Through the New Testament in a Year

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Mark 4:26-5:20 – Who is this?

The old slave trader and seaman John Newton knew a thing or two about storms at sea. After he came to know Christ and abandoned his old life for that of a preacher he wrote many wonderful hymns, including "Amazing grace." One of his hymns begins as follows, "Begone, unbelief, my Saviour is near, and for my relief will surely appear ... With Christ in the vessel, I smile at the storm."

Read Bible Passage Bible Passage English   ... in New Testament Greek Bible Passage Greek

The disciples were crossing the Sea of Galilee in a boat when a sudden storm blew up. Waves were breaking over the side of the boat which was about to be swamped. Jesus, however, was asleep in the stern of the boat. When the disciples woke him up and, in their terror, accused Jesus of lack of care for their lives, Jesus "rebuked the wind and said to the waves, 'Quiet! Be still!' Then the wind died down and it was completely calm" (Mark 4:39). I love the Greek here which says that there was "a great calm" – the silence of a storm that is no more and the threatening waves tamed to become the surface of a millpond. None of this, however, reduces the terror of the disciples; it merely gives it a new focus. Now it is Jesus' himself who terrifies them as they ask, "Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!"

And this remains the key question; "Who is this man?" He is the one through whom all things were first created. He is the one who first tamed the great deep and created the dry land. He is the one who will make wars to cease and will bring peace to the world.

God is our refuge and strength,
   an ever-present help in trouble.
Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way
   and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea,
though its waters roar and foam
   and the mountains quake with their surging.

The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress.

Come and see what the LORD has done,
   the desolations he has brought on the earth.
He makes wars cease
   to the ends of the earth.
He breaks the bow and shatters the spear;
   he burns the shields with fire.
He says, “Be still, and know that I am God;
   I will be exalted among the nations,
   I will be exalted in the earth.”

The LORD Almighty is with us;
   the God of Jacob is our fortress. (Psalm 46:1-3, 7-11)

Did the disciples think of this Psalm as they thought in wonder and terror of the power of the one who rebuked the storm and commanded peace? There, in the person of Jesus, the Lord Almighty was with them; the God of Jacob had come to be their refuge – their ever-present help in time of trouble.

Cnut was king of Denmark, England, Norway and parts of Sweden. He was a man who possessed great power and authority not only over lands but over the sea. But, wishing to teach his nobles about the limits of human power, Cnut set his throne by the sea shore and commanded the tide to halt and not wet his feet and robes; but the tide failed to stop. According to Henry of Huntingdon, a 12th century chronicler, Cnut leapt backwards and said "Let all men know how empty and worthless is the power of kings, for there is none worthy of the name, but He whom heaven, earth, and sea obey by eternal laws." He then hung his gold crown on a crucifix, and never wore it again.

The storms of life can be the very occasions when we are brought to recognise the limits of our own power and our need of the Lord Jesus. How sad that the Gerasenes thought that they could manage their lives much better without him.

Lord Jesus, help me to recognise my own great need and your great power, that I may both be humbled yet also filled with a quiet confidence that comes from the knowledge that the living God is with me.


Peter Misselbrook