Doing the Impossible – March 10, 2013
Isaiah 56:1-8, Luke 8:22-25
March 10, 2013
This story for today is about one of the most impressive miracles Jesus ever did! And I believe the Gospel writers saw it that way. And all week long, Ive been hearing the words of the old song.
“Put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the waters,
put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the seas…”
Do you know that song? I love it, and I’ve been hearing it all week! And it’s a good song, because that’s what this is about. It’s not just about believing the story. It’s about placing our trust – putting our hand in the hand of the man this is about!
That’s always a big difference for God’s people, isn’t it?! And it’s a good thing to think about this Lenten season. Do you believe in Jesus? In other words, do you accept that he lived and did these things? Or do you believe, in the sense that you place your trust in him? Do you indeed “put your hand in the hand of the man from Galilee?”
Think about how that happened for these disciples. They were fishermen, most of them. They had been chosen by Jesus, and they had chosen to follow him. Now they were all out on the sea. And that was familiar ground to them! They knew those waters. And they knew those waters could be dangerous! Storms in that region could come up quickly, and the waters could become violent in no time at all!
Now, while you’re thinking about that, try to remember what it was like before we had the weather tools we have today – tools that are literally at our fingertips! Do you remember what that was like? Years ago, maybe we could see dark clouds approaching, maybe there was a barometer handy and we could see the air pressure dropping. And maybe we understood what that meant! It wasn’t like today! Now we can access satellite imagery on our cell phone! Now, we can know for sure what is going to happen ahead of time. Storms rarely take us by surprise any more!
These men had almost nothing to go on weather-wise except their experience and their knowledge of the signs they could see. Even if they had had a weather spotter on top of the highest mountain nearby, there was no way he could get a message to men in boats on the sea before a storm would arrive. These men knew all of that. And they had a huge respect for the power of nature!
Have you ever been in a boat in a storm? It’s scary! I was out on a lake in Kansas one time, when a fast approaching storm hit. The winds came up quickly! And the waves came up scary fast!! My friend’s boat had an inboard V8 engine bigger than the one in my Mustang! He hit the gas, and we raced back to the dock at almost 50mph! And still we didn’t make it! I’ll never forget laying on the dock holding one boat while several other people tried to dock theirs. It was frightening! And I was amazed how fast it all happened! Between that experience and the recent hurricane imagery, one thing is for certain. The power of wind and water is tremendous!
Well, maybe we can imagine these men out on the water when one of those fast approaching storms came up. Maybe we can imagine their boat being swamped, and them fighting for their lives with the oars and the ropes. Maybe we can imagine the terror they felt! Its also a wonder how Jesus slept through all of that! That could be one of the biggest miracles in this story!
So, in the middle of that terrible scene, they came to Jesus and said, “Master, we are perishing!” Not, “We could perish,” but “We are perishing!” This was a life or death situation! And again, we have to remember our perspective. We know they weren’t going to die. We know the story! We can’t imagine what it was like for them knowing they were going to die!
So, Jesus stood and rebuked the wind and the raging waves. I like that! In other Gospels he speaks and says, “Peace. Be still.” And that may be the very rebuke Luke is telling us about here. But here he simply says that “Jesus rebuked the wind and the raging waves! And they obeyed! They ceased and there was a calm.” Think about that. Have you ever been on the water when it was calm? My boating buddy and I have been on lakes when it was like a sheet of glass! And maybe this wasn’t as smooth as that, but to go from “We are perishing” to what could even remotely be described as a calm, was nothing short of a major miracle.
That is the important part of this story! Jesus worked miracles! He was often found to be doing the impossible. And after a while, that was one of the expectations people started having about him. And we’ve been talking about hose expectations. And I want you to notice that Jesus didn’t always seek to be a miracle worker. When he healed people, he didn’t say, “Come! Bring me all your sick and informed.” He was reluctant. And sometimes he would even ask the person, “What would you have me do for you?” That seems a silly question, doesn’t it?
But when he healed, they came! Miracles were asked of him by hurting people who wanted to be healed. But miracles were also asked of him to prove who he was! And I hope you see in this, that Jesus miraculous powers his ability to do the impossible, and the expectations that grew around that soon became a big part of the continuing controversy that surrounded him.
Think about the time Nicodemus came to him at night. When he did, what was the first thing he said to Jesus? It was about his miracles, wasnt it? “Rabbi,” he said, “we know you have come from God, for no one can do these signs unless God is with him.” That was the dilemma. No matter how much he angered the Pharisees, no matter how much they didn’t want him to be the real thing, they couldn’t deny that he did these miracles! And when they had a hard time dealing with him, sometimes they would even end up accusing him of having his power through the demons or even Satan himself. Because, of course, he couldn’t be the real thing! Even though he had godly powers, still he didn’t do godly things. (See last weeks sermon!)
At one point, the Pharisees showed their frustration when they asked him, “What sign do you show us to prove who you are?” They had heard of the great miracles he did! Some of them had even witnessed them! But still, it was, “Show us, Jesus! We need to know for sure.” I think there may have even been some desperation in that question! I think there may even have been less sarcasm than we might think when later they said, “Come down from the cross, Jesus, and we will believe!” How would we have felt if we were in their shoes?
Now, lest we think this was any easier for Jesus’ disciples, lets try to put ourselves in their place. At times, even they didn’t get it! Jesus would do a miracle and show his power, and then, not long afterwards, when he prepared them to see another, still they would say, “Lord, how could that possibly happen? How can we possibly feed all these people. You’d better send them home.” How many times – including this one on the lake – did he chide them for their lack of faith? Here, the disciples were back to the question we asked back at the end of January. “Who is this man?” “Who is this, that even the wind and waves obey him?!”
That’s the question for us, too. That’s the question that has come to us down through the ages. That’s the question we consider as we go through this Lenten season. Is Jesus who he says he is? Do we believe it? And will we put our hands in the hand of the man from Galilee?
When we think about his miraculous power, when we think of his command of the storm on the sea, does that make a difference with us when we face the storms of our lives? I think it makes all the difference! This is the place where the true comfort for us begins. This is the place where we can sing the words of the hymn we have for today.
“Be still my soul, thy God doth undertake,
To guide the future as he has the past.
Thy hope, thy confidence let nothing shake,
All now mysterious shall be bright at last.
Be still my soul the waves and winds still know,
His voice who ruled them when he dwelt below.”
Lord, we are amazed at your Grace, and your power in our lives. Sometimes it’s all so hard to believe, though. Help us, this Lenten season, to draw closer to you, to know of your power in our world and in our lives. For these things we pray in Jesus’ name, Amen.