wooden buckets served both as toilets and receptacles for the vomit of seasick passengers. They took their own food – enough for the entire voyage which normally lasted five or six weeks. Several of those weeks were likely doldrums, because the voyage took nine weeks. The food had gotten scarce and moldy.

But what the Mayflower pilgrims had to endure in Plymouth Colony was much worse!

The Colony of Virginia was established in 1607 by England and was intended to become “a great Anglican nation.” Of the original 1,600 colonists, 80% of them died of hunger, disease, conflicts with native Americans and from internal violence within 9 years. The Mayflower pilgrims knew this, but they still underestimated the harshness of conditions that they would be facing. New England winter set in early and the ground was frozen.

Ships are not built for the water. Water is a boat's greatest enemy and if it gets what it wants, water will swallow ships whole! Ships are built to be watertight. but to keep the air in so the ship will float.

And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul.
Genesis 2:7

We too must be filled with the Holy Spirit in order to survive and enjoy the "breath of life" in this evil world.

After Pentecost, the most prominent characteristic of Christians in the New Testament was boldness. That description appears 19 times! Believers and followers of Christ were persecuted for their testimony and sharing God's Word, but their enemies said of them that they had turned the world upside down.

The Mayflower pilgrims and other settlers established our nation on God's Word. They paid a dear price for the freedoms that we enjoy today. The gospel is violently opposed in many countries by godless religions and hostile governments. Many Christians suffer persecution and even death for their faith in these lands. In America, however, the primary suppressors of the gospel comes from Christians! They may claim that they are sensitive to what others think and feel, and don’t want to offend or hurt them. The truth is, that too many Christians are sensitive to the PC (Political Correctness) movement and insensitive to God's command to Go into all the world and preach the gospel to every creature.

As a result, people are not getting saved and going to hell. Churches are stagnating and dying out. In America, it is the LGBTQ crowd, the abortion advocates and other so-called “progressives” who are characterized by boldness. They don’t care who they offend! This godless crowd is turning our nation, which was founded upon God's Word, upside down!

Ralph V Harvey, September, 2020