Feed Me

Mark 6:32-34 “So they went away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place. But many who saw them leaving recognized them and ran on foot from all the towns and got there ahead of them. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

Ever had a vacation ruined because you couldn’t get away? Jesus described the people coming to him as “sheep without a shepherd.” This isn’t the only time it’s used in the gospels. This is what Jesus found when he came to earth: sheep without a shepherd.

Some of the sheep were wandering in the direction of self-righteousness. For them, faith and religion had become a “do-it-yourself” project. We may know better than that, we think. We understand that “salvation” isn’t a do-it-yourself project. Jesus would have you know that the spiritual life isn’t one, either. Too many self-help books from the Christian bookstore, too many TV preachers preaching moral living, may give us the idea that after the cross, and after conversion, it is more or less up to us to get our acts together and do the right thing. That’s all sheep, no Shepherd. That’s not how it works. We always need the Shepherd with us, sometimes to direct us, but more often to carry us on his shoulders.

Other sheep had given up on faith and religion (or never tried it at all). We hear of Jesus being a friend to prostitutes, and tax collectors, and sinners. That doesn’t mean he approved of their life choices. He was there to change them. He was there to change their minds about sin, and then introduce them to this powerful thing called grace. We are surrounded by people like that today. “I’m not interested in church.” “I’m not religious, but spiritual.” “I’m not a fan of organized religion.” They have no Shepherd. They have no idea of the problem with the direction they are going.

In general, Jesus came to people who didn’t get it. There was so much they didn’t know. So what did he do? Mock them in Facebook and Twitter posts? Call into talk radio shows and gripe about them there? Write them off and leave them alone?

“He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus had compassion. You see, the God we worship is not an otherworldly bookkeeper sitting far away in a little cubicle somewhere, making sure everyone’s accounts are balanced. He isn’t a cosmic bureaucrat enforcing policies handed down to him from above, affecting the lives of people he will never meet.

The God we worship sees the heart’s true need. He sees our misery, even the misery that is self-inflicted. It saddens him. He genuinely feels our pain. And he is moved. He wants to help us from the heart. It is his deepest desire to bring us relief. We know this is true, because Jesus is that God.

That compassion sends him to work. “So he began teaching them many things.” Many of the people in this crowd likely came to Jesus for no other reason than that they wanted a miracle. The other gospels tell us so. Some might have wanted just to see the magic show. Jesus did some miracles on this day.

But the deeper need was to teach them. Faith and religion are not about being entertained, or finding an easier life. They are about finding real help for our hearts in a life that isn’t easy or entertaining. They are about finding that help in the grace and forgiveness of a loving God who cared enough to come here, and live here, and die here to rescue us from our sins. He rose again to give us an infinitely better life on the other side of death. This is the good word on which hungry souls feed. This is our hearts true need–to be fed by the Good Shepherd who has compassion on his sheep.

There are days when I think I need a better car, or a long loud scream, or a million dollars. What I really need is the same thing everyone else needs. I need Jesus to be my Shepherd, who sees me, and provides the food my heart needs.

The Rest You Need

Mark 6:30-31 “The apostles gathered around Jesus and reported to him all they had done and taught. Then, because so many people were coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat, he said to them, ‘Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.’”

When we have more work than we have time, we are tempted to think that we need to work more, and work harder. If we put in more time at work, maybe we can catch up. Maybe we can get on top if it all. This wasn’t just any work Jesus and his disciples were doing. Real people were coming to them with real problems–disease and disability. Some were looking for the spiritual comforts of Jesus’ words. The opportunity was ripe to grow Jesus’ ministry. How could they leave in the middle of all that?

Jesus, however, saw the need of the twelve men who assisted him. If he didn’t take care of them, and himself, how could they take care of others?

God recognizes that rest is not an option. He created his world with a day of rest. When he summarized his will for people in the Ten Commandments, one of the ten had to do with rest. “Remember the Sabbath Day by keeping it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. On it you shall not do any work…” (Ex. 20:8-9). There is no commandment reminding us to eat, or dress warmly, which are also human needs. But he does command us to rest our bodies from work, and to rest our souls in his word.

Why do we resist? Could it be pride? I don’t want to admit, to myself or others, that I have limitations. No job is too big for me. No challenge is more than I can handle. We all have a little bit of Annie Oakley from Annie Get Your Gun in us: “Anything you can do, I can do better.” Sinful pride insists, “I can do this, even if it kills me.” You know, it just might.

