23 May 2021
Series: Hope Emerges
Book: Mark

Is Jesus God?

Bible Passage: Mark 4:35-41

Can you believe in Jesus as a good moral teacher, but deny his claim to be God? Did he even make that claim in the first place? #HopeEmerges #daretoventure

Mark 4:35-41

Jesus is God

Since we began our study of Mark we have frequently referenced something about a man named C.S. Lewis wrote in his book Mere Christianity, 

“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call Him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity)

This demand to be understood as God is presented all over the Gospels, but there is a particular place in Mark’s Gospel that it was presented in such a way that even His own disciples trembled.  At this point in His ministry Jesus had healed all kinds of people and cast out all kinds of demons (which in essence healed people as well), but it was the day they set sail across the sea of Galilee that they were suddenly faced with a situation that no longer allowed them to simply consider Him to be a prophet, teacher or even a great leader.  There are five parts to the story of Mark 4:35-41 that make it clear who Jesus is.

The 1st part of the story is a terrifying event.

A terrifying event – A horrific windstorm turns the sea of Galilee into a nightmare. (Mark 4:35-36)

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.

“The curious detail that “they took [Jesus] along, just as he was, in the boat” probably reflects the memory of the disciples that Jesus was taken directly from the boat in which he was teaching the crowd (4:1), without his having returned to the shore.” 1

“Mention of “other boats with him” may allude to the larger circle of disciples beyond the Twelve who were with Jesus in 3:34 and 4:10.” 2

“In 1986 the hull of a fishing boat was recovered from the mud on the northwest shore of the Sea of Galilee, about five miles south of Capernaum. The boat—26½ feet long, 7½ feet wide, and 4½ feet high—corresponds in design to the first-century mosaic of a Galilean boat preserved in Migdal only a mile from the discovery site, and to a sixth-century mosaic of a similar boat from Madeba. Carbon 14 technology dates the boat between 120 b.c. and a.d. 40. Both fore and aft sections of the boat appear to have been covered with a deck, providing space on which to sit or lie. The boat was propelled by four rowers (two per side) and has a total capacity of about fifteen persons. The Galilee boat corresponds to the particulars of the boat described in this story and to depictions in various ancient artistic renderings.” 3

37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat so that the boat was already filling.

“The Sea of Galilee rests at 628 feet below sea level and is surrounded by mountains gouged with deep ravines. These ravines serve as gigantic funnels to focus whirling winds down onto the lake without notice. The way is often “greased” by a thermal build-up in the extremely low valley which, while it rises, invites the cold air to come falling violently from above. Our text says, “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped” (v. 37).” 4

The idea that if you follow Jesus, you are never going to go through hard times is refuted all over the Bible but this is probably the best example.  They are in a raging windstorm, getting slapped in the face with water splashing over the bow, fighting for their lives to keep the boat pointed into the waves so that they don’t capsize; and Jesus is in the boat with them!  Being with Jesus doesn’t keep you from storms, as a matter of fact, Jesus says we will suffer and labor with Him!  If you are with Jesus, you will be rejected by the world and you will suffer persecution.  He promised it! “20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you.” (John 15:20)

The 2nd part of the story is the contrast of perception.

The contrast of perception – The Disciples are panicking, and Jesus is sleeping! (Mark 4:38)

38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

It was kind of like the time my wife and I went kayaking up a bay in Maine. Out of nowhere, a windstorm came up that was blowing against the super-strong current that takes the tide out of the bay.  The results were that a flat calm bay turned into, in my view, what should be called a white cap-filled playground!  I knew we would be just fine if we didn’t flip our kayaks, which is likely why Keri was scared – waves crashing over your kayak do have the ability to make you flip!  I like to remind her I was like Jesus, and she was like the disciples! HA!

“Ironically, the only place in the Gospels that we hear of Jesus sleeping is during a storm.” 5  I mean, this is almost comical!  We don’t hear about Jesus sleeping anywhere else, or any other time; but in the middle of a windstorm that threatens to kill everybody, we find Jesus sound asleep, not worried about a thing!!  The reason is that He is the eternal Son of God and He knows when and where He’s going to die because it’s what He came to do.  So, Jesus has no worry whatsoever!  On the other hand,

“The rudeness of Mark’s wording reflects the way frustrated and desperate people speak (cf. Luke 10:40) and is probably a verbatim reminiscence of the disciples’ response in the crisis.” 6  The Disciples are in full-on panic mode.  They know that it’s not possible for a person to have slept through all this and have no idea what’s going on.  They know Jesus must have woken up at some point and chose to just go back to sleep; and meanwhile, they are scared to death!

This also tells us just how bad this storm is.  Some of Christ’s disciples are professional fishermen who grew up on the Sea of Galilee.  “Peter, Andrew, James, and John had probably known the Sea of Galilee and its storms from their youth.” 7  They knew what these windstorms did.  They knew a survivable storm from one that’s not, and to them, this storm was the kind that kills!  

The point I would like to make here is that, like the Disciples, the moment everything goes crazy we start assuming Jesus doesn’t care and that He has no concern over our situation.  We either think:

He’s ignorant of our situation (for the disciples Jesus not having the ability to understand just how dangerous it was like me in the Kayaks!); or we think.

God is being arrogantly foolish in not taking our situation more seriously (more likely how Keri viewed me in the Kayak situation!).   

It is our lack of understanding and truly believing God to be who He is that leads us to these conclusions.  This takes us to the 3rd part of the story.

The 3rd part of the story is the demonstration of Christ’s Deity.

A demonstration of Deity – Jesus exercises total power over creation. (Mark 4:39

39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.

“The grateful change is effected not by prayer or incantation, but by the authoritative word of Jesus, just as God produced an order from chaos in the beginning (Gen 1:2).” 8

It is key that you understand the emphasis Mark puts on what Jesus did.   There was no peace in the situation but rather violence.  This was a horrific windstorm!  But when Jesus told it to stop it did.  There was no dying down of the wind and the waves, but an immediate stoppage!  Even when the winds stop blowing it takes a few minutes before the waves lose their energy and the water stops churning.  But Mark tells us everything just instantly went from horrifying and chaotic at the level of a raging battle between two armies, a raging fire that is consuming everything around it, to nothing!

So, to no surprise, Jesus uses this as a poignant teaching moment.

The 4th part of the story is the lesson.

The lesson – Jesus challenges them to understand and believe Him to be who He says He is. (Mark 4:40)

40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”

Notice Jesus doesn’t say, “Why is your faith so weak,” but rather, “Have you still NO faith?”

It’s interesting that in this horrifying moment they don’t cry out for the “Son of God” to help them, but rather they want to know why their “teacher” is not freaking out with them!

If the disciples believed Him to be God, then they would have no reason to worry at all, much less be in total panic mode (“so afraid”!).  But clearly, they didn’t truly believe and thus they were truly freaking out!  

Remember, they didn’t wake Jesus up thinking He could do something about it, but rather they woke Him thinking He was ignorant or foolish in not panicking with them!  “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 

True faith, by definition, includes correct belief!  If you believe Jesus to be nothing more than a teacher then you don’t have faith in Jesus, you have faith in a Jesus of your own making.  

The 5th part of the story is the misinterpretation.

The misinterpretation – Instead of praising Jesus as God for saving them, they instead stood in fear of Him. (Mark 4:41)

41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

“Ironically, the terror of the disciples at what Jesus has done exceeds their initial fear of the storm. The presence of the supernatural is more frightening to humanity than the most destructive of natural disasters. Jesus is still a stranger to his own followers, for they are better able to handle the possibility of their own death than the possibility of the presence of God among them. In this instance, God’s nearness in Jesus is not something reassuring but something profoundly unsettling, even terrifying.” 9 (J.R. Edwards)

Why would they respond this way?  If you stood before a King or even one of their representatives, you knew you were standing before somebody with absolute authority to do whatever they wanted.  People would stand in fear because they knew if they said or did the wrong thing, they could lose everything including their life!  There was also a general mistrust of anybody with authority or power.  Kings and rulers were known for levying taxes meant to do nothing but increase their wealth and as such take people’s lands and businesses when they couldn’t pay.  They would even wage war with no regard to how many lives were lost but rather solely to increase their power and wealth. 

In addition, the Greeks and Romans, who had heavily influenced Jewish culture by this time, generally assumed the gods didn’t care about them at all; that the gods were total egomaniacs who enjoyed toying with a man for nothing more than their entertainment. Finally, even the Jewish concept of God was grotesquely lacking in the understanding of His genuine love for His people.  To their credit, the full revelation of this was not going to happen until the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ.  But the point is there was little to no concept anywhere in the world of a God who genuinely and deeply loved people!  

If you put all that together, it’s no wonder the disciples were suddenly overwhelmed with fear!  They had seen Jesus perform miracles, but there was no miracle greater than controlling nature.  There was nothing bigger and more out of human control than nature, and Jesus just ordered it around with total ease, as if it was a person deciding to just pick up a coffee cup and take another sip of coffee.  With total ease, Jesus nonchalantly tells the weather what to do and it instantly does it!  This was power like they had never seen, and up until that second not even from Jesus! 

If all you know is the power of God apart from the love of God, then you’re going to fear God the way these disciples did in this moment.  The love that allows us lambs to lay peacefully and confidently right beside The Lion!  If all you know is the power of The Lion apart from the love of The Lion, then you’re going to be scared to death!  These disciples had seen testimonies of His love already, but not to the level of the power they just witnessed!  God has used other people in the past to heal sickness and even cast out demons, but to exercise this kind of authority with such ease and effortlessness had never been witnessed in human history! It was in that moment that they realized they were not in the boat with a teacher or healer sent from God, but rather one who just did something only God Himself can do!

Now, this sets us up for next week.  Next week you’re going to see Jesus do something that makes His heart and priorities real, real clear!  But to truly appreciate what we are going to learn about Jesus next week, and the Hope that emerges from Him, we need to first grasp the testimony of Deity that had these disciples standing in fear.  The power of God that had them fearing for more than their lives but rather their souls!  

So to get us set up for next week I want to take a couple of minutes to summarize what it means for Jesus to BE God! 

Conclusion:  Jesus claimed to be God which means:

He is all-powerful (omnipotent).

17 ‘Ah, Lord GOD! It is you who have made the heavens and the earth by your great power and by your outstretched arm! Nothing is too hard for you. (Jeremiah 32:17)

20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. (Romans 1:20)

He is all-knowing (omniscient).

21 “For his eyes are on the ways of a man, and he sees all his steps. (Job 34:21)

4 Even before a word is on my tongue, behold, O Lord, you know it altogether. (Psalm 139:4)

His thoughts and actions are beyond full human comprehension.

8 For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the Lord. 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. (Isaiah 55:8-9)

33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! 34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?” (Romans 11:33-34)

All that He wants to happen, happens.

6 Whatever the LORD pleases, he does, in heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. (Psalm 135:6)

8“Remember this and stand firm, recall it to mind, you transgressors, 9 remember the former things of old; for I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me, 10 declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things not yet done, saying, ‘My counsel shall stand, and I will accomplish all my purpose,’ (Isaiah 46:8-10)

Everyone and everything is under Him and for Him.

19 The LORD has established his throne in the heavens, and his kingdom rules overall. (Psalm 103:19)

By him, all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities all things were created through him and for him. (Colossians 1:16)

Challenge:  Are you responding to Jesus as a healer, a teacher or the one who claimed and demonstrated Himself to be God?

There is no hope in a God who has no power.  We only find hope in one who can do something!  We only find hope in one who brings something to the table that rises above our circumstances; that outshines our darkness; that sees beyond our understanding, and that can take command with authority.

So listen, those who only want to see Jesus as a healer of their hurts and wounds; those who only want to see Jesus as a teacher to show them a better way to live; are those who are responding not just to a Jesus of their own making, but also to a Jesus who offers no hope beyond their own ability.

But if Jesus is GOD, then we have a Hope in Him that is as big and awesome as GOD is! 

Are you crying out to Jesus as if He’s not God?  Are you trying to follow Jesus without truly believing He is the all-powerful, sovereign King of the Universe who loves you with the same love that He is?

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Footnotes

  1. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 148). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  2.  Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 148). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  3.  Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 148). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  4.  Hughes, R. K. (1989). Mark: Jesus, servant, and savior (Vol. 1, p. 113). Westchester, IL: Crossway Books.
  5.  Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 149). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  6. Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 149). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  7.  Ryle, J. C. (1993). Mark (p. 61). Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books.
  8.  Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 149). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.
  9.  Edwards, J. R. (2002). The Gospel according to Mark (p. 152). Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: Eerdmans; Apollos.