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Who Is This?

June 21, 2015 Speaker: Rev. Jack Meehan Series: Lectionary

Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 4:35–4:41

The Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 20-21, 2015
Mark 4:35-41

“Who Is This?”

Anyone here familiar with the 1987 movie, “The Princess Bride?” After nearly thirty years, it’s still a favorite with many people. One of the sub-plots in the movie involves the Spanish sword fighter, Inigo Montoya, who is out to avenge his father’s murder many years before. His job is to finish off the man in black who has been following his band of kidnappers who have made off with Princess Buttercup. Montoya thinks he has an easy job to best the man in black, but he has met his match and is defeated by the man in black. Montoya is a master swordsman, and is stunned that he has lost the battle, and so he asks, “Who are you?” The man in black responds, “No one of consequence.” Montoya says, “I must know.” And the man in black says, “Get used to disappointment.” Montoya’s question, “Who are you?” is put a bit differently in today’s Gospel lesson, but it’s really the same question. Have you ever been in a situation – maybe like Inigo Montoya – where someone does something so extraordinary and amazing that you ask, “Who is this?” The action taken just leaves you and those around you in awe, and you just have to know the identity of this person. “Who is this?” That is the question those dazed and astounded disciples ask themselves at the close of today’s Gospel lesson: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (Mark 4:41). It is that question that forms the basis of today’s message. May the Lord’s rich and abundant blessing rest upon the preaching, the hearing, and the living of his Word for Jesus’ sake.

That question “Who is this?” is asked in utter astonishment by the disciples after the raging storm had been stilled by Jesus. But there is another question that they ask first. This first question is asked not in astonishment but in sheer terror and panic at the height of the storm when it looked as though they would go down with the ship: “Teacher, don’t you care that we are perishing?” (Mark 4:38). The disciples ask this question when they’ve lost all control and there is nowhere else to turn. All of their strength and knowledge is no match for the raw power of the sea and the forces of nature. In desperation, they cry out to Jesus: “Don’t you care that we are perishing?” In our own lives, when we’ve lost all control and there is nowhere else to turn, what do we do? Like those first disciples, we also cry out with that same question: Jesus, don’t you care? When the phone call comes in the middle of the night; when we receive the test results with the diagnosis we did not want to hear; when senseless acts of violence claim innocent lives, even in the house of the Lord, as they did last week in Charleston, SC; when we learn that there has been a reduction in force and our position has been eliminated at work; when we struggle with a life situation for which there is no easy answer or solution; when depression, illness, or grief feels like it is consuming everything we have – in all of these things, we may feel like Jesus is asleep in the stern and unaware of what is going on in our life. And so we cry out: Jesus, don’t you care? Don’t you care that I am perishing?

The truth is that Jesus does indeed care. He cares more deeply than we can possibly imagine; so much so that he would freely offer up his very life for you on the tree of the cross. He gave his life away so that you might have that full and abundant life that only he can give. This life in Jesus is something that nothing else can touch; not even death can destroy it. The storms of life may howl and shriek all around us, tearing from our hand things that are near and dear to us – even people whom we love with all our heart; and yet, right there in the boat with us all along is Jesus. He is right there in our little storm-tossed boat, the God-man to whom all things must submit. He is right there with us. He alone has the power to still the storm – whether it be out there somewhere or here within our hearts. Jesus alone has the power – that is what we need to remember. Jesus alone has the power to still the storm, to bring peace which the world cannot give, to bring hope when things seem hopeless. My friends, how blessed we are to know this saving truth! How blessed we are to answer that question, “Who is this?”, with confident faith: this is Jesus! This is Jesus, my Savior and my Lord, who loves me and who gave his life for me! But how many do not know this! How many are sinking beneath the storms of life with no hope? Will we point them to Jesus? We must! And by the grace of God, we will!

In the ancient world, many believed that seas were the realm of demonic powers, and that they lured people to death and destruction there on the open water. In stilling the storm, Jesus clearly reveals that he – not the demonic powers – is in charge. In fact, the language used here in this account from Mark 4 is the same language used elsewhere in Mark’s Gospel when Jesus casts out demons: “… [he] rebuked the wind and the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’” (Mark 4:39 – see Mark 1:25, 3:12; 9:25). The verb form of the original language for the word “Be still!” is very interesting here. It is a perfect passive imperative, meaning “Put the muzzle on and keep it on” (quoted in Linguistic Key to the Greek New Testament, Rienecker/Rogers, pp. 98-99). In truth, Jesus spoke these words to the elements of wind and wave, but perhaps Jesus’ words were spoken to the disciples who feared for their very lives. It could well be that they needed to hear those same words: “Peace! Be still!” Who is this? As we sing in Luther’s Reformation hymn: “You ask who this may be: the Lord of hosts is he! Christ Jesus, mighty Lord, God’s only Son, adored. He holds the field forever.”

After he stills the storm and all is calm, Jesus turns and ask two soul-searching questions of the disciples: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” (Mark 4:40). Scripture does not record that they gave an answer to Jesus. What could they say? What can we say when we’ve been through life-threatening situations? Has our faith in the Lord’s power to help in time of need been deepened and strengthened? Faith is not mere intellectual conviction, but active trust in God that leads to bold action when faced with serious threat. It is trust that even when the Lord does not calm the storm, he still can calm his child and give peace which passes all understanding in the midst of the storm. There is a marvelous song that speaks of this, and helps to answer that question: “Who is this?” I’d like to leave you with this song, entitled, “Sometimes He Calms the Storm,” by Scott Krippayne:

All who sail the sea of faith
Find out before too long
How quickly blue skies can grow dark
And gentle winds grow strong
Suddenly fear is like white water
Pounding on the soul
Still we sail on knowing
That our Lord is in control
Sometimes He calms the storm
With a whispered peace be still
He can settle any sea
But it doesn't mean He will
Sometimes He holds us close
And lets the wind and waves go wild
Sometimes He calms the storm
And other times He calms His child
He has a reason for each trial
That we pass through in life
And though we're shaken
We cannot be pulled apart from Christ
No matter how the driving rain beats down
On those who hold to faith
A heart of trust will always
Be a quiet peaceful place.

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