Maybe we neglect rest out of a kind of despair, born of an overactive sense of responsibility. We feel alone, abandoned, trapped. If we don’t do it, no one else will. Keep a stiff upper lip. Soldier on in pain and silence. Endless work might make us miserable, but we don’t see an alternative.

Neither pride nor despair makes much consideration of an almighty and all-loving God. Both put us in God’s place. That is a dangerous spiritual place to be. For this, Jesus must bring us to the end of ourselves, to the point of utter exhaustion. Only then we can see what he sees: Time to rest is part of our true need.

Here is his prescription: “Come with me by yourselves to a quiet place and get some rest.” Jesus’ formula for rest comprises three parts. “By yourselves”– get away from the world, from the people who are draining all the life out of you. Leave behind the daily struggle with priorities, opinions, and practices of those who follow a different master. That doesn’t have to mean absolutely alone. Jesus and the Twelve had their little fellowship: faithful friends and family (some of the disciples were brothers) they could count on for support. “Rest” can also include time with the people who are not a constant challenge, but a pleasure and a support for heart and soul.

Second, “…to a quiet place…”– away from work and the busyness of life, a place where office or school can’t find you. Maybe you remember a commercial in which a group of buddies are traveling in an SUV. Every once in a while they stop, and one gets out and holds his cell phone up in the air. They keep moving on until they find a place where there is no signal. Sometimes we need to be beyond reach, and beyond distraction. Jesus wants our attention on something else…

“Come with me…” That’s the third thing, but really the first that he said. Jesus wants our rest to be with him. He doesn’t want to give us a new list of tasks to complete. He wants to erase the things we falsely put on our task list, like “carrying around our guilt,” and “paying for our mistakes.” He already did all that for us at the cross.

“Come with me,” he says, not so that he can take us out behind the woodshed and give us a good beating. He isn’t looking to bring us up short, to point out all our faults. He is inviting us to forgiven and to be set free.

“Come with me,” says our Lord, not to be used, but to be loved. It’s okay to admit you are not so strong. You need to know that you are not alone. Jesus sees your true need to rest in his grace and love.

In Our Little Churches, The Lord Is Still Good…

Ezra 3:11 “With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: ‘He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.’ And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid.”

These words describe the praises of Israel when they laid the foundation for their second temple, a nearly miraculous event considering their recent exile in Babylon, but a much humbler edifice than their first temple had been. Maybe it didn’t mark a return to the good old days. But maybe the good old days hadn’t been so good.

Here, at their fresh start, the important things were still the same. The Lord was still keeping his promises to them as a people. He had promised that he would bring them home after 70 years. Now, here they were. He was still using this people as a key part of his plan to save the world. He had promised that a Savior for all people would be born out this people, and that he would be born on this piece of geography. On this day, they were closer to the fulfillment of those promises than they had ever been before. The Lord was good, and his love endures forever.

We have no less reason to offer our praise. Whether we are small or big, the important things remain the same. God’s grace is still a real thing. He still loves people who don’t deserve it. He still died for people who don’t appreciate it. He still forgives people who won’t stop needing it. Do you know why? He is good. His love endures forever.

Our God is still present with us, and he still works through the power of his word and sacrament. When we gather to worship today, we aren’t just remembering past history, like high school buddies reminiscing about their glory days on the ball field or court. No, the power of Christ’s cross and the power of Jesus’ resurrection are present when the gospel is preached, or poured out in water, or consumed in bread and wine. Hearts will be changed. Even in a cramped little chapel, even in cramped little hearts, the Lord who fills the entire universe will come and make his home, because he is good, and his love endures forever.

This God still trusts us enough to say to us: “I have a little project I have been working on. It’s called ‘Saving the World.’ I am going to leave the project with you. I did all the heavy lifting at the cross. I have given you the tools. Now, go rescue my people from darkness.”

“You mean us, Lord–ordinary people like us, a little church like ours?” “Yes, I mean you. Go and make disciples…” It could be expected that we would trust him after all his kindnesses to us. But that he would trust us with work like that? How is that even possible? “He is good, and his love endures forever.”

