Please read Mark 4: 35-41 and Psalm 114; then pray; Lord Jesus, you are holy and awesome. Open my eyes to see your Lordship over all creation, and strengthen my trust in your infinite love and care. Amen!

If you ever visit the Holy Land and the area around the Sea of Galilee, you must aim to visit Magdala. In Magdala there are some archaeological digs/sights of enormous interest, including a synagogue that would have been functioning at the time of Jesus. In fact, Jesus may well have taught within its walls. There is also a building that contains a worship area called Duc in Altum. In Latin Duc in Altum means Launch into the deep, a direct reference to the story in Luke 5:4 and the miraculous catch of fish. It is this miracle that propelled Peter into a life of service and sacrifice for Jesus. Peter was instructed by Jesus to “put out into the deep water, and let down the nets for a catch.” As Peter did so, he was amazed and deeply humbled by the results of his obedience. There was a very substantial haul of fish which put tremendous strain on the nets, even to breaking point.

Inside Duc in Altum, there is a carefully crafted small fishing boat, and inside the boat there is a pulpit and an altar. It is the most captivating pulpit that I have ever seen or stood beside. A pulpit in a boat!  This perfectly reflects the fact that Jesus sometimes taught the crowds from a fishing boat that would be anchored only a few feet away from the shore line. The boat became his pulpit. I share this information with you because this is exactly the scene which we find at the beginning of Mark chapter 4. This is a chapter that starts and finishes in a boat. (Read Mark 4: 1-3 and Mark 4: 35-36)

We should not be surprised to learn that after a whole day of teaching Jesus is physically exhausted. He now needs to pull away from the crowd and to rest his weary head on a comfortable pillow. Jesus tells his disciples that it is now time for them to “go over to the other side” of the lake – a trip of several miles. As darkness falls, Jesus now enjoys much-needed sleep. (At the end of some days, you just want to collapse into bed)

This story again contains some wonderful little eye-witness touches. Mark writes his gospel with eye-witness testimony from Peter, the man who was startled by the miraculous catch of fish, and who would become, along with John, the leader of the early Church. Mark alone mentions that there were “other boats” with them. He alone mentions the fact that Jesus slept on “a cushion” in the stern of the boat. When retelling the story to Mark for his gospel, Peter must have clearly remembered this day and event like it happened yesterday. He even remembered the detail of a cushion, and how Jesus slept curled up like a child upon it.

As Jesus fell into what must have been a very deep sleep, a furious squall descended upon the lake and the boat and its occupants were soon in serious trouble. The language used indicates that this was a very severe storm and even the experienced fishermen on board like Peter, feared for their lives. They felt that the boat would go down into the depths and they would be taken down with it. In the midst of this violent storm, Jesus continued to sleep. Unbelievable! But once they had awoken him with terrified voices of alarm, something even more unbelievable happened, something that would leave them more terrified of Jesus than the storm that had threatened to kill them.

How would the inclusion of this outstanding event in his gospel help Mark’s first readers who were suffering persecution in Rome, and how can it help and encourage us? Those Christian believers in Rome were facing a storm of persecution which may get worse before it got better. They must learn to trust Jesus even in the midst of the most violent opposition and oppression – even when their very lives were at stake. The storm will go on only for as long as Jesus wants it to, and he will get them through to the other side of the storm, and to a safe haven. Jesus will build his church, storm or no storm, and the gates of hell will not prevail against it!

We will also face storms of various kinds in our own lives. Embracing Christ as your Saviour doesn’t eliminate the possibility of storms; in fact, following Jesus and obeying him, may lead you directly into storms and testing trials. As someone once said; God didn’t remove the Red Sea – he parted it. Sometimes God doesn’t remove your problems – He makes a way through them! The persecuted Christians in Rome were only in trouble because they loved and followed Christ. Their faith in Jesus was proving costly. A storm had descended. “We must go through many hardships to enter the Kingdom of God.” (Acts 14:22)

You may be in a storm right now. You may have just passed through one. A storm can suddenly appear from out of nowhere, and you will have to contend with it. Storms can descend very quickly and unexpectedly on the Sea of Galilee and likewise upon us. Like the disciples on their supposedly “routine crossing” of the lake, a storm can come upon us during a routine day at work, or on an ordinary journey to visit a friend or family member. Suddenly, the winds pick up, and then there is a storm and you are in the middle of it. The recent pandemic was a major storm that broke out among us all. Suddenly our boats were rocking and perhaps we felt the water was spilling over the edges. We panicked. Fear gripped us. We thought we might drown.

Or a storm may break out where you work, and it could affect you and your future security. A damaging storm could occur because of a breakdown in a relationship – perhaps the breakdown of a marriage. A storm may hit us because of a sudden bereavement, a tragic accident, the onset of a serious illness, or the emergence of a huge financial problem. Our finances are rocking – our world is rocking. Is our boat about to sink?

