Scripture Reading: That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” Mark 4:35-41
During all the seasons of our life, whenever things go wrong, such as the current pandemic or when other personal troubles come our way, it is easy to feel like we are losing control. We get stressed because we feel like we should always be in control of our circumstances. We look around and see others who look like they’ve got their lives under control and we feel even more stressed. But the truth is that we were not created to carry the burden or responsibility of being in control. Only God is great enough to carry all that weight.
There are all kinds of examples of people getting stressed over things they cannot control. People sitting in a plane on the tarmac just short of the gate waiting to disembark because there is no gate agent available. They might miss their connection. Someone just had to replace the family car due to an accident. It wiped out their savings and now they wonder if they’ll be able to pay all their bills. An office manager is getting very frustrated because the project they are responsible for has only just started to gain some traction, but suddenly everything seems to be going wrong. As a result, he’s getting irritable with his children.
When you read the scripture reading above in its full context in Mark 4:35–5:43, we see Jesus displaying his complete control over the natural world, over the spirit world, over sickness, and even over death. These stories highlight Jesus’ complete authority over all creation. Each time Jesus addresses a calamity, He shows us the difference between fear and faith.
The disciples are afraid in the storm and they are all experienced fishermen, so we know that this is not an irrational fear. Yet Jesus rebukes them saying: “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” When the sick woman comes before Jesus with “fear and trembling”, He doesn’t reject her, but instead speaks a word of peace to her. Jesus’ comforting words to Jairus when word came that his daughter had just died is meant for all of us to hear: “Do not fear, only believe”.
These miracle stories of Jesus acknowledge that we all face personal difficulties, sickness and even death. But, they also teach us that we needn’t fear the circumstances of life because God is in control. He works for the good of all of us in every circumstance. He will bring us safely home to glory. Death is not the last word: the last word is “Talitha koum!” – “Little girl, I say to you, get up”.
We often associate the sovereignty of God with theological debates. But for all of us it’s a daily practical choice. It is a choice over control. We have to choose between a fantasy in which we are in control and the real world in which God is in control, between our false sense of sovereignty and God’s real sovereignty.
Praise be to our Almighty God!
In 2023, each week's blog is a follow-up reflection written by the preceding Sunday’s preacher to dig deeper into the sermon topic and explore engaging discussion questions.