In the last book of the Bible, the next to last chapter, heaven is described as a city of incredible size and beauty. So many people live there they can’t be counted. The walls are 1400 miles high. The 12 foundations are made of precious stones. The streets are gold. The gates are each made of a single giant pearl. Now that’s a church!

But that’s not why we will praise God there. We will praise him for the same reason we have praised him here, in our little gatherings, in our humble buildings: “He is good, and his love endures forever.”

Small Things

Ezra 3:10-12 “When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments and with trumpets, and the Levites (the sons of Asaph) with cymbals, took their places to praise the Lord, as prescribed by David king of Israel. With praise and thanksgiving they sang to the Lord: ‘He is good; his love to Israel endures forever.’ And all the people gave a great shout of praise to the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. But many of the older priests and Levites and family heads, who had seen the former temple, wept aloud when they saw the foundation of this temple being laid…”

A new house of God is a good thing, right? Yet many of the people in Ezra’s congregation were weeping, and they weren’t tears of joy. They were old enough to remember the glory of Solomon’s temple. Over twenty tons of gold lined the walls and covered the floors and went into the furnishings of that temple. I have seen the largest church in the world today, St. Peter’s basilica in Rome. Its size is impressive, but it doesn’t have twenty tons of gold in it.

What did the size and glory of Solomon’s temple get for Israel? What did it do for them? It didn’t make them love God more. It didn’t keep them faithful. It didn’t prevent their priests and prophets from becoming corrupt. It didn’t make their young people more inclined to stay with the Bible faith. It didn’t convince people to resist the temptations of religions that were more fun, like the cults of Baal or Molech.

It didn’t prevent God from getting fed up with them, and letting their neighbors invade them and whittle away at their borders. Eventually the Assyrians and Babylonians came and took everybody away. For about 350 years the Jews had the pride of having a cool-looking place in which to worship. But true worship isn’t supposed to be focused on us. It is supposed to be focused on our God and Savior.

Maybe your church seems small. The only gold hangs from the ears and necks of the worshipers, or it is wrapped around their fingers. They take it home with them after each service.

We need to be aware of some small-church temptations. One is becoming falsely critical. Small size is not a vice, but it isn’t a virtue, either. It’s not a badge of honor to wear. It doesn’t make “us” better than “them.” We may have our theological differences with some particular big church. The number of people in attendance isn’t one of them. Pride in self, the “I’m-better-than-you” attitude, is never good for churches or individuals.

There is ditch on the other side of that road as well. Don’t make too much of how negatively others may view small size. Some people may dismiss a church because it can’t support a hundred different programs for a hundred special interest groups. I’ve actually heard people suggest that the bigger a church is, the more God must favor it. You can draw your own conclusions as to what that means for the small church. But don’t buy into the “bigger-is-better” propaganda. Don’t be intimidated. Don’t question whether God smiles on little churches or has a plan for them.

Remember, God still loves small things. “He is good; his love to Israel (and to us) endures forever.” In the book of Deuteronomy, the Lord reminded Israel, “The Lord did not set his affection on you and choose you because you were more numerous than other peoples, for you were the fewest of all peoples. But it was because the Lord loved you and kept the oath he swore to your forefathers that he brought you out with a mighty hand and redeemed you from the land of slavery…” (Deut. 7:7-8). At the height of their glory as a little empire under King David, Israel’s borders didn’t encompass much more territory than the state of Kentucky or Tennessee, perhaps about the size of the nation of Portugal. God loved them anyway.

Jesus encouraged his little band of followers this way during his ministry: “Do not be afraid, little flock, for your Father has been pleased to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32). His flock may have been little, but his Father was still pleased to give them his gifts.

He even has a special place in his heart for the little people. “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress” (James 1:27). “Whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven…See that you do not look down on one of these little ones. For I tell you that their angels in heaven always see the face of my Father in heaven” (Matthew 18:4,10).

Little building, little flock, little people–it doesn’t matter. We may be small, but the Lord is good to us anyway, and his love endures forever.

God’s Word Is Not Chained

2 Timothy 2:8-10 “This is my gospel, for which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.”

Paul was being treated like a criminal. He wasn’t in prison because he had been caught abusing children, or stealing church donations, like so many of the clergy scandals you hear about. His “crime” was preaching the gospel about Jesus Christ who died and rose again. He was promoting a God other than the gods the government wanted you to believe. He was teaching a standard of right and wrong that opposed the moral values of the communities in which he worked. His gospel promoted grace and forgiveness, and that rubbed people wrong for two reasons.

