FEATURE ARTICLE

Rev. Nelson IlunoSunday, April 30, 2017
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Nnewi, Anambra State, Nigeria

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PEACE, BE STILL

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f Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace is in your boat and you call upon Him when the storm hits, it will never sink. He has the power to calm or stop any storm. Being persuaded that God never fails, Christ uttered word of authority: "Peace, be still", to put to an end a fierce storm which arose midway into their journey, while travelling together with His disciples in a boat across Galilean sea. The intervention of Jesus brings calmness into any storm. There is no doubt that there is that which Prince of Peace alone does which no man can do. Indeed, very great miracles attended the ministry of Jesus and His disciples. Let us look at one of such instances that the Bible records;

"And the same day, when the even was come, he saith unto them, Let us pass over unto the other side. And when they had sent away the multitude, they took him even as he was in the ship. And there were also with him other little ships. And there arose a great storm of wind, and the waves beat into the ship, so that it was now full. And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish? And he arose, and rebuked the wind, and said unto the sea, Peace, be still. And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. And he said unto them, Why are ye so fearful? How is it that ye have no faith? And they feared exceedingly, and said one to another, What manner of man is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4: 35 - 41).

Wind and wave obey Jesus. The story of Jesus' calming of a storm at sea is clearly a central story in the larger Gospel witness to Jesus. All four Gospels include some version of this incident. There is something so vital in this story that no Gospel could be complete without it. Many sound teachers and expositors of the scripture say the reason is that this story is a vital vignette that teaches much about the life of the church and the role faith is supposed to play as we navigate the often rough seas of our life together in this world. Amy Carmichael's poem captures the lesson in the story of Jesus' stilling of the storm. See the inspiring poem below:

"Thou art the Lord who slept upon the

pillow,

Thou art the Lord who soothed the

furious sea,

What matter beating wind and tossing

billow,

If only we are in the boat with Thee?"

The account of Jesus' stilling of the storm is the beginning of a series of miracles through which Jesus demonstrated His authority over nature, demons, disease and death (Luke 8: 22 - 56). The narrative was used in the life of the early church to stress the importance of faith in difficult times. Still more significantly, it served to emphasize the majesty of the Lord Jesus whose power could control destructive natural forces and, symbolically, the cosmic forces of evil. Audiences of that time would recognize the parallel between Jesus' sovereignty over the storm and the power of God shown when he, according to the Old Testament creation account, conquered over the chaotic waters and formed the world (Psalm 65: 8; 89: 10; 93: 3 - 4; 107: 29). This account demonstrates Jesus' unlimited power over the natural world. This simple carpenter's son somehow is able to tame creation, root out the demonic, conquer death, rout disease, feed the hungry and calmed the winds and waves. All these miracles of Jesus reveal his cosmic Lordship.

According to tradition, the author of the first gospel was Mark, also called John Mark (Acts 12: 12, 25). Mark was with Peter in Rome, and his gospel has a definite Petrine focus. Mark's readers are Gentile Christians. He was basically writing to a Roman reading audience. He wanted to convince them about the deity and mission of Jesus. Mark's Gospel is unique. It is a record of Jesus actions and achievements. The word 'euthus' which is translated "straightway" or "immediately" is found 42 times in the gospel. At least 23 times Mark tells about the people being "amazed" (1:27), "critical" (2:7), "afraid" (4:41), "puzzled" (6:14), and "astonished" (7:37).

It presents Jesus as one who conquers demons, diseases, and death. Mark recorded greater number of miracles that Jesus performed, and each miracle announces even to us today the defeat of an enemy. Mark presents the miracle-working Jesus, not only the teaching Jesus. Mark dedicates more of his account to Jesus' miracles than any of the other Gospel writers. One-third of his gospel has to do with miracles, compared to only 20 percent in the other three gospels. There are some thirty-five miracles in the Gospels. When Jesus calms the storm, the disciples say to one another, "Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?" (Mark 4:41). In Luke's gospel, the disciples of John the Baptist ask Jesus, "Are you the one who is to come, or are we to wait for another?" Jesus says, "Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised…" (Luke 7: 22).

A miracle has been described as "an event that happens in a manner contrary to regularly observed processes of nature." In the Bible, Jesus' miracles are of two kinds. The vast majority are healing miracle: exorcising demons, curing lepers and giving sight to the blind. The others are nature miracles: stilling the wind, feeding the multitudes and raising people from the dead. For Mark, these miracles were demonstrations of Jesus' power, His power over disease, the forces of evil, and even over nature. Many flocked to Him to be healed and fed. Some wondered who Jesus was. But others followed Him. The emphasis on Jesus' mighty and miraculous works makes this Gospel action-packed, fresh, and vivid.

