One of my favorite passages to study each year at the beginning of the year is the story in the Gospel of Mark, where Jesus and His disciples are out in the middle of the Sea of Galilee, and a storm comes up.
This passage has become especially personal to me since we actually took the same journey one Sunday morning back in June of 2001. If you are not familiar with the account, you can find the incident in Mark 4:35-41.
One of the main reasons I like to study this passage at the beginning of a new year is that it represents a crossroads in the disciples’ journey with Jesus, a time where they had to make a “resolution” (if you will) to go on with Jesus and trust in Him and His judgment, or turn back to their fear-filled, faith-less lives.
Should they choose to follow Him, their lives would be surprising, awe-inspiring, and in some ways shocking. Should they, on the other hand, choose to reject the things they have seen and heard from Him, their lives held the promise of only more storms, and a lot more futile labor.
Their bailing-out efforts would all be to no avail.
Over the years as I have looked at this passage, I have often preached it as a three-point, sometimes even a seven-point message, deriving all of the main points from the text.
But the more I read it, and meditate on the passage, the more I realize that there is really only one main point to be gained from this short lesson in faith. And it comes from the very first verse.
In that verse, Jesus is the one doing the talking, and He says to His disciples, “Let’s cross to the other side of the lake.” He then encouraged the disciples to get in the boat and to put out to sea.
From a human perspective, the one thing I can tell you is that Jesus was no fisherman. He was a carpenter by trade. He knew all about woods and glues and planes and saws and hammers and (wooden) peg nails, but the ins and outs of sailing on that lake – that was the province of someone more skilled in that aspect of life.
Someone like Simon Peter, for instance, and his brother Andrew. Or those two “Sons of Thunder” – James and John.
These guys all grew up on that lake. They were pros when it came to sails and the wind, and nets and fish, and stuff like that. They knew the inlets and outlets and wind currents and the like better than they knew their own palms. So to get them to trust the Savior in their area of expertise – that would take some storm!
Jesus got them into the boat that night, and they put out into the Sea of Galilee, the lake they could navigate blindfolded. And not too far out, they discovered that a storm was coming. I am convinced that is when Jesus decided to take a nap! That is when He wanted to see how the faith of these men would show up.
The Bible uses terms like “fierce gale” and “high waves” and the boat “filling up” to describe this storm. The geography of the area demonstrates the possibility of storms arising extremely quickly on the Sea of Galilee. This evidently was one of those, but even greater in intensity than anything they had ever seen.
It baffled even the professional fishermen as to how to overcome it. And they thought they were going to drown!
That is where verse 35 plays such an important role in this account.
Jesus did not say “Let’s go out to the center of the lake and drown!” He said, “Let’s go over to the other side!” One look at Mark 5:1 shows that they arrived on the other side of the lake! Jesus’ words were true! They just did not hear them, and they did not take them to heart!
My friend, that is where the one abiding principle of this text comes into play! The very first area where my faith will continually be tested in this coming year is in the area of HEARING!
Have I heard the word of the Lord? If I have heard the word of the Lord, do I believe it is true – enough to trust Him even through the storms of my life?
The disciples failed their hearing test – royally. They did what all of us tend to do when we encounter the various storms of life.
They bailed water in their own efforts until they realized that it was going to be a failing cause.
Only then did they go to the Savior and ask that question that most of us ask God when we are desperate, “God, don’t you care about us?” And Jesus calmly quiets the storm and settles the raging waters.
Friends, God will test your hearing during the coming year. He wants to know if you are listening to Him.
There will be storms that arise in this coming year, perhaps – no, probably – in your area of most skill and expertise.
And the question God has for you is “Why are you so afraid? Do you still not have faith in me?” The Lord is the Lord of all areas of life, the strong areas as well as the weak areas, and He wants you to trust Him in each and every one!
We trust Him the most when we spend much time in His Word, listening to what He says and believing He will do it!
“So faith comes from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.” (Romans 10:17)
Chuck Tabor is a regular columnist for the News Journal and a former pastor in the area. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.