First, it suggested to people who wanted to believe they were already good that there was something wrong with them. “What do you mean I have been forgiven? Why should I need forgiveness?”

Then, it worried the authorities who feared that too much talk about grace and forgiveness might give people the idea they had a license to behave badly.

So they locked Paul up. Eventually they amputated his head to shut him up. Do you know how well their plan worked? “God’s word is not chained.” The gospel kept spreading. If anything, it spread faster than before.

The world has often thought that persecution, even execution, could stop the gospel. They think they are pouring water on the fire, and the fire is going to go out. But trying to intimidate Christians with threats, imprisonment, and even death is more like pouring water on a grease fire. You know what happens when you pour water on a grease fire, right? The grease floats on the water. It spreads all over. Soon you have fire everywhere.

Paul knew that they could kill him, just like they killed Jesus, but that they couldn’t kill his gospel. “Therefore I endure everything for the sake of the elect, that they too may obtain the salvation that is in Christ Jesus, with eternal glory.” God has his elect, the people he has chosen. You can’t stop the gospel from reaching them. Salvation in Jesus Christ is waiting for them, and us, with eternal glory, so why do we need to be afraid?

Our times are different from the times in which Paul lived. Maybe we fear similar times are coming upon us again. Our government seems less and less friendly to the things biblically faithful Christians believe. Our culture has mostly adopted a different set of morals. It has become acceptable to ridicule our Savior openly. I once saw a sticker on a car urging: “It’s been 2000 years since Jesus died. He’s not coming back. Get over it.” In parts of our world, beheading has come back into favor for getting rid of Christians.

Remember Jesus Christ. Even when they killed him, they couldn’t keep him dead. Since he has risen from the dead he has unleashed his gospel on even the remotest corners of the planet. He still has his elect, the people he has chosen. He will let nothing stand in the way of even one of these dear children hearing the gospel and embracing his forgiving grace. Salvation and eternal glory are still prizes he promises to all of us at the end. He is not dead. His word is not chained. His salvation cannot be undone.

That is our confidence for the mission he gives us today.

Perfect

John 19:31-35 “Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down. The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other. But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs. Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear bringing a sudden flow of blood and water. The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true.”

Over Fourteen hundred years earlier God had given Moses instructions about how Passover lambs were to be chosen and treated. They had to be year old males in the prime of their lives, without blemish. As the lambs were sacrificed their bodies must be kept intact. No bones were to be broken. They were to be perfect in every way. God was accepting these animals in place of the lives of Israel’s first-born sons. For such an exchange he was not satisfied with second-rate, crippled animals. He demanded the best.

On this Passover, Jesus himself was the sacrificial lamb. He offered himself in the prime of life in exchange for all Israel, and all people. After all the abuse his body had taken over the past 24 hours, the point of his legs not being broken could easily be lost on us. But God was making a statement here: his Son is the perfect Passover Lamb. His bones remained intact. He remained fully qualified to give his life in exchange for ours, the perfect sacrifice for sin.

The soldiers then looked for another way to be sure of his death. The point of the spear was likely pressed against his body just below the rib cage. They thrust up into his chest and through his heart. The sudden flow of blood and water would be consistent with the spear piercing first the pericardium, the sack around the heart, and then the heart itself. Thus the last blood Jesus shed for us flowed directly from his very heart.

For those who witnessed this, this piercing was the final blow. If there had been any hope that Jesus had not died, but merely passed out on the cross, it was now gone. The spear removed all doubt that Jesus was dead.

Jesus is the perfect sacrifice for us and for our world. He did not come to be merely a great moral example or teacher. He came to give his life as a ransom for many. Those are his own words. The wages of our sins is death, and the blood and water flowing from his side confirmed his death. He is perfect for us here, as he was in life.

With this perfect sacrifice comes this perfect assurance: “The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.”

We may think that it is a modern thing to question the accuracy of the gospels. Such challenges, however, stretch all the way back to the time of the New Testament. John is the only gospel writer who includes these details about the crucifixion. It is likely that he was combating a popular heresy of his time. Some denied Jesus ever had a genuine human body. They claimed he only appeared to be human. Thus they denied that he actually died. They certainly didn’t believe he had to die as some sort of payment for our sins.

