GRACE, Mercy and PEACE are YOURS this day from God our Father through our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
The text for our consideration is from the Gospel according to St. Mark, where we read, “But Jesus was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” This is our text.
IN THE NAME OF JESUS – AMEN.
Our readings come on the heals of another week of chaos and turmoil in the world – and in our lives. The world around us seems to be crumbling – or, at the very least, very much out of balance – and it’s tempting to look about with wonder and confusion and think that Jesus is asleep at the switch, that He’s not the almighty creator of heaven and earth – upholding and sustaining everything with His omnipotent hand.
How can He allow the things we see and hear to happen? Doesn’t He care? We’re down here dying – Christians being murdered even as they study His Word, disease, trouble and trial of every kind and it seems that Jesus is nowhere to be found.
We cry out as we see the world descend into chaos and the ship of our lives ready to capsize, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
But this time, Jesus doesn’t rouse from the stern of the ship. He doesn’t confront the storms of our life with a stern rebuke, “Peace! Be Still!”
And wave after wave after wave after wave crashes over the bow of the ship as we struggle to make sense of senseless violence and murder – as we struggle to understand and deal with the corruption in our own bodies – sickness, disease, and aging.
The whole world seems to be coming unhinged – and fear grips our heart.
We cry out again, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” Feverishly trying to rouse Him to action. And out of the deafening silence comes Jesus’ reply, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
And with these words, Jesus cuts to the quick – He lays us bare and show the depth of our problem. We don’t fear Him, we don’t love Him, we don’t trust Him. For if we did, we would know and understand that we deserve no good thing. In fact, we would know and understand that we are sinners – and we would take God at His Word, the wages of sin is death.
But, instead, we plead our case before God as if we were His equal – demanding that He treat us as if blood were not on our hands, hatred were not in our hearts, and lust were not in our eyes.
If we understood the world around us as we ought, we would know that if it were not for God’s continual work in preventing us from carrying out the desires of our heart – the plots and plans of our own devising – we, too, would find ourselves on the evening news – as the subject of a nation wide manhunt for the atrocities we would commit against mankind.
If we believed God and the Scriptures, we would look deep within and see the cold, black heart that we claim resides only in those “crazies” in the world – as if we are sane and in our right mind – and do not have the same evil in ourselves.
The world – all the world – is a sea of unrighteousness. And in so many ways, each of us contribute to it – by our thoughts – by our words – and by our deeds. Isn’t that what we confess each week?
But do we believe it? Or do we look with disdain upon those who commit heinous acts – as if we would never do such a thing – because we are better than they – because we are somehow more righteous in ourselves than they.
Do we take God at His Word when He says, “None is righteous, no not one?” Or do we look upon the calamity in our own life and claim that God is allowing bad things to happen to good people.
In all honesty, it seems to me that the Apostles’ question that day was the most foolish they had asked in all the time they were with Jesus. When they asked, “Lord, don’t you care that we are perishing?” it was clear that they not only lacked faith, but they lacked understanding.
OF COURSE, HE CARES THAT THEY WERE PERISHING! Otherwise, the Son of God would not have descended His throne on high to be incarnate of the flesh of Mary. OF COURSE, HE CARES THAT THEY ARE PERISHING, otherwise the Son of God would not deign to be in the frail flesh of humanity, needing rest and sleep in the boat.
HE CARES THAT THEY ARE PERISHING – AND HE CARES THAT WE ARE PERISHING!
That is why He went to the cross to suffer and die. Because that was the means by which He would rescue us from eternal damnation. That was the way in which He would rescue you from hell and an eternity of separation from the love, mercy and grace of God.
“WHY ARE YOU AFRAID? HAVE YOU STILL NO FAITH?”
It’s a question we face today – each and every time we look at the news and fear for our safety – our comfort – and our security. It’s a question we face when we wonder if we should set foot outside our door – in the event that some great evil calamity might befall us – It’s a question we face when we fear to act – or speak – because doing so might bring suffering or even physical death.
Because without faith, these are the things we see as evil. Without faith, we measure God’s love and mercy by how peaceful, comfortable, and tranquil our lives are here and now.
But even when Christ is in the stern of the boat sleeping, He is and remains the almighty and omnipotent God in human flesh. The disciples had nothing to fear because The Scriptures must be fulfilled – He must go to Jerusalem and be betrayed into the hands of sinful men, be crucified, and rise again on the third day. And none of that could happen if He died in a boat on the sea of Galilee. If they had faith and knew and understood who He is and what He came to do, they would have suffered through the storm – battling the elements – bailing water as they were – and all the while trust that they would arrive safely at the other side.
Likewise, with us. Jesus has entered our world, come into our flesh, suffered, died, and was buried. We ought not ask the question to God, “Do you not care that we are perishing,” but we ought to reflect upon the question, “Does it not matter that God died in your place to rescue you – to save you from perishing eternally?”
And our response is, Yes, it does matter. It matters because by His death, He has overcome death – and He has given His promise – because He lives, we too shall live – eternally. We shall not be cast off from God – we shall not be forgotten. We shall not be submerged into the lake of fire prepared for the devil and His Angels – because Christ Jesus has rescued us. And now, though this body may fail, though we may be overcome by some disease or even murdered at the hands of those caught up in the delusion of sin – we shall still rise victorious over the grave along with Jesus because He has come into this world and rescues us – drawing us into the holy ark of the Christian Church to keep us and sustain us through the midst of the storms of this life.
Here He gives His Word to bring peace to our troubled hearts – stilling the accusing voice of our conscience and silencing the howling winds of doubt by reminding us of the mercy and Grace He has shown by His life, death and resurrection for us.
Here He prepares us for that hour when our body shall be put to rest to await the resurrection of all flesh.
Here He sets us on a firm foundation to weather the storms of life believing and trusting that indeed He does care that we are perishing – otherwise, He would not have come, He would not have died, He would not have risen again from the dead. What’s more, He would not have caused us to hear His Word and promises– He would not have given us new birth from above – He would not pour out upon us His Holy Spirit to preserve and keep us steadfastly believing that He is the God who rescues, preserves, and saves us in the midst of the storms of this life. And he does so so that we may safely arrive in the new heavens and the new earth believing and trusting in the mercy and grace of God who delivered us from the evil of eternal death.
And such a confidence changes how we live in this world. In bold confidence in our loving God who rescued us by the death of His own Son, trusting that His resurrection means our own resurrection, we need not fear even the gravest of circumstances – sickness, disease, or any trial or tribulation or strife.
Instead, we are free to look at the world with all it’s trials and all it’s troubles and lend our voice, our heart, and our hands to our neighbor helping them cope, easing their journey and to pointing them to the one who quells our anxiety and fear and doubts in the storms of life – the One has who cared so much that we are perishing – perishing eternally – that He died in our place and has risen from the dead– and now lives and reigns to all eternity – preserving, protecting and serving us through this life so that we may rise again to eternal life with Him, just as He has promised when He said, “Because I live, you too shall live.”
In the Name of Jesus. AMEN.