Good morning folks! I hope you’re all well. And feeling sharp! As I’d like to ask you to use your imagination for a moment. Picture this scene with me: You’re having a beautiful day at the beach. I know that’s not so easy to imagine at the moment – when it was people flocking to the beach the other weekend that got us all into trouble with Boris – but run with me here!
You’ve been on the beach for the morning; You’ve dug a sandcastle; You’ve played some cricket; You’ve had your sandwiches or your fish and chips. And really there is only one thing left to do and that is to go and investigate the water. You’re not really up for swimming but you’re perfectly happy to float. So you get out your lilo and your book and you go down to the water and push yourself out. And it is so relaxing! The sun is out. You’re reading your book. You’re bobbing around on the sea. It’s lush!
Now, you can probably tell where this story is heading. Because as you lie on the your lilo you are so super relaxed that you drift off to sleep. But you also drift out to sea. You are now in real danger but you don’t know that! You feel no fear because you’re still asleep in your little lilo world. But suddenly you wake up! And you discover that someone has stolen the beach and everyone has disappeared. You are completely out to sea. And that’s when fear takes hold.
And as soon as fear takes hold, it quickly escalates. How am I going to get back to shore? How long can I last without water out here? Was that a shark swimming by? What had been so peaceful and idyllic has now been shattered as danger fills your horizon. There is no way of going back to living without fear. You can’t just say, 'You know what? I’ll just lie back down again and read my book.' No! Now you’re afraid.
And folks, it’s my guess that most of us know what that feels like at the moment. As things have unfolded, as this virus has spread all over the world until it is now on our own doorstep. We have found ourselves beginning to worry more and more about what the future might hold. We have moved from a place of peace and tranquillity (or at least relative peace and tranquillity) to a place of fear.
I guess in that regard, we are very much like Jesus’ disciples in Mark chapter 4. They’d had a great day out with Jesus and then, verse 35, Jesus says:
"Let us go across to the other side. And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling."
Here is the first big thing I want us to see this morning. I realise this may sound fairly blunt and unsettling but you’ve got to hang in there, there is good night news coming. But first you need to understand that...
1. There Is Something to Fear
There really is! At least there was for the disciples. Their dinner cruise across the lake had just turned into a white knuckle ride. On port and starboard, great dark mountains of water rose and washed over the boat. At any moment they are going down to a watery grave.
And the disciples, many of whom let’s face it were hardened fishermen, were afraid. They were used to storms at sea. But here was a storm of such magnitude that even they felt out of their depth. They had encountered something that they don’t know how to handle. They had run up against something that they had no power to control.
Maybe for the first time in their lives they had found out that there really is something to fear. And so have we, haven’t we?
This virus is our storm. And there are many things that it reveals about our culture, but if we’re honest the big issues are just the same as they were for Jesus’ disciples.
i.) "We don’t know" – We don’t know how to deal with this.
We crave certainty as human beings. Knowledge makes us feel safe; the unknown always feels dangerous.
Like do you know that game where you have to put your hand into a box and you don’t know what’s in the box? And the aim of the game is to have a rummage around, and try to guess what is inside. But it is so unnerving putting your hand in because the unknown makes us feel unsafe.
Well we are facing a massive unknown now. There is a whole load of stuff that we are suddenly realising that we just don’t know. Who knows when we’ll be able to meet again as a church family? Who knows when the kids will go back to school? Who knows when the Footie will be on back telly again? Who knows when this will all be over? Who knows if a vaccine will be found? Who knows how many people will die? Who knows?
This is so tough for us. Because we’ve drifted out to sea on our lilo secure in the comfortable assumption that we basically know what we’re doing as human beings. We’ve got so much knowledge at our fingertips. With a few swipes we can find out virtually anything. We’re bordering on omniscience – All Knowingness… and have essentially elevated humanity to the place of God.
But now we are finding out that we are not. We are not the masters of our own destiny. We never were.
We don't know. But also…
ii.) "We don’t have"
You see we feel afraid because we do not know stuff, but we also feel afraid because we do not have stuff.
One of the big ways we have responded to the threat of the Coronavirus has been stockpiling, hasn’t it? As people look back on this event it will be remembered for everyone going mad and buying toilet roll. Why is that?
Is it because we as humans find safety in storing up as much as we can possibly get of what we might possibly need? As long as I’ve got what I need, as long as I can provide for my family and my friends, I can feel safe.
And again we play God in this, by assuming that we can provide all that we need. Like a little hamster filling up his cheeks. We fill up our trolleys with stuff, push them around the supermarket, and then we drive home feeling a little bit safer because we’ve got plenty of pasta and toilet roll.
It is a frightening thing to run out. It is a frightening thing to go to the supermarket and find the shelves empty.
You see we never have empty shelves, or empty bellies, or empty cupboards. Or at least not many of us do. We can’t identify with Old Mother Hubbard who went to her cupboard and found that the cupboard was bare. Our cupboards are never bare!
We have so much stuff. We fill everything up, our cupboards, our homes, our diaries, social lives, CVs, bookshelves, our minds, because empty things terrify us. Because when we’re empty then we’ve got to admit to ourselves that we cannot satisfy the longings of our soul.
So like the disciples in the boat we are finding that there is something to fear. And we’ve got to see that! I mean, I think for many of us there’s a temptation to just lie back on our lilo and read our book and wait till everything’s back to normal.
But I think that’s a mistake. As there is a problem in our world and it’s being exposed right now. This world is the way it is because we have overstepped our boundaries as humanity and have been playing at being God.
But we are not! As this storm is showing us that don’t have the resources to save ourselves. And we feel afraid.
And folks, it’s only when we get to that point that we can discover the second thing we need to learn here.
There is something to fear, but...
2. There Is Someone to Trust
If you found all of that first point terribly depressing, well here’s the good news! As the way to overcome our fear is not to try to pretend to be God but to meet God himself. The way out of fear is not more knowledge. Not more stuff. Not more toilet roll! No! The way out of fear is faith, turning to and trusting Jesus.
Let’s go back to the boys in the boat again. The storm is overwhelming them. Maybe they’d spent hours trying to row back to shore. Maybe they’d done all their calculations, wind speed and water quantity and the strength of the boat’s timber, to try to figure out the likelihood of survival. But now they’ve been brought to an end of themselves. They finally do what they should have done in the first place. They turn to Jesus, verse 38:
"…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?'"
The disciples’ perception of Jesus’ apparent obliviousness to their peril, is a picture of how we often feel in life’s storms, isn’t it? I mean many of us are tempted to look around at what’s happening in the world at the moment and conclude that God seems to have fallen asleep on the job. 'Where is God in all this?' 'Why doesn’t he make it stop?' 'Does he even care?'
Well of course he does! The disciples' rebuke of Jesus was deeply unfair when you see it in the light of everything else he ever did.
But it’s interesting what follows next. As Jesus responds with a rebuke of his own. But it’s not the disciples he rebukes – It’s the storm! Verse 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."
Three words. Just three words: "Peace! Be Still!" Jesus commands the storm to settle down like a parent trying to quieten their unruly children as the 11th day of homeschooling commences tomorrow morning.
I don’t know how it is in your household, but unlike the children, the storm stops straight away. And suddenly there is this eerie silence, as if a great hand had brushed the way the wind and pressed down the sea.
And in that moment the disciples see: All power belongs to Jesus!
He is not a man playing at being God. He is the man who is God. And as God – he is the one knows what’s going on and what to do about it. And so, as he stands up in the boat and sees the fear of his disciples, Jesus isn’t thinking, 'Well this is slightly awkward. What have I lead all you guys into? What if I can’t handle it?' No! He stands up in the boat with absolute confidence because he knows what is going on.
He knows every wave that falls on us. He knows exactly how many people will die from Coronavirus. He knows when the kids will go back to school. He knows when it will end and where it will lead. He knows your fears. He knows your heart rate right now. The innermost thoughts of your mind. He knows everything.
And our security – our safety – is not found in knowing it ourselves, but in trusting the one who knows it.
And as we trust Jesus, we then discover he is the one who has all that we could ever need. Jesus never finds himself to be empty. He never goes to the cupboard and finds that he doesn’t have enough. Jesus is the one who has all power.
And when we find ourselves empty, when we find our resources gone, and our wisdom and our strength is gone, it forces us to lift our eyes and look around and say, 'Where am I going to find help from?'
And we find that in the midst of the storm Jesus is in the boat.
And I want you to know that Jesus is in the boat with you this morning. He’s in your life, he’s in your home right now. You are not alone. Jesus is there with you. And he does care.
And so I want to encourage you to turn to him and cry out to him, and hear the question he has for you. I think it’s the same one he asked his disciples next in verse 40:
"He said to them, 'Why are you so afraid?'"
That’s like one swimmer asking another swimmer, 'Why are you so wet?' – isn’t it? Why would we not be afraid?! Particularly when confronted with sickness and death? How is that possible?
Well, Jesus goes on:
"'Have you still no faith?' 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?'"
You can face down the storms of life without fear when you find the one who is bigger than the storm. When you find the only one who can give hope in the face of sickness and death. He came into the world for that purpose. We as a society, as a culture have drifted far, far away from God. And in many ways God would be absolutely just and fair to let us keep drifting away. It would be absolutely fair for God to say, 'You’ve chosen to reject me, you’ve chosen to drift away, then you’re on your own.'
But God is far too loving for that so he sent his son into this world, to wake us up and bring us back. So that we can know the one who knows. And know the one who has all power.
And that cost Jesus. It cost Jesus his life. That’s what we remember this Easter that Jesus went to the cross. He took on death itself. Death the greatest enemy that we face. The thing that brings us the greatest fear. The thing that we do not know and that we do not have the power to overcome. Jesus went to death on our behalf. He fought death for us. He stood in our place. He died our death.
And then three days later he smashed his way out of death’s grip. He rose from the grave and because he was raised he now says to you: 'Why are you so afraid? Don’t be afraid. Trust in me.'
So if you find yourself being afraid, if you find fear creeping into your life in these days, if you find yourself anxious because you don’t know what’s going on, this is what you need to say: 'I don’t know, but I know the one who knows. I know the one who knows.'
And when you find yourself empty of resources. When you find your shelves empty, and the shelves of your heart empty and that you don’t have the resources to handle what’s in front of you. Don’t give into fear. Instead say, 'I don’t have, but I know the one who has.'
You turn to him and cry out to him. And he says, 'Why were you so afraid? You have no need to fear with me in your boat.'
And he will take us safely through the Coronavirus. He doesn’t promise that we won’t suffer. He doesn’t promise that it won’t be hard. But he does promise that he will keep us safe. And he will take us through death itself to life forever with him. Where there will be pain and no more death and no more fear.
Do you feel afraid? 'Why are you afraid?' Jesus says, 'Trust me. Believe in me. Choose faith, not fear.'
I pray that in these days, those words will be true for us. So why don’t we bow our heads so I can pray for us all now.
Father God, we confess that we live in a world that is full of fear. A world where many things happen that we don’t want to happen. We often feel that we don’t know or that we don’t have what it takes to handle this. But you do Father. So we pray that you would stop the storm. But in the midst of it please help us to listen to what we’re being told at this moment. Help us to be humbled by it that we might learn to discover you, the God who loves us and truly trust you. Lord, we look to you, in Jesus name. Amen.