We notice in the story, and in our own lives, that we like the disciples, so often question the love and the care of God for us. You may have done this as I have done this. The disciples wake up Jesus and question his care for them and their present crisis.

“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown.”

They are quick to question Jesus’s care and love for them? Isn’t he bothered? He’s still asleep. Can’t he understand the gravity of all this? Perhaps you did that during the lockdowns, when your boat was rocking on the waves. Lord, don’t you care about me? Aren’t you bothered about all this turmoil and upset in my life and the lives of so many others? Don’t you care that I can’t see my family, I can’t go to Church, I can’t go to my friend’s funeral, I can’t go on my holiday? Don’t you care about all this? Don’t you care about me?

How do you think Jesus feels when we question his love and care for us? How do you think Jesus felt when his disciples accused him of a lack of care? God cares for us always and in all circumstances. He is with you in the boat and in the storm. As the song we sang earlier reminds us; “All through the storm, your love is the anchor.” The actual presence of a storm does not take away either the presence of God with you, or the love of God for you. My dear friends, never doubt the presence of God with you, or his banner of care over your life. He will never leave or forsake you. His care is constant and no storm, however severe or life-threatening, can separate you from his love. There is a popular saying today which people use to express deep love. They say to someone; I love you to the moon and back. But Jesus says to you; I love you to the cross and back.

He who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up us all, how will be not also, along with him, graciously give us all things.  (Romans 8:32, read also Romans 8:35-39)

Remember this. Hold on to this! God is with you in the storms. God cares for you and always will. As the Psalmist proclaims with faith in that most famous 23rd Psalm; “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me, your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23:4) Even though I am in this horrible and distressing storm, I will not fear, because you are with me. You are my comfort and your love is my anchor in the storm. Friends, never allow your minds to be directed away from the fact that God cares for you. Don’t allow the size and power of the storm to drown your faith in the love of the Lord. Christ cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7) Have some people allowed the storm of the pandemic to cast doubt over the precious love and care God has for them. Have you?

But this story in the gospel also clearly illustrates and demonstrates the power and authority of Jesus has over all things, including nature and creation. Here we see Jesus “get up” and with a simple “word of command”, he stills the winds and the waves. The storm yields to the command of the Son of God. And it does so “instantly”. Storms generally subside gradually. That is the normal way with these forces of nature – that is our common experience of storms and thunderstorms. This storm which Jesus “rebuked” in the same way he rebuked devils (Mark 1: 25-28), ceases immediately. Calm and order are restored instantly! Jesus appears to do this without fuss and with ease. He does not pray – He commands! Winds and waves obey!

Can you believe this miracle? Can you take this on board? Can you get your head around this? The disciples struggled to do that, and were utterly amazed and terrified at the same time. They had been in the middle of a most violent storm. Their lives had been on the line and in the balance. The man whose care they have just questioned, get’s up and stills the storm instantly. He muzzles it like you might muzzle a dangerous dog! The disciples cannot believe what they have just witnessed and experienced. Who on earth is this? Jesus’s unique authority has just been taken to another level – a divine level, for only God can control the natural order.

Only the Creator has this type of authority. (Psalm 107:29, 89:9, 65:7) This is why the fear of the disciples went up another notch. The power and authority of Almighty God was in the boat with them. Anyone who knew what the Scriptures taught, would know and recognise this. Only God spoke to seas and ordered them to do his will. Psalm 114: 3-8 declares this truth with power; (Read)

Jesus is the strong Son of God. This is the message of Mark right from the outset (Mark 1:1). Mark wants us to believe this and live in the light of it, especially in a storm. Jesus’s authority revealed him to be the Son of God. His power demonstrated this truth about his identity. This section of Mark alone reveals Jesus’s authority over natural order/disorder, (4: 35-41) over powerful spiritual evil 5:1-20), and even over death 5: 21-43. This tremendous authority is all revealed and unleashed by Jesus within a relatively short space of time. This awesome authority rocks the disciples more than the boat! Earlier this week a question was asked of the participants at our START course?  I now ask you the same question. Would you prefer to go through life with all its storms, some of which may be extremely violent, with or without God, with or without Christ.

God can and will bring you through each storm – even the raging and frightening storm called “death”.

He will bring you through the storm and out to the “other side”, and enable you to land at a safe and heavenly haven. Even death cannot drown the Christian. As Paul wrote; “For me to live – is Christ – and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21) Or as our precious Saviour promised; “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one can snatch them lout of my hand.” (John 10:28) This message would have been most comforting to persecuted and distressed Christians in Rome. It brings comfort and strength to persecuted saints today all around the world. It should bring great comfort and hope to you, to know that Christ will “keep you” to all eternity. (Jude 1:24, Psalm 121). We can be “more than conquerors” through Christ whose love for us is permanent, unshakable, and unbreakable.

(Read: Romans 8: 35-39)

Thanks be to God our Mighty Refuge and Shelter in the storm! Amen!


Revd Peter J Clarkson 17.10.21