Sermon: What manner of man is this?

Bible talk by Steve Millay

What manner of man is this?
September 12th, 2013 7:50 pm     A+ | a-
Reading Mark 4

There is something about the sea that attracts men to it. Perhaps it’s the vast open space, allowing boats to travel in almost every direction. Perhaps it’s the feel and smell of the wind blowing fresh or salt water mixed with air across your face. Perhaps it’s the motion of the waves, entrancing the mind as you watch them roll up and down, sometimes without any pattern at all. Or maybe it’s the escape from everyday life on the land, the sense of adventure one gets when being on the sea. The freedom it brings. The places it takes you. Perhaps it’s the hidden treasure that lies underneath. Or the great beasts, the whales and fish that live in the sea that can be amazing to watch as they jump out of the water or follow a ship.
The Sea of Galilee is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The Jordan River brings water from the base of Mount Hermon into the lake. The Lake lies about 700 feet below sea level. It is 13 miles long and almost 8 miles wide. It is up to 150 feet deep and its shape resembles a human heart. It is surrounded on all sides by high mountains and plateaus. The shoreline is filled with beaches, historic sites and farms. Jesus spent much of his ministry around this busy sea. As he taught, as he preformed miracles, as he ate and meditated the sea was always there in the background. He could hear the soothing sound of the waves splashing against the shore. He could see the vast open sea from the mountains where he taught and prayed. He would teach on its shores or from a boat. Many of the disciples made their living from fishing the sea. The air there smelled so refreshing and good.
We do not know the reason why, but for some reason at this moment in time Jesus felt the urge to cross over the lake. It was obvious that he was very tired and the text sounds like he had just finished up teaching the crowd of people from inside the boat and was exhausted. With the motion of the water and the sound of the waves, Jesus quickly fell asleep in the back of the boat. Although it was getting dark, there still must have been a thrill, a sense of adventure about crossing this great lake at night. So much so that others gathered in their boats to go along.
The boat Jesus was riding in appears to have been one of the larger boats of that day. Perhaps 25 feet in length and almost 8 feet wide and 4 feet deep, it took a crew of 5 to row and steer the boat. It could carry up to 15 passengers.
The other boats that went along were probably much smaller holding only a few people in each of them. As the boats set out across the lake, the men in them were probably filled with excitement and talked or even sang as they rowed forward. It was a great gathering of people, all with one purpose to head out into the open sea, to reach the other side, to bring with them the great teacher who all of them deeply respected.
What a day it had been as they headed out into the same water which earlier had echoed the words of the teacher as he spoke. In their minds, they could still hear the parable of the Sower and they wondered about the parable of the mustard seed. The same parables that we read about in the scripture today, they had just barely heard live, spoken by the master, for the very first time. They were there when the words were first uttered and now they talked among themselves and even thought inside their own mind about the meaning of the words.
Something was different. They had been fed something that none of them had ever tasted before. Deep down inside their hearts was a yearning. A yearning that all their lives no one was able to satisfy. The wise men of the day could not satisfy it. The leaders of the people could not satisfy it. The priests, the lawyers and the rulers of the synagogues could not satisfy it. But today for the first time ever, that yearning was fed. They felt a satisfaction inside that none of them had ever felt before. They felt that finally, finally after all the years, finally after all the discouragement, finally they heard a man teach truth and righteousness. Finally they had true hope.
It would take 3 or 4 hours to cross the lake. As the boats glided through the water, the horizon in front of them grew darker and they could no longer see the shore behind them. Instead they listened to the sound of the oars cut through the water with a splashing sound that was soothing to hear. The waves out here were larger and the boats would rise up and down over each wave. It was quieter now as each man began to get lost deeper in thought. Being out here, on the open water gave each man a time to think. To think about their lives, to think about the world, to think about their homes, their wives, and their children. They would have time to think about the empty water all around them. The further away from shore they rowed, the smaller the group became. They now were just a tiny part of a great sea. The group was miles from any other person. They rowed on in anticipation of reaching the other side.
It was then that the wind changed. They each could feel it. They each knew the sea. They had been out here many times before and they could feel when a storm was coming upon them. These types of storms were common here. The Sea of Galilee is surrounded by hills that reach up to 2000 feet high. The height of the hills is a source of cool dry air. In contrast, directly around the sea the climate is semi-tropical with warm, moist air. The large difference in the height between the surrounding land and the sea causes large temperature and pressure changes. This results in strong winds dropping to the sea, funneling through the hills.
Suddenly the wind was upon them and with greater urgency they began to paddle the boats harder, trying to reach the shore to escape the storm. They each knew full well the dangers of these storms. Through the years, each of them probably had known a family member or a friend who ended up caught up in one of these storms never to be seen again. Out here, there was no life jackets, no life raft. Out here there was no way to send a distress signal. Out here there wasn’t a coast guard or rescue boat. Out here, they were the only ones.
The wind didn’t let up, instead it became stronger. Stronger than any of them had ever experienced before. They tried hard to steer through the waves. But the waves were now crashing into the boats and the passengers began working on scooping the water out. Their minds no longer were thinking about the day, no longer enjoying the splashing sound of the waves against the boat. Instead they began to become frantic as the storm became stronger. At some point they became worried. This storm was no like any other.
The wind was fierce and the waves were pounding hard against the boats. The water kept pouring in and they began to panic. Now their minds began to think about death. What would their families do, how would their children deal with their death? Who would care for the kids, who would feed them? This storm was just to strong and the boats were to small. The water was filling up fast and they were sinking quickly into the sea.
Somewhere in the middle of this great storm, they remembered that Jesus was in the boat. Several of them glanced back and looked at him. He was still sleeping peacefully in the back of the boat. They wondered if they should wake him up and ask for his help, but they were afraid to. They had so much respect for him; and they didn’t want him to be angry with them. So they let him sleep on while they struggled against the storm.
The waves kept splashing into the boat; they kept frantically scooping the water out of the boat, fighting to paddle on through the storm. They kept looking around to see if Jesus was still asleep. They were hoping he would wake up, that he would help them. But he just kept on sleeping. The wind blew strong now and the boat rocked back and forth. The water was getting deeper in the boat, they felt it getting heavier. The heavier the boat got, the harder it was to paddle. Again they turned around and looked for help from Jesus, but he didn’t stir. He was sound asleep.
They turned back to fight for their lives against the strong wind and waves. They felt powerless, they were more afraid then they ever had been afraid in all their lives. All felt lost and now they began to get angry that Jesus was sleeping, leaving them alone to fight this battle on their own. They were aggravated that he wasn’t awake helping them scoop water from the boat. How could he just lay there while the storm was killing them.
Finally, out of frustration, out of anger, out of panic they crawled back to wake him up. They shook him frantically and said don’t you care, don’t you care about us? Don’t you care that we are about to perish?
There was probably a moment when Jesus first woke up and open his eyes that he looked into the eyes of the frighten disciples, while the storm surged all around them. He looked into their eyes and they looked back into his. He saw their fear, and they saw his strength. At that moment they felt ashamed for waking him, for accusing him of not caring. How foolish they had been.
And then they witnessed one of the most amazing things that men have ever seen with their own eyes. They watched as Jesus rose up and spoke to the wind and the waves. He said “Peace, be still.” And just as quickly as the storm started it ended. The sea became very calm and smooth. There was no wind. It was very quiet and no one said a word. They all just sat there trembling at the power that they had just witnessed. Jesus looked again into their eyes and asked them “Why are you so afraid? How is it that you have no faith?”
They could not answer him. He then lay down and went back to sleep.
They may have sat there for the longest time not saying anything. Wondering inside themselves “who can this be, what manner of man is this that even the wind and the waves obey him”. Perhaps they remembered the words they had heard for the first time earlier that day. Perhaps they now saw themselves in the parable. For just like the parable of the Sower, even though they had received the word with gladness that day, they did not have a strong root, which is strong faith. So when tribulation came, they stumbled. If they had the faith, they would have known the one who in the boat with them. Even the pagans had more confidence and trust than they did. For the Roman sailor believed that the vessel which carries Caesar can never sink. How much greater is the vessel that was carrying the Son of God?
n the quiet of that dark night, they slowly began to paddle the boats again onto the other side of the sea. As they paddled many thoughts were running through their minds. Perhaps they remembered the words of a Psalm that many of them probably knew by heart and had heard many times growing up by the sea. The words go:
“Those who go down to the sea in ships, who do business on great waters, they see the works of the LORD, and His wonders in the deep. For He commands and raises the stormy wind, which lifts up the waves of the sea. They mount up to the heavens, they go down again to the depths; their soul melts because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wits’ end. Then they cry out to the LORD in their trouble, and He brings them out of their distresses. He calms the storm, so that its waves are still. Then they are glad because they are quiet; so He guides them to their desired haven.” Psalms 107
The events that follow this are interesting. Once the boats reach the other side they are met by the wild man. Jesus cast the evil out of the man and sends it into a herd of about 2000 pigs which violently ran down into the sea and drown. Upon hearing this, the people of the land pleaded with Jesus to leave. Jesus and the disciples then crossed back over the sea.
Several events then happened the day they arrived back in their home land. One of them was the healing of the woman who had a flow of blood for 12 years. The other was the raising of the 12 year old daughter of Jairus.
What is interesting about the time line of all these events is they seem to be a type of the plan of God. It begins with the teaching of Jesus. Some would hear and some wouldn’t. Jesus then is taken to the other side of the lake, a figure of being taken to heaven. The disciples that are filled with the gladness of the truth start crossing the lake to also try to reach another place to be with Jesus. They enter into the boat through baptism. Therefore they are in the boat with Jesus even though he is only with them there in spirit. In a sense resting in the back of the boat as they row on towards the Kingdom. At times during the crossing the wind and waves come bringing trial and temptations. Those disciples who are faithful will be strong regardless of what may happen. For they know that in the end, Christ will calm the wind and the waves. They believe that he is faithful and true. That he is the son of the living God. THIS is what manner of man he is.
The wild man that blocks their way on the other side represents the untamed gentiles. The cleansing work on the gentiles is represented by the evil being sent out into the pigs that end up drowned in the sea. The number of pigs represents the number of years that will go by before those things are fulfilled. That is about 2000 years. The comforting thing for us today is that we are living about 2000 years after the start of this event. At the fulfillment of this time Jesus will be compelled to leave the land he rests in and return to the land he grew up. The day in which he returns, as he is on the way to heal the daughter of Jairus (representing the faithful Jewish offspring), along that way, with the grafting in again of the Jews being the ultimate goal, the faithful gentiles who have taken the initiative and reach out to touch his garment, represented by the bloody woman, will be healed.
We each have heard the teaching of Jesus and received that word into our hearts with gladness; we each have entered by baptism into a boat to go to the other side. That is to cross over the sea to the Kingdom of God. Although the journey may begin with much excitement and anticipation, and we take comfort in the great cloud of witnesses that go along the same way with us. As we row the boat closer to the other side, the wind may change. And what was once a calm sea around us, now threatens to tear us apart. The wind blows hard against us, the water rushes into the boat, and we may feel all alone. And because we can’t see Jesus helping us, and because we feel that he is far away from us and doesn’t care about us. We may feel like all is lost. The wind and waves may bring into our lives things that will greatly hurt us and cause us to be afraid. Our life may seem over and we may feel like we will just be swallowed up by the sea. But as long as we can turn around and see the Lord sleeping there peacefully in our boat, in our vessel, as long as we believe that he is there with us as we travel and he is truly the Son of the Living God, then regardless on how much the wind blows or how hard the waves hit us, we can smile at the storm.
As we prepare now to partake of the emblems which bring his life and sacrifice into our thoughts, we remember that he is with us here now and that we each can put our trust in his hand regardless of what the day may bring.
So put your hand in the hand of the man who stilled the water.
Put your hand in the hand of the man who calmed the sea.
Take a look at yourself and-a you can look at others differently.
By puttin' your hand in the hand of the man from-a Galilee. 
Steve Millay
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