Similar denials gnaw at the very foundations of Christian faith. There is nothing more important for us to know or believe than Jesus’ historical death and resurrection. This greatest of all miracles isn’t an incidental idea hanging onto the fringes of Christian belief. It is the centerpiece, the event of human history upon which the entire Christian faith is based.

What do we have to defeat our doubts in an age that wants to reduce Christianity to a list of pious platitudes teaching us to be nice to other people? God has given us eye witnesses. The twelve disciples were not philosophers speculating about the ultimate meaning of life. They were common people like this fisherman named John. They gave eyewitness testimony of events they had seen with their own eyes. There is nothing so profound about the breaking of legs or the blood flowing from a pierced heart that it escapes the eyes of ordinary people. Roman soldiers, and faithful women, and a lone disciple saw it happen. They told others and wrote it down on paper so that you and I could see it happen, too.

Can a dead man still love you? Maybe we find it unsettling to realize that, in Jesus’ death, God has died. But even in death this God is infinitely powerful. Even in death, his love for you continues unimpaired. He was perfect for you in life and in death, as he is in his new life beyond the grave.

Remember

2 Timothy 2:8 “Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead…”

The Christian faith is more than learning a set of facts. It is more than passing some academic tests. I have often told my confirmation classes that I am not concerned they will ever forget the central teaching of Christianity: “Jesus died on the cross to pay for all your sins.” I am more concerned about the place that truth will hold in their hearts, and the impact that truth will have on their lives.

In the last letter he ever wrote, so far as we know, the Apostle Paul urges his faithful friend Timothy, “Remember Jesus Christ.” Paul was not afraid that Timothy would forget who Jesus was. He is saying, “Here is something worth thinking about all the time. Here is a teaching, a story, a person who will change your life, and change it for the better. Here is the key to keeping your faith alive.”

What do you like to think about? There are many ideas competing for our attention, If someone cuts you off in traffic or you catch someone lying to you at work, your mind may be occupied with anger. If you have bad news from the doctor, or threatening news from the weatherman, your head and heart may fill with worries. If you turn on the TV to numb your mind after a long day at work, there is a ton of garbage available to be dumped into it: lust, violence, and disrespect to name a few.

None of this is good. None of this is compatible with “Love God,” and “Love your neighbor.” But they can be appealing in their own twisted way. This should not surprise us. “The sinful mind” (that is, the kind of fleshly mind we are all born with) “is hostile to God,” Paul writes in Romans. “It does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.” Eventually, this kind of thinking can land us outside of faith altogether.

Paul and Timothy had to wrestle with their own ungodly thoughts. This letter was Paul’s last. He was in a Roman prison for the second time, and this time he was not going to get out alive. He seemed to sense that. And he knew that his situation wasn’t encouraging for a younger pastor like Timothy. When pastors and missionaries are getting their heads chopped off for preaching the the gospel, it doesn’t make recruiting others for ministry easier. The apostle encouraged Timothy: “Endure hardship like a good soldier.” That’s easy to say, but where were they supposed to find the strength to do it?

“Remember Jesus Christ.” “Focus on our Savior,” Paul urges. “Think about him.” This more than a diversion. Years ago, when my wife and I were getting ready to have our first child, we went to childbirth classes. One way to help mom through the pain of labor is to pick a focal point–any object or place in the room–and concentrate. It’s a diversion, a distraction, to keep you from thinking about the pain.

Jesus is not just a distraction. There is real help for heart and head here. Remember that Jesus Christ is “raised from the dead.” There are two things to think about in those words. First, in order to be raised, Jesus had to die. He knew what it was like to suffer as we do. He even suffered one thing no one reading this has suffered yet: death. His death was not an unfortunate accident or the natural result of celebrating too many birthdays. Again, Paul reminds the Romans: “You see, at just the right time, when we were still powerless, Christ died for the ungodly. Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous man, though for a good man someone might possibly dare to die. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” He died to save us. He died to forgive us. He died to reconcile and restore us to God.

That itself is reason to be brave, patient, and optimistic. But there’s more. Jesus Christ has been raised from the dead. More than that, he reigns. After he rose from the grave, he rose to heaven where he rules the universe. From there he promises to pull what’s left of our own decayed bodies out of their graves, renew and restore them, and fill them with the same kind of glory that oozes from every pore of his body now.

