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Mark 4:40

Posted 05/09/22, by Dan Vis

One of the things that has long fascinated me about the ministry of Jesus, is how He works with our emotional nature. It's one thing to know the Bible intellectually, and for its teachings to influence our thinking. But it's another thing altogether for our faith to transform our most deeply held, innermost feelings.

One emotion Jesus promises to help with is fear. It's something we are all familiar with at some level, of course. But for some, it is a real hindrance, and for others, potentially disabling. But to everyone of us, Jesus gives this message: fear not.

Here's the verse that got me thinking about this topic:

Mark 4:40
And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? how is it that ye have no faith?

This is one of those passages that makes me kind of glad I wasn't one of the twelve disciples. Following Jesus like they did could not have been easy at times!

They had just spent the whole day teaching before massive crowds. At this point in His ministry, Jesus was so popular they were being constantly thronged with people--so much so "that they could not so much as eat bread" (Mark 3:20And the multitude cometh together again, so that they could not so much as eat bread.). And to have room to speak, Jesus had to go out a little ways in a boat (Mark 4:1And he began again to teach by the sea side: and there was gathered unto him a great multitude, so that he entered into a ship, and sat in the sea; and the whole multitude was by the sea on the land.). Finally, when night came, Jesus told the disciples to cross to the other side of the sea. Jesus, exhausted, promptly fell asleep.

Then of course, "there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship" (Mark 4:37And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full.). In fact, it was so fierce, the boat began to fill with water. Despite heroic efforts to bail out the water, it started to look inevitable: they were going to sink.

Only then did they stop to look for Jesus--perhaps a flash of lightning lit up his resting place. And so they woke him up, presumably to get some help bailing water. "Master, carest thou not that we perish" (Mark 4:38And 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?)? But Jesus had an even better solution: He "rebuked the wind ... and sea". And instantly "there was a great calm" (Mark 4:39And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.). He then turns to the disciples and rebukes them for their lack of faith. Why were you so afraid?

I'm sure the crew of that boat were astonished. They began whisperimg quietly to one another: "What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?). They were stunned. Dumbfounded.

Now, if ever there was a time to be afraid, it would seem to be when you are out in the middle of a great body of water in a tiny boat, during a horrific storm. And especially if your boat is full of water and about to sink--despite your best efforts to bail that water out. Fear in a situation like that seems quite reasonable.

Our situation, of course, may not be exactly the same, but we too often face very real storms of other types in our life. And like the old saying goes, sometimes "when it rains, it pours". We may even be giving our best, desperate efforts, to try and maintain control of our circumstances, with no success. Everything seems as if it is about to come crashing down. Maybe it is a health challenge. Something financial. A broken relationship. Or any number of other trials. Regardless, when we feel like we are about to sink--it's easy, even normal, to experience fear.

And yet, the disciples were rebuked for this! In this case, the reason is implied: they should have had enough faith to know everything was going to work out. Why? Because Jesus was in the boat.

Somehow, they had lost sight of that. It wasn't till every other solution was exhausted, that they finally cried out to Jesus. It was only after all their best human efforts had utterly failed that they went to the Master.

I suspect the reason for that was simply that they did not yet fully grasp who Jesus was. Up to this point they had seen Him as a mighty healer. And also, as a profound and mysterious teacher. But other Old Testament prophets had done similar things--and they may have assumed Jesus was nothing more. But this miracle forever shattered that possibility. They suddenly realized Jesus had to be more than just another holy man. He had control over the very elements of nature. He was God.

I think sometimes we are much like those disciples. When faced with difficult trials, we flail around on our own, desperately trying to resolve things in our own strength. And then only as a last resort do we turn to Christ. But even then, our views of Him are limited. We struggle to see Him as the infinite, omnipotent one--who with but a word can untangle any knot, solve any problem. We just can't see a path forward. And so we fear our trials. We fear how things will play out.

Interestingly enough, after this encounter, and seeing the power of Jesus manifested--the Bible says "they feared exceedingly" (Mark 4:41And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?). That is, their fear got even worse--because now they realized they were in the very presence of God. They got a taste of what the Bible calls the fear of the Lord.

Which suggests another reason we sometimes struggle with fear. The fact is, it feels easier to face a trial than it is to face divinity. Trials test our character, our resources, our ability to respond. But when we stand before God, every facet of our being stands fully exposed, bare, transparent. And that can be a highly unsettling and disturbing experience.

But there is no other way to overcome fear. We either face the trials of life on our own, or we open our hearts to the one who overrules everything. If we will but embrace that deeper experience, every other earthly fear will fade.

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Posted by Dan Vis on 05/13/22
That struck me as a pretty profound idea too Qing, but I think there is definitely some truth to it. Probably why God is often the last person we go to when have a need....
Posted by Qing Ling on 05/13/22
I love your point about how it feels easier to face a trial than to face God who sees right into us.
Posted by Dan Vis on 05/10/22
Glad this was a blessing Rhoda. I'm personally convinced this is what the fear of the Lord is really all about--a conscious sense of the presence and will of God in our life. The more we cultivate it ("thou God seest me") the more it has the potential to transform our life.

Great post Rhoda! We'll come back to this topic a little later in the course. But it strikes me as strange that we think about an omnipresent God as right at hand, no more than we do. Like the disciples, when we realize we are in the presence of God, it comes as a shock! :)
Posted by Rhoda Forbes on 05/09/22
Thank you Pst. Dan, what caught my attention is the fear they felt realising they were in the presence of God! Makes me think of the many times that I was in the presence of God and didn't know it because of my lack of trust or perhaps indifference. I've claimed many promises and had countless prayers answered but never thought that I was then in the presence of God! My favourite promise is that Jesus is with me at all times and yet it never dawned on me that I was in the presence of God, thank you so much for this eye opener Pst. Dan.

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