“A Windstorm on the Lake” (Mark 6:45-56)

Tenth Sunday after Pentecost
July 29, 2018

“A Windstorm on the Lake” (Mark 6:45-56)

It’s a peaceful evening, and you get into the boat, along with a bunch of other people. You start out across the lake, and everything is going fine. Then suddenly a strong wind whips up from out of nowhere, and everything changes. The windstorm is whipping up the waves, and the boat is really struggling to make any progress. In fact, the situation is becoming downright dangerous. The wind is against you. The boat is in serious danger of sinking and taking everyone down with it. Will you make it to shore? It doesn’t look like it.

What am I talking about? Of course this describes the terrible tragedy that happened to those poor folks in the duck boat down at Table Rock Lake in Branson a week and a half ago. But it also fits what was happening to the twelve disciples in the boat, as we heard in our text just a few moments ago. They too were facing the very real danger of “A Windstorm on the Lake.”

A windstorm on the lake. Maybe some of you have had to deal with a similar situation, whether here out at Terre du Lac or maybe down at Branson. I know a number of our members have gone out on Table Rock Lake over the years. And I know someone from St. Louis who was out on that lake that very same day–on one of those duck boats, just a couple hours earlier! A sudden windstorm can turn a peaceful lake into a raging sea in just a matter of minutes. And what do you do then?

But beyond that, even if we’re not in a windstorm on the lake, we can face other equally dangerous situations. An auto accident, on a dark night, and the car rolls off the road. An auto accident in the middle of the day, and a speeding motorcycle slams into the side of the car. A fire in the house that spreads rapidly, and within minutes the house is engulfed in flames. These are very real situations. All three of these crises affected real people in our congregation during the time that I’ve been here. In two of them, a church member died. In one that happened just this past week, the car accident during the night, our member was fortunate to escape with just a concussion. But the point is, grave danger can pop up just in the spur of the moment, from out of nowhere.

The disciples in the boat faced such a situation, in the windstorm on the lake. They had been struggling against the wind all night long and were in real danger of sinking. And these were expert boatmen, professional fishermen, who knew that lake like the back of their hand! If they were desperate, if they were panicky, it had to be really bad!

And here’s the thing: Jesus himself had sent them out onto that lake, while he himself stayed behind! “What are you doing, Jesus? Don’t you care? You’re up on a mountain, praying, safe and sound, while we’re out on this lake, about to drown!” The disciples must have felt alone and abandoned, struggling mightily, not sure if they’re going to make it.

Do you ever feel that way? Oh, now I’m not just talking about actual winds and waves on a lake. I’m talking about just life in general. Do you ever feel like you are, as our text puts it, “making headway painfully”? Or, as some translations have it, like you’re “straining at the oars”? And the wind is against you? It can feel that way, can’t it? I know I feel like that at times. Like I’m making headway painfully–if at all!–in my personal life, in my finances. Maybe you experience that too, perhaps in your health. And for our little congregation, it can seem like we’re straining at the oars. We make a little headway, then we’re blown back again. Will we ever make it to the shore, or will the wind keep on blowing against us? It’s tough.

And where is Jesus in all of this? Is he up on a mountain somewhere? Does he even know what we’re going through? Why doesn’t he help? I mean, he’s the one who sent us out on this lake! “Come on, Jesus! A little help?”

So we’ve been straining at the oars. The wind isn’t letting up. And it’s getting late, very late. We don’t know how much longer we can hold out. But look! What’s that coming toward us, in the dark, out across the waves? Could it be? Naah! That’s impossible. But look again. Why, it looks like–could it be? Jesus? No! It must be a ghost! This storm is driving us crazy!

But friends, look again. This ain’t no ghost; this is no phantasm or figment of our imagination. No, it’s Jesus himself, in the flesh, coming right alongside us. Christ Jesus, the very Son of God incarnate, striding across the waves like he owns them. Which he does. Like a boss. Which he is. Like he created the wind and the water and the sea. Which he did. And here he comes, passing by our boat, kind of like how the Lord God himself came passing by Moses or Elijah, giving them a glimpse of his divine glory. Which Jesus is doing right now.

“Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Jesus reassures his terrified disciples. “It is I”–or “I am,” you could translate it, recalling the divine name of Yahweh, which the Lord God used in the Old Testament. God is with us, in the person of Christ. And he’s getting into the boat. His familiar voice, his calming word, reassures us. And his word has authority even to calm the wind and the waves and to bring peace to an otherwise terrifying and dangerous situation.

“And he got into the boat with them, and the wind ceased. And they were utterly astounded, for they did not understand about the loaves, but their hearts were hardened.” You see, the Lord had just demonstrated his miraculous power over creation, for the good of his people, in the miracle of the feeding of the multitude. Which these same disciples had just witnessed. And yet they didn’t get it. In fact, just a couple of chapters earlier, Jesus had stilled a previous storm on the lake, and yet now, when he’s doing it again, they still are lacking in faith. They’re a little slow on the uptake, as we might put it.

But then, are we not also? Slow on the uptake, I mean. Lacking in faith. Wondering if the Lord is going to take care of us. In our personal lives. In our congregational life. Does the Lord have the power to take care of us? Yes, he does. He not only created the wind and the waves, he rules over them. Does he have the resources to provide for us? Oh yes, he does. The cattle on a thousand hills are his. But here is the biggest question: Does the Lord know what we’re going through, and does he love us enough to keep us from going under?

The answer is yes, a thousand times yes! How do we know this? Because this same Jesus, who strode across the waves, struggled under a cross on the way to Calvary. That is the proof that Jesus cares about you! He died for your sins! Never forget that! That is your assurance in the middle of the night, when you’re straining at the oars, and you’re making headway painfully, and the wind is against you. Oh yes, you’ll make it to the other shore. Because Jesus is with you. “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid.” Jesus is saying this to you today. My heart needs that peace and reassurance. And I bet yours does too.

Take heart! Jesus is praying for you! He sees what you’re going through. He will not leave you abandoned. He will get you to the distant shore. Indeed, he’s already gotten there ahead of us! Christ Jesus rose from the dead, ascended into heaven, and he will get us there to join him. There is no doubt about that.

Our hymns today all reassure us of Christ’s protection, when we are facing our windstorm on the lake, whatever it is. Listen to these words from the hymns we’re singing today:

Be still, my soul; the waves and winds still know
His voice who ruled them while He dwelt below.

Or this:

Boist’rous waves obey Thy will
When Thou say’st to them, “Be still!”
Wondrous Sov’reign of the sea,
Jesus, Savior, pilot me.

Or this:

Entrust your days and burdens
To God’s most loving hand;
He cares for you while ruling
The sky, the sea, the land.

And then there’s this. In 1873 a man named Horatio Spafford was planning a trip to Europe for his family. He himself had to stay behind on business for a few days, so he sent his wife and four daughters on ahead of him on a ship to England. On the way over, though, their ship was struck by another vessel and sank in twelve minutes. When the survivors were brought to land, Mrs. Spafford cabled back to her husband these words: “Saved alone.” Their four daughters had died in the shipwreck.

Horatio Spafford was a Christian, and in spite of his tremendous grief and loss, he found true comfort in the Lord. He even wrote a hymn about it. And now to bring the story full circle, on the night after the duck boat tragedy on Table Rock Lake, hundreds of people gathered in Branson and sang these words from Spafford’s hymn:

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way;
When sorrows, like sea billows, roll;
Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say,
“It is well, it is well with my soul.”

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come,
Let this blest assurance control,
That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate
And hath shed His own blood for my soul.

It is well with my soul;
It is well, it is well with my soul.

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Published in: on July 28, 2018 at 7:53 pm  Leave a Comment  
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