If that is so, what is the worst that people who persecute you can do to you–kill you? What is the worst that can come from your health problems or life’s storms, whether literal or figurative–an early death? What’s the worst thing God’s forgiven children will ever get from the sins that trouble their consciences–a casket with their name on it, a funeral in their honor? What of that? Jesus Christ was raised from the dead, and so will we!

Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead. This still gives us strength to endure.

Have Faith

Mark 4:40 “He said to the disciples, ‘Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?’”

There is a tone of accusation in Jesus’ question to the disciples who endured the storm on the Sea of Galilee with him in the boat. He isn’t merely asking them why they experienced the emotion of fear. That, I suppose, is clear enough. He is accusing them of being cowards in the Greek. That is a moral failing, not just an emotional one. Deadly storm or not, Jesus expected more of them.

If you are like me, your sympathies may lie more with the disciples on this issue at first. Their reaction didn’t seem so extreme considering the circumstances. We may wonder how Jesus could have expected more of them when the boat was about to sink.

The answer lies outside the story. They heard Jesus speak so many promises. They watched him perform so many miracles. By this time they had seen him command demons, heal the sick, and raise the dead. He had promised to make them fishers of men. Was he just going to let them die without fulfilling his promise? Did they believe his promises or not? Did they believe he was the one he claimed to be or not?

The words he spoke had the power to stop this storm. Didn’t they have the power to change their hearts as well? Didn’t they have the power to convince them that yes, Jesus cared, even if it looked like they were about to drown?

 Jesus’ words, his promises, are still the secret to maintaining our trust in him, though it looks as if our problems are going to sink and drown us. Would he lay down his life to pay for our sins if he intended to hurt us? Would he suffer all he did to save us and then decide to stop working for our good, when it costs him nothing additional to offer his continued help and care? Is he less powerful now that he has returned to heaven?

Jesus has promised to save you, forgive you, and raise you to eternal life. He promises to be with you, to make you strong, to rule the universe for your good. In short, he promises to love you. You know that he does. Have faith. We have every reason to believe that he cares.

Even in the Storm, He Is Still in Control

Mark 4:39 “He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.”

If what Jesus did hadn’t worked, perhaps the disciples would have been concerned about his sanity. Here he is, talking to the storm. It isn’t a person. It has no ears. Jesus isn’t dealing with an unruly teenager whose party got out of control, so now he acts as the stern parent.

It reminds one of the earliest chapters of the Bible. The Maker of the Universe speaks to the world he is making, and things happen. Light, and land, and plants and animals appear. The surface and the skies and the stars get themselves organized.

You see, God’s word is more than an intriguing set of ideas, a collection of timeless truths, a convincing argument in a spiritual debate, or a Jewish take on ancient Middle Eastern history. It is a power. It is a force. It accomplishes what it says.

So we see with the storm. The wind died down. Mark’s Greek pictures something quite dramatic. The winds didn’t blow softer and softer until there was just a gentle breeze. No, the winds stopped dead. One moment you have the kind of driving, damaging winds that get our weathermen to interrupt your regular programming. The next moment there is a dead calm. The air is still. One moment the waves are so high they are breaking over the sides of the boat and filling it with water. The next instant Jesus and his disciples are floating on a sea of glass. This was no natural passing of the storm. This is the power of every word God speaks.

What, then, does this tell us about the man who had been sleeping in the boat? The disciples asked the question, too: “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him.” That can be only one person. This isn’t a great prophet requesting God’s help and getting a miracle, like Moses when the Red Sea parted. This is the one who gives the command directly, “Quiet! Be Still!” The wind and the waves obey him. The one they called their teacher, the one you call your Savior, is the God who controls your world.

He still controls your world. The storm you fear so much, that has you feeling so helpless, that has you wondering whether Jesus cares, no matter what kind of storm it is, is still a storm he can turn off in an instant. He promises, “All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” He sits at his Father’s right hand in glory. He rules all things for the good of his church. That’s you! Maybe it looks as though everything is out of control. But Jesus still controls every moment you live, every experience you have.

Sometimes the storms will soak you to the bone. You will get a mouth full of sea water in the process. But Jesus is still in control, and he will not let you be lost.