Jesus Christ is the Master of every situation and the Conqueror of every enemy. If we trust Him and follow His orders, we need never be afraid. Victory is the major theme that binds this gospel together.

"The same day" (Mark 4: 35) refers to the day on which Jesus gave the "parable of the kingdom" (Mark 4: 1 - 35; Matthew 7: 28, 29; 8: 1 - 27). He had been teaching His disciples the Word and now He would give them a practical test to see how much they had really learned. After all, the hearing of God's Word is intended to produce faith (Romans 10: 17); and faith must always be tested. It is not enough for us merely to learn a lesson or be able to repeat a teaching. We must also be able to practice that lesson by faith, and that is one reason why God permits trials to come to our lives.

Did Jesus know that the storm was coming? Of course, He did! The storm was a part of that day's curriculum. It would help the disciples understand a lesson that they did not even know they needed to learn: Jesus can be trusted in the storms of life. Many people have the idea that storms come to their lives only when they have disobeyed God, but this is not always the case. Jonah ended up in a storm because of his disobedience, but the disciples got into a storm because of their obedience to the Lord.

Meteorologists have observed that there are different kinds of storms. The nature of these storms varies by their location. Some places are stormier than others. Storms also vary in strength, the level of danger they pose and the extent of damage they cause. The geographic location of the Sea of Galilee is such that sudden violent storms are not unusual. Wind is a common occurrence on that lake, about 690 feet below sea level and surrounded by hills. The Greek word for "great windstorm" can also mean "whirlwind." In this case, it was a storm so severe that it took on the properties of a hurricane (Matthew 8: 24). The boat was tossed to and fro, and waves poured into it. The boat began to sink. Though some of the disciples were experienced fishermen, they were afraid.

The disciples, used to being on the lake in the wind, thought this storm would drown them. The disciples panicked because the storm threatened to destroy them all. The storm described here must have been especially fierce if it frightened experienced fishermen like the disciples. There were at least three good reasons why none of the men in the boat should have been disturbed; even though the situation appeared to be threatening.

To begin with, they had His instruction that they were going to the other side (Mark 4: 35). His commandments are always His enablement and nothing can hinder the working out of His plans. He did not promise an easy trip, but He did promise a guaranteed arrival at their destination. His word always comes to pass.

Second, the Lord Himself was with them, so what was there to fear? They had already seen His power demonstrated in His miracles, so they should have had complete confidence that He could handle the situation. For some reason, the disciples did not yet understand that He was indeed the Master of every situation. When a terrifying storm convinced the disciples they were about to die, they forget that Jesus was in the boat and had told them they were going to the other side of the lake.

Finally, they could see that Jesus was perfectly at peace, even in the midst of the storm. This fact alone should have encouraged them. Jesus was in God's will and knew that the Father would care for Him, so He took a nap. Jonah slept during a storm because he had a false sense of security, even though he was running from God. Jesus slept in the storm because He was truly secure in God's will. "I will both lay me down in peace, and sleep, for Thou, Lord, only makest me dwell in safety" (Psalm 4: 8).

How often in the trials of life we are prone to imitate the faithless disciples and cry out, "Lord, don't You care?" Of course, He cares! He arose and rebuked the storm, and immediately there was a great calm. But Jesus did not stop with the calming of the elements, for the greatest danger was not the wind or the waves: it was the unbelief in the hearts of the disciples. Our greatest problems are within us, not around us. This explains why Jesus gently rebuked them and called them "men of little faith." They had heard Him teach the Word and had even seen Him perform miracles, and yet they still had no faith. It was their unbelief that caused their fear, and their fear made them question whether Jesus really cared. We must beware of "an evil heart of unbelief" (Hebrews 3: 12).

This was only one of many lessons Jesus would teach His disciples in the familiar environs of the Sea of Galilee, and each lesson would reveal some wonderful new truth about the Lord Jesus. They already knew that He had the authority to forgive sins, to cast out demons, and to heal diseases. Now they discovered that He even had authority over the wind and the sea. This meant that they had no reason ever again to be afraid, for their Lord was in constant control of every situation. Control of the sea is a divine characteristic (Psalm 89: 9; 25; 107: 23 -31; Genesis 1: 1, 2, 9, 10). Psalm 107 verses 25 to 30 says:

"For he commandeth, and raiseth the stormy wind, which lifteth up the waves thereof. They mount up to the heaven, they go melted because of trouble. They reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man, and are at their wit's end. Then they cry unto the LORD in their trouble, and he bringeth them out of their distresses. He maketh the storm a calm, so that the waves thereof are still. Then are they glad because they be quiet; so he bringeth them unto their desired haven".

For most of Jesus' miracles, the disciples were observers: they watched Him heal the sick, raise dead bodies, and cast demons out of strangers. But they were merely watching, there to record the events instead of being part of them. This time, however, it was the disciples who were in danger; and maybe that is why they had such a hard time trusting that His power was greater than their situation.

They had seen Him cast out demons. They knew He had powers that were not of natural origin. But they had never seen or even heard of anything like this. It is one thing to heal human sickness or even to order demons around; but to order the waves and the wind, and to command the sea and the storm that is a miracle of an entirely different order. The Sea of Galilee lay seven hundred feet below sea level with bordering mountains that rose several thousand feet high. Cool winds from the mountain peaks would sweep down on to the sea stirring up strong, violent winds. We are limited by physical constraints and nature's laws, but God is not. What are obstacles to us are thoroughfares to God. The key is trusting God in spite of what our senses tell us.

You must trust God, no doubt about it. The fact that you have doubts indicates that you do not know God as you should. Jesus often rebuked the sin of unbelief (Mark 7: 18; 8: 17, 21, 3; 9: 19). Sometimes our circumstances look hopeless, but we never know the reality of our situation until we have asked Jesus. He knows things we do not. He has power we cannot imagine. It is foolish to come to conclusions on our own when Jesus is right next to us. So long as the disciples assumed control of their situation, Jesus rested. But when they cast their care on Him and released control to Him, He cared for everything and they could rest. With great wonder, they witness Jesus still the storm with no more than his voice. Jesus rebukes the wind and subdues the turbulence of the sea by a mere word.

"Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Peace, be still!" And the wind ceased and there was a great calm" (Mark 4: 39).

"Peace, be still" means literally "be silent, be muzzled". The command is the same as in Mark 1: 25: "And Jesus rebuked him, saying, Hold thy peace, and come out of him".

Now let us look at Mark 4: 39 in other Bible versions.

"And he woke up, checked the wind, and told the sea, "Peace, be quiet." The wind fell and there was a great calm" (Moffatt Translation).

"He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, "Silence! Be still!" The wind ceased, and there was a great calm" (Holman Christian Standard Bible (HCSB).

"When Jesus woke up, he rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Silence! Be still!" Suddenly the wind stopped, and there was a great calm" (New Living Translation (NLT).

"Then he rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Quiet down!" And the wind fell, and there was a great calm!" (Living Bible (LB).

"Awake now, he told the wind to pipe down and said to the sea, "Quiet! Settle down!" The wind ran out of breath; the sea became smooth as glass" (The Message (TM).

"Jesus stood up and commanded the wind, "Be quiet!" and he said to the waves, "Be still!" The wind died down, and there was a great calm" (Good News Bible (GNB).

"He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, "Quiet! Be still!" The wind died down and it was completely calm" (NIV).

"And He got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, "Hush, be still." And the wind died down and it became perfectly calm" (New American Standard Bible (NASB).

"He stood up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, 'Hush! Be still!' The wind dropped and there was a dead calm" (New English Bible (NEB).

"And He arose and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, Hush now! Be still (muzzled)! And the wind ceased (sank to rest as if exhausted by its beating) and there was [immediately] a great calm (a perfect peacefulness)" (The Amplified Bible (Amp.).

All the versions we have cited and all other versions that use a different word than "Peace, be still!" make it clear that "peace" here means quietness, silence or calmness. Each of these considerations holds a definite application for the authority which came from the Lord Jesus. There is no doubt that this was a rebuke to the winds and waves to cease or stop. It was a rebuke from the Lord. It was an urgent command that requires an instant obedience. The great storm of wind must obey the Lord. Nature obeys His command. In fact, Jesus here demonstrates His power over His entire creation, over nature and the spiritual forces of darkness.

The disciples watched in awe as Christ's spoken word stilled the great wind-storm and waves. Storms normally subside gradually, but when Christ gave the order, the natural elements of this storm ceased immediately. The authority of the Saviour's word is now seen not only in the quality of His doctrine but in His power to command; for at His word the great windstorm stopped. Jesus, the Son of God, had complete control over all the power of nature. Mark has described, so far, His power over sickness and over demons. Now we see His complete authority over the forces of nature. At His word the wind stopped. The calm was immediate and complete. Then Jesus briefly chided His followers for fearing and not trusting. They were stunned by the miracle. Even though they knew who Jesus was, they were impressed afresh by the power of One who could control the elements.

The incident reveals the true and real humanity and the deity of the Lord Jesus. He had evidently toiled up to and almost beyond the limit of His strength; and now, He slept in the stern of the boat; that is His humanity. Also, He spoke and the sea was calm; that is His deity. This illustrates first the divine authority of Jesus over the forces of nature; He is superior even to a storm which caused experienced fishermen to panic with alarm.

It demonstrates His power over nature, as previous miracles showed His power over diseases and elements. Also, it encourages us to go to Jesus in all the storms of life, knowing that the boat can never sink when He is in it. Mark writes to his community which experