The other side
Mark 4:35-41 35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 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?” 39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. 40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” 41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
“Let us go over to the other side”. Jesus takes his friends to the other side. For his friends this is very challenging. For him it is very necessary.
Jesus is taking us as a church to the other side. He is taking us from what we know to what we don’t yet know and this is challenging and sometimes, as his disciples found out, quite scary.
PRAY: OPEN THE EYES OF HEARTS, LORD, THAT WE KNOW YOU BETTER.
When I has the privilege of being in a boat on the Sea of Galilee there was hardly even a ripple across the calm blue water. It was a beautiful spring day in Israel. As I enjoyed the moment with 20 other Lutherans, I remember trying to imagine this stretch of water at night and in a storm. I concluded that being in any small boat in a fairly serious storm is always scary!
As I looked across the Sea to the Eastern high hills, I found myself imagining what it must have been like for these Jewish men following their sleeping leader to “the other side”.
For these travellers, the Sea of Galilee is a natural barrier between what is acceptable, known and clean in God’s eyes and everything that is not. For these Jewish men brought up to honour and respect God by keeping the many laws that keep one acceptable in his sight this is an unwanted journey. The people on the other side are abhorrent. They do not keep the Law. They do not know or respect the Lord. They even run pigs – the symbol of uncleanness to all Jewish people. And yet, they follow Jesus.
The Sea of Galilee is like any other sea for a Jewish person – the place of chaos and evil and unruly dark forces that lurk beneath the surface. Another reason to not want to go to the other side with Jesus. But they go.
This strange storm arises out of nowhere. The Sea of Galilee is prone to squalls and it can get very dangerous – and quite quickly. But this storm is described by Mark as being especially bad. It was “furious”. There is more than just bad weather going on here. There is evil and chaos and disorder and danger trying to derail this journey to the other side.
To ours and their surprise, Jesus is not like the captain of the ship we want, standing firmly footed at the wheel in the driving rain and wind barking out orders and leading by courageous example like a Lord Nelson. He is asleep down at the stern on a mattress!
Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?!
They are scared for their futures and they assume the worst. Their question assumes that Jesus does not care. He is unaware and useless in this situation. This is plain lack of trust on show. It will continue.
Sleepy Jesus turns back the wind and the sea with a short, sharp command.
And then, just like the storm was more than mere climactic forces at work, so the calm is special. Mark tells us it was “completely calm”. Evil is back in its subservient place. Right order of things is restored. The journey to the other side is sure. Jesus will get them all there. God’s will, God’s call, God’s mission will continue to the other side.
Jesus’ friends begin scared and stay scared. Their fear is sin. Their fear of evil and death and the mighty raw power of Jesus’ Word is lack of trust. The sin? They assume the worst. Those words,“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” assume that he doesn’t or won’t or can’t. That questioning of each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” reveal a lack of knowing him.
Jesus challenges his friends on both. He diagnoses the problem. They have not got the trust in him and his Word to know him and go where he is leading them.
And now we are challenged as a church. Have we the trust in this crucified and resurrected Jesus to know him personally and well – to trust him to take us to the other side?
He has been leading us. There are many stories of him calling people and working through people at St Petri these last three and a half years. He has been leading us to the other side – the future. His future. His mission to go into unclean, unsavoury, dis-respectable places among unknown or even misunderstood people – from the poor to the rich; those warm to the Faith and those stone cold, whoever and wherever he meets them through us.
Like it was for these Jewish men in this rocking boat, so going to the other side where we don’t know everything, are unsure about much, sometimes surrounded by unclean and unknown people with all their values, beliefs, lifestyles and behaviours, is difficult.
For these followers of Jesus, everything about going to the other side was so very hard. Language, habits, customs, beliefs – all offensive to their sensibilities. They were being called to mix with Gentiles – the ungodly, the unclean the despised. So are we.
We are being called to engage with our town – with whoever lives here – the anti-Christian, the atheist, the smug cynic, the judgmental moral person, the condescending person who names herself Christian but doesn’t know Jesus and doesn’t really care.
We are being called to mix with noisy children, strange teenagers, stranger “old people”, our own families with all their foibles – all in the name of Jesus and for the purpose of sharing his love and hope by any means.
We are being called to allow change – not for its own sake, or to look good or be seen around this town to be successful or squeaky clean, but for the sake of his mission to minister on the other side – to bring him all the glory for all the good that he longs to give to all the sinners and the saints around here.
Like that especially furious storm on that night, the Evil one will rise up. He will attempt to derail us, dis-unify us and destroy the boat and the journey and the new future being on the other side with Jesus will bring to many.
He will do this by various means – generally conning us into satisfying the desires of the old way we were in before we were baptised into Christ – call them the 7 deadly sins or just call them idol making and chasing objects – people, self, things…..
But, by a word He will bring that special calm. Even if we do what the disciples did and in fear for ourselves and each other as we assume the worst; assume that he does not care, that he is impotent to get us there and accomplish what he promises – even as we doubt him, display such lack of faith, awareness and knowing him, he will calm that fear, challenge our lack of trust and still gladly bring us along with him to the other side. This is a learning church. We learn in the boat with Jesus.
Friends, we are in this boat together and even if it seems to us that Jesus is unable or unwilling to respond to our many needs, that he is asleep, he is still in the boat with us and his Word is what the whole boat and the whole journey depends on, not our fears or lack of faith.
Because of he would go on to do on the other side of not just the sea but human death itself, we can stay on board with this journey he has begun sure of his Word, his power, his wonderful gracious will to be with the unclean, the bound up, the wounded, the unbelieving.
We can trust his Word to bring calm as we enter streets, homes, places of education, business, local government and everywhere else in his name, free from fear of drowning in failure of fear or shame.
He got them to the other side of the sea.
He got them to the other side of their death.
He has got us to himself – his life, his love, his power, his glory.
Let your fear of change, or fear of saying wrong words go. It is unnecessary to trust in your own abilities. It is necessary and a great delight to simply marvel at his Word that changes the sea, changes the heart, changes our future as a church. There life here in this boat because awake or asleep, He is with us and he holds the power and grace to get us to the others side and back over and over again.
Jesus, don’t you care? “Yes I do”. Church, will the journey to the other side with Jesus both now as we work in his mission and at the last when we cross from life to death to life again in glory be a success? Yes Is the journey completely dependent on you? No. “Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
Let’s look at the text. Read the text slowly taking note of what questions it brings and where your mind wonders as you picture yourself in this stormy night…..
Share your initial responses to this account…..
NOTES ON THE TEXT Verse 35 – It is evening. Unusual time to make a trip across the sea. Jesus is the one who has the plan. He directs the traffic here.
Verse 36 – In the preceding chapters, Jesus has been surrounded by needy people clamouring for his attention and ministry (except for those in his home town who did not want a bar of him!). He has had to preach from a boat just of the shore because of the huge numbers of people wanting to get something from him.
Is this the reason for the trip – to get away and have a rest? Or is this part of his ongoing plan – to go to “the other side”?
The Sea of Galilee is a natural barrier between Jews and Gentiles. For Jewish people, the Eastern side of the Lake is not where you would ever want to be. The people there are ungodly, unaware of the Lord and his requirements. They are unclean, unwashed, without hope and not to be mixed with n any way. They even run pigs over there – pigs are the ultimate symbol of uncleanness for Jewish people because of the Old Testament ceremonial laws about “hoofed animals”. Surely the disciples would never wat to go on this journey to ix with unsavoury, unsightly and unclean people. But Jesus seems to.
Verse 37 – The language here suggests this is no ordinary storm. It is “furious”. Storms happen quickly on the Sea of Galilee. They are cause by coo air coming down through the substantial gully’s surrounding the large lake and warm air rising off the water (like happens here and bit and the Easter suburbs of Adelaide). Out on the lake, it can become dangerous quite quickly.
But there is more to it. For Jewish people (and other land-loving ancient people) the sea in generally a dangerous place. Large creatures and dangerous things lurk beneath the surface. Storms are not only just weather events, they are chaos and evil trying to destroy life. (Remember Jonah?).
God is the one who keeps chaos and disorder for destroying the world. This storm is definitely Evil having a go at derailing Jesus and his mission to “the other side”. Verse 38 – It is quite surprising that Jesus would be sleeping on a mattress down in the stern of the boat through all of this! He is tired and needs rest but could you sleep through this? Either he is just oblivious to it all or maybe he just does not care for them as much as they thought.
The disciples show their lack of trust and understanding of him as they cry out in panic. They assume he does not care and have little idea that he can deal with Evil and destruction easily. They wake him up and ask him to do something. He does.
Verse 39 – They are still scared! With a short word or two, the whole thing is calmed. And this is again not a normal calm but a “complete” calm. From furious chaos and Evil to full and complete calm – all at the mere word of the man! No wonder they ask themselves who on earth Jesus is! They reveal their lack of faith and understanding of him.
Verse 40 – Jesus asks a strange question, “Why are you so scared?” He isn’t! There seems no need to be scared at evil’s intent or going to “the other side”. He challenges them to trust him for both. Jesus’ journey to ‘the other side’ will continue this night.
He will not only go across this sea tonight but another 5 times throughout his ministry! He will not only go across the sea to the unclean but will go across the threshold of death itself and make many unclean people clean by the forgiveness he wins there for all sin of all time of all people.
He has led you to the other side of death in your baptism. There you were drowned in the sea and raised from that old way to Jesus’ new resurrected way of living.
Now he calls all of us as his church to journey to other side repeatedly – always with him. The whole journey of life is not dependent on our lack of trust or fear but on his authority over all evil and grace to keep bringing us along!
So, some thoughts for us… Where is your “other side” at the moment – the place you don’t especially want to go but know Jesus does? Share your stories/challenges/places/relationships on your “other side”. In your fear of where he is calling you, how is your level of trust in his Word? Do you relate to these disciples who show a lack of trust and a lack of understanding of Jesus? If so how? The good news is that Jesus is in the boat and he has authority and power over evil that is necessary for the journey to the other side to continue – with him. Sure, he challenges our lack of trust. That is his word of Law. But then he calms us and shows us more of who he is as we journey on together – with him.