Posted by: skokiecentralchurch | March 10, 2013

2013.03.10 “The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus: Calming the Storm” Mark 4: 35 – 41

Central United Methodist Church

The Way: Walking in the Footsteps of Jesus

Calming the Storm

Pastor David L. Haley

Mark 4: 35 – 41

March 10th, 2013


Late that day he said to them, “Let’s go across to the other side.” They took him in the boat as he was. Other boats came along. A huge storm came up. Waves poured into the boat, threatening to sink it. And Jesus was in the stern, head on a pillow, sleeping! They roused him, saying, “Teacher, is it nothing to you that we’re going down?”

Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, “Quiet! Settle down!” The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass. Jesus reprimanded the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?”

They were in absolute awe, staggered. “Who is this, anyway?” they asked. “Wind and sea at his beck and call!” – Mark 4: 34 – 41

I’m wondering today how many of you grew up by a river, a lake, or an ocean? As you look back, what difference did that make in your life? Or let me put it this way: how would your life be different without such an experience?

I’m not sure I’d ever thought about the difference it makes before today.  I grew up in western Kentucky, seven miles from Kentucky Lake. I spent a good part of my childhood fishing and swimming, in Kentucky Lake, its tributary rivers, and streams. There’s just something about water that draws you to it: the sights, sounds, and smells, the sky, the moon, and sunrises and sunsets upon water. I’ll never forget a canoe trip I once made to the Boundary Waters of the Upper Peninsula: one evening there was a full moon, and the surface of the lake was like glass, and the lake and the sky were mirror images.

Jesus must’ve felt the same way about the Sea of Galilee. Remember, he grew up in Nazareth, 24 miles south, nowhere near water. But as we learned earlier in the series, after his rejection by the people of Nazareth, Jesus migrated north to make his second home in Capernaum, on the shore of the Sea of Galilee, just as we make our home here along the shore of Lake Michigan.

But let’s be clear: are you picturing the Sea of Galilee as looking like Lake Michigan? Well, in some ways, definitely; but Lake Michigan is 118 miles wide and 307 miles long, for a total of 22,390 square mi. It averages 279 feet deep and at its deepest point is 925 feet. The Sea of Galilee, on the other hand, is 8 miles wide and 13 miles long, for a total of 64 square mi. It has an average depth of 84 feet, and is 141 feet deep at its deepest point. For those of us who live on Lake Michigan, the Sea of Galilee is practically a pond.

Nevertheless, the Sea of Galilee played a significant role in Jesus life and ministry, and because of that – even sight unseen – it is still a part of our spiritual geography today, as we seek to follow Jesus.

In his book and video, Adam Hamilton examines three significant episodes in the life of Jesus that occurred on the Sea of Galilee: (1) the calling of his first disciples; (2) when Jesus calmed a storm; and (3) when again, in a storm, he came walking to them on the water. All these stories are told with variations in Matthew, Mark, and Luke, such that some believe the last two are two versions of the same story; which, to save time, is how I will treat them.

First, it was by the Sea of Galilee that Jesus called his first disciples, fishermen. At least five, and possibly seven, of Jesus’ disciples were fishermen. Why fishermen?  Who knows, maybe Jesus first called bankers, or carpenters, or teachers, but none of them responded. Maybe he couldn’t find anybody else, and so, fishermen it was. Or maybe he was just on a walk by the Lake, and there they were; after all, he had prayed about it all night. Luke tells us it began when Jesus borrowed Peter’s boat as a pulpit: what do we have, that we would let Jesus borrow?

They were fishermen, but, after all, they did all have respectable seminary degrees, and had all been approved by their Staff-Parishes and Charge Conferences and District and Conferences Boards of Ministry, right? Wrong! Acts 4:13 tells us they were uneducated and ordinary people, the Greek word is “idiotai,” they may have been completely illiterate.

Why fishermen?  Perhaps because, what they lacked in knowledge, they made up for in character.  As Yaeri – a fisherman– says in the video we are about to see: “Fishermen make good friends, they are trustworthy and hardworking.” So much so, they would eventually give their lives to following Jesus, fishing for people instead of fish. And so despite their lack of professional qualifications, Jesus made a good choice.

This week as the College of Cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church meets in conclave to elect the next Pope, we can only hope that they might remember that the first Pope, St. Peter – the Rock – was not only married, but an uneducated and ordinary man, a fisherman.

So often we think, I have no skills or qualifications, I have nothing to offer. Some of us might even say what Peter said to Jesus following the miracle of Fishes: “Lord, depart from me, for I am a sinful man.” But Jesus says, “I can use people like you. You are the Rock upon whom I will build my church.  Come and follow me, and I will make you to fish for people.”

The second episode that occurred on the Sea of Galilee which still speaks powerfully to us today, is when Jesus calmed a storm. He’d had a long day of healing in Capernaum, and – exhausted – wanted to cross over to the other side. They all got in the boat – they were, after all, experienced sailors – while Jesus lay down in the boat to sleep. A storm blew up, such that Jesus’ disciples thought the boat would be swamped. Maybe because there were too many in it! Knowing now how the Sea of Galilee compares to Lake Michigan, not to mention the Atlantic or Pacific Oceans, we might want to say to them: “You want a storm; we’ll show you a storm, stop your whining!” But then again, those of us who have grown up near water, also have a healthy respect for water, in all its forms, so we’ll give them the benefit of the doubt.

Maybe what we should have done this morning, in Adam Hamilton style, would have been – instead of meeting here – to have met at Belmont or Waukegan Harbor, where we would all board a boat for a sail on Lake Michigan. Of course, it wouldn’t be one of those luxury boats, it would be a ship just barely big enough to hold us, with a sail, or maybe even oars. And of course, we wouldn’t want a sunny pleasant day, we’d want a rainy day like today, except more stormy day, with fifty mile an hour winds and 8 foot waves, so we could experience what it’s like to be out on the lake in a boat in the storm. Does that sound like fun or what?

It wasn’t fun for Jesus’ disciples either, so they woke up Jesus, who looked around and yawned and said to the sea and storm: “Quiet! Settle down!” and the wind ran out of breath and the sea became smooth as glass.  And he said to the disciples: “Why are you such cowards? Don’t you have any faith at all?” And they said, in absolute awe, they said: “Who is this, anyway?” “Wind and sea at his beck and call!” They were asking that question by the way, not only for themselves, but for all who would come, for us, that we might ask the same question, and find out for ourselves who Jesus is, in our own experience.

In our experience, what happened to Jesus’ disciples that night in that boat on the Sea of Galilee with Jesus had happened before, and many times since. It has Old Testament antecedents in God who formed creation out of chaos, who saved Noah from the flood, and in Moses, who parted the waters of the Red Sea. It happened to early Christians who felt themselves overwhelmed, who wondered if the church – if they – would survive. It has happened in the lives of all Christians, even those who may never have been in a boat, but in homes and emergency rooms, in cancer wards and addiction treatment centers, even in church pews.  At some time or another we have all felt overwhelmed by the storms of life, and felt like we were going under.  We cry out to the Lord who saves us, and in his presence, or through the support of those he sends to put the arms around us, somehow we make it through the storm.

When life is harder than we thought, may we discover what all Jesus’ disciples eventually discover: God is greater than we thought, and will not abandon us. So Jesus comes, stilling wind and wave, calming fearful hearts, and calling us to faith.

In my first church in Memphis, Trinity United Methodist Church, I had a retired Army officer, Robert (Bob) Heft.  Bob was the kind of guy who would walk in your office, plop down in a chair, and talk to you like he’d known you forever, a good friend instantly, maybe like those fishermen. But most of all, what I remember about Bob is this: How he stood in front of the congregation one Sunday morning and sang this old Gospel song, The Stranger of Galilee, like he meant it:

In fancy I stood by the shore, one day,
Of the beautiful murm’ring sea;
I saw the great crowds as they thronged the way
Of the Stranger of Galilee;

I heard Him speak peace to the angry waves,
Of that turbulent, raging sea;
And lo! at His word are the waters stilled,
This Stranger of Galilee;
A peaceful, a quiet, and holy calm,
Now and ever abides with me;
He holdeth my life in His mighty hands,
This Stranger of Galilee.

And I felt I could love Him forever,
So gracious and tender was He!
I claimed Him that day as my Savior,
This Stranger of Galilee. (Leila N. Morris, 1893)

With Adam Hamilton, let’s go now to the Sea of Galilee.

[Note: In worship, I used the 10-minute excerpt contained on The Way DVD. For the reader, I recommend you use the link below to view Adam Hamilton’s longer version, as originally delivered to his congregation on March 18, 2012, which may be viewed here:


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