If you are a pastor or lay person who wants to use this to preach in church – that is why I posted it. I don’t care about credit, I only care that God’s word is preached and Christ is glorified. I pray He uses this sermon in a mighty way through you. You have my permission to alter it and use it however God leads you. God bless you in your ministry.
The commentaries I checked for this event all focus on me, the reader, as the one who is worried about perishing, and in need of calm. And that’s probably what a study of this text says to most everyone. We are going to talk a little bit about what the text has said to those who are really smart and have studied it, those who have been great scholars over the years, but then I want to talk to you a little bit more about what the story says to me about us, to be relevant to our church and our situation as most of us here today probably already claim to be Christians.
As Mark relays it, the disciples are on a boat when a sudden and violent storm comes up. You have probably seen a storm blow in. Some of you perhaps have even “felt” a storm coming in. I will never forget when we were in (if you’re giving this sermon, you can say, there’s a cave…) Jewell Cave in Utah, you ride an elevator a hundred or two hundred feet below the surface to the cave. There are glass doors you have to open to go into the cave when you get down there. When the Park Ranger opened the door, wind was rushing out the door. He explained that the cave always tried to match the atmospheric pressure of the outside. So if air was rushing out, it was trying to get rid of pressure, which meant a low pressure system was moving in and it was going to rain or storm. If the air was rushing in the cave, it meant the cave was trying to match the high pressure front on the way and it would mean nice weather.
Many of the disciples had spent their life on the sea as fishermen. If a storm was coming, when Jesus suggested going to the other side of the sea, they would have probably said, “I see a storm coming, I feel a storm blowing in. Maybe we should wait.” Matthew tells us it was a sudden storm. Mark simply says a “great storm”. I would guess it was sudden. Many of life’s storms are sudden. Hearing a doctor say you have cancer, is a sudden storm. When a spouse is caught being unfaithful, it’s a sudden storm. We’re sorry, but your job is being terminated. There’s been a wreck. There’s been an accident at work. Sudden storms.
And we throw up a desperate prayer, a panic prayer. Just as the disciples did to the One who could help. “Teacher, do you not care if we perish?” When we throw up a panic prayer, we can be sure that God does not share our panic. God does not get surprised. I don’t ever picture God sitting there saying, “WOW. I never saw that one coming.” God may show pity on us, God probably feels for us as we panic and worry, but God does not panic and worry. One commentary says, “we do ill to try to communicate our despair to God. Instead of rushing to communicate our panic to Him, We should allow Him to communicate His calm to us.”
Sometimes you see people who have found that calm. That peace that surpasses all understanding. So that whether the storm is calmed, or whether the storm rages, they will have no fear, for God is with them. The Apostle Paul said in Philippians 4:11-13 that he had learned the secret of facing the storms. He says no matter what, he can make it through with Christ – He said, “I can do all things through Christ, who gives me strength.”
In this case, Jesus calmed the storm. If He had not, it would not have been because He didn’t care. When Christ is with you, even when the worst storms of this life batter against your ship, even if your ship goes down. If when the cancer is fatal, we will not perish if we have Christ. We can’t ever ask, Jesus if He cares if we’re perishing. He has already shown us He doesn’t want us to perish. He died on the cross to keep us from perishing. He did all that was necessary to make sure that when our ship goes down, when our earthly lives end, that we do not perish. Fay Russell’s earthly life ended yesterday,but she did not perish. Her family can have peace because Fay claimed Christ with her. She said she accepted Christ’s sacrifice on the cross. She spent much of her life being the hands and feet of Christ.
We only perish if we don’t have Christ with us. And it’s not that He doesn’t want to be with us. He died for each one of us, in our place. The punishment that was due Fay Russell when this life ended, Jesus took upon Himself. Had she died without Him, she would have indeed perished, but it wouldn’t have been because Jesus didn’t care and didn’t make a way of escape. So when you die, and you will, the decision you made or didn’t make about accepting and living a life for Christ, will decide if you perish. Jesus has the power to save you.
This story of Jesus calming the storm shows His power. And just as he rescued the disciples, He can rescue each of us. His rescue does not necessarily keep you from the storms, but His rescue does something much greater, it keeps you from perishing. And it changes the way you see the storms. I blogged a couple of weeks ago about an experience at WV Annual Conference in Buckhannon:
One day a few of us were in the Rockefeller Gymnasium at WVWC and wanted to go for a walk. It was raining outside so we walked inside a little. In a short while we saw the sun come out and headed outside only to find it was still lightly raining. I started out to an open area thinking there must be a rainbow somewhere. I looked over at the others and asked them what they were doing because they were looking for something else. They found a tree to get under and said, “We’re looking for somewhere to stay dry.” None of us were going to melt.
It makes me think about some people who always seem to be looking for figurative rainbows in their day. You know those people. They always see the best in people, the best in situations, and the bright side of everything. Sometimes those people get on our nerves. But what a way to live. And do you think that comes naturally? I think most of the time, it’s Jesus changing our perspective.
If there is anyone here today, who knows they are going through life without Christ, who knows they have sinned and would perish without Jesus if they died today, I don’t want to let this moment pass without an opportunity to say yes to Jesus. If the Holy Spirit has spoken to you this morning, or if the Spirit’s been working on you and you want to say yes to Christ today, you can accept Him right where you are. Listening online, on a CD, or right here in the sanctuary. Know this, if you think you say yes to Jesus today and leave here and nothing changes in your life, it was probably just emotion, or that sausage you ate for breakfast. When you know Jesus, it changes your outlook. He may not change the storm, but He changes you. He cares that you’re perishing without Him.
“Lord, I understand I am perishing without you and you do care. I believe that because of my sin, I deserve to perish and live apart from God. But because you love me, I also believe you died on the cross to pay for my sin and you rose from the grave to defeat death for me. I accept your sacrifice on the cross as payment for my sin. I don’t want to perish, and want to spend eternity with you when I leave this life. And help me change the way I live the life I have left here on earth, living to please You. I ask this for Your glory, in Christ’s name. Amen
I remember in college and in seminary, you could tell when the professor was about done and you would hear papers and books being put away. Don’t put your stuff away yet.
This last few minutes is for those who have said yes to Christ, including those who said yes today and those who have said yes ever. Once we’ve decided to say yes to Jesus, we’re no longer perishing. I’m not talking about our bodies. Obviously most of our bodies are indeed deteriorating. But inside, God’s Holy Spirit should be working inside us, and there should be a difference. We should be growing and getting closer to God.
And here’s the part that I believe God gave me, where I see the Scripture relating to the church – our church, the church overall church, and you and me as individual Christians. In the Scripture, the disciples believed they were perishing. From the Greek, they were literally saying, ‘we’re going down, we’re sinking, we’re going to die.” It’s one thing to know that, and anyone who said yes to Jesus today realized they were doing down without Him. Jesus was asleep in the boat and I think He must have known that the storm was not going to overtake them. But to calm the disciples down, he calmed the storm.
To me this Scripture is reminding me that people are perishing. And we, the church, are asleep. We have our heads on our own comfy pillows, just resting, dozing in and out. We might wake up, look at the clock and go back to sleep. We are asleep because we are living lives focusing on our own needs, our own comfort, our own wants. And if they only knew, the world would be crying out, “Don’t you care that we are perishing?”
On the white water rafting trip down the Lower New River, Sir Chaz was our guide. He would say, that rock is undercut. In other words, the water has eaten away at the huge boulder so that while it may look like that rock goes down in the water, it doesn’t. Under the rock is water, and it will suck you under. We want to paddle to steer clear of it. If we get up against it, it will suck us under and we we’ll be trapped. What kind of person would it take to let us go right into that undercut rock so that we died? He warned us. he was in the boat paying attention to what we were doing, telling us if we fell out on this rapid, swim to the left. If you swim to the right, you will perish.
Unlike Jesus knowing that the disciples would be OK. We know just the opposite. The lost and unreached in the world WILL NOT be OK. They must be told about Jesus. They must be told they are perishing. We must tell them, “I care that you are perishing.” Watch out, you will certainly perish if you keep going that way. They don’t have to perish. We know what keeps you from perishing. It’s Jesus. It’s Jesus. It’s Jesus. We must tell them that Jesus saves. We must let them know they are perishing and Jesus is the life line.
4.5 billion people in the world are living without Christ and 1 billion have never heard the name Jesus. They are not coming into the church. We have to go reach them. And we’re asleep on our comfy pillows knowing/thinking we’re safe and that’s all that matters.