The Eventide of Prospective Deliverance, Mark 4. 35 to 5. 2
Bernard Osborne, Dinas Powys, Wales [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
The Lord had toiled all day teaching the multitude who had lined the shore while He sat in the boat. It was now sunset and the multitude would be hastening to their homes for rest and shelter. So the Lord bade His disciples cross the lake. Preaching all day in the heat of the sun must have been a tremendous strain, but that was not all. Worthy preaching is no light and easy business, and this is true certainly of anyone who aspires to be a preacher. To be an ambassador for Christ, beseeching men in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God, is no light or unimportant task. Valid preaching is a costly business. The Lord knew what preaching meant. His heart went out in a perfect passion of pity and love. There was entreaty, desire, and passion in His preaching, and being Man, perfect yet subject to our feelings, at the end of a day He was tired and spent. Thus His disciples took Him "as he was" into the boat, Mark 4. 36.
Weary and tired, He is immediately asleep as the boat started to go across to the other side of the sea. How near this brings Him to us. He was really and truly Man. Here He slept. He needed rest, and little wonder. The Saviour in whom we trust is as really Man as He is God. He knows the trials of men, for He has experienced them. He knows the bodily infirmities of a man, for He had felt them. He was touched with the feeling of all our infirmities, cf. Heb. 4. 15. He knew what it was to be weary, John 4. 6. Thus He can sympathize with us, for He has passed this way.
Then a furious storm arose. The lovely evening calm only preceded a hurricane that was overwhelming. How typical of life this is! Seldom are we left without a storm somewhere. Atone moment the course of life seems absolutely set, calm, and the next moment there is storm and darkness. The ship of our life is suddenlyfull, and we can take no more. We cry in our distress, "Master, carest thou not?".
We must learn that Christ's service does not exempt His servants from the storms of life. Here were the twelve disciples in the path of duty. They were obediently following the Lord wherever He went. They were daily attending on His ministry, and listening to His Word. They were daily testifying to the world. Even now they were crossing the lake in obedience to His command. Yet we see these men in trouble, in danger seemingly of being drowned. Even obedience, be it noticed, does not bring immunity from trouble, and the true Christian does not expect everything smooth in his journey to heaven. We should count it no strange thing if we have to endure sickness, losses, disappointments, bereavements, for these are the common lot of mankind. Free pardon, full forgiveness, glory at the end—these the Saviour has pledged to us, but not freedom from afflictions. By afflictions He teaches us to lean more heavily on Him, to realize the emptiness of life apart from Him, to approach more readily to the throne of grace, to long more fervently for heaven.
Meanwhile the Lord slept. The disciples come to Him with the anguished plea, "Carest thou not that we perish?". He would later rebuke them for their lack of faith, v. 40. They appealed to Him in their need, and herein was faith. They were rebuked for their excess of terror, in their thinking that it was ever possible that the ship which carried their Master could sink. How quick they were to doubt Him, to think Him at fault. Is it not so still? Do we not question sometimes in our doubts and when things are against us whether He really cares? But He is behind and above all circumstances, and so often when we come to see things as He sees them we have to change from "Master, carest thou not?" to "This is the Lord's doing; it is marvellous in our eyes". God has a purpose for His own in all that they experience, and "all things work together for good to them that love God"; cf. Rom. 8. 28.
There was impatience, too, in their cry—that particular kind of impatience which implies that the ordinary grounds of confidence are giving way, that faith is dashed by some serious hesitations. To have trusted Him perfectly would have been to remain silent, convinced that all would yet be well though the winds roar and the waves toss. As long as He, the Lord of the winds and the waves, slept on the pillow in the hinder part of the ship, all was well. He was asleep, but He was in the boat with them. He was in the trial as much as they were. He went through it all with them. They were linked inseparably.
Then He arose, v. 39. He was the Omnipotent One. Notice the words to describe His action. He "rebuked" the wind, and to the sea He said, "Be muzzled". Strange, significant words! The word "rebuked" suggests anger. He rebuked the winds and the sea as if to imply that disorder in the material world may be due sometimes to the will of a malignant personal agent. In the words there is a recognition of Satan and the powers of evil as the authors of disharmony in the outward world, a tracing of all these disorders up to a source in a person. Again, the command "Be muzzled" He had used earlier in this Gospel; He had used it in chapter 1 when rebuking the demon in the synagogue at Capernaum.
The elements were immediately quiet. With Him nothing is impossible. There are no strong passions that He cannot tame, no temper so violent that He cannot subdue, no conscience so disquieted but that He can speak peace to it. There was "a great calm". To voyage with Jesus is to voyage in peace, even in the midst of a great storm. It is safer with Christ in the middle of a violent storm, than anywhere else without Him.
A great storm "arose", v. 37, then "he arose", v. 39, and there was "a great calm". Another storm, a far greater one, raged on Calvary's hill, but there, too, Satan was defeated. And then also the Lord arose, triumphantly from the dead, and to the troubled heart now comes the message of peace. He "made peace through the blood of his cross", Col. 1. 20.
Now the question arises. Why did the Lord cross the lake that night and in the storm?, for the next chapter tells us that He returned back across the lake to Capernaum, 5. 21. What intervened between the two crossings? A demoniac, whose life knew the tempest of a possession by a legion of demons, would enter into calm and peace, 5.15. The Lord crossed to meet that demoniac in the morning light and deliver him from his oppressors. That eventide crossing, foregoing the comfort of rest and shelter, was made in prospect of the deliverance of one of Satan's captives. Wonderful grace of Jesus!
AUTHOR PROFILE: Bernard Osborne is retired from a career in education and is in fellowship in the assembly at Dinas Powis, Wales. He is a gifted Bible teacher and travels extensively in ministry throughout the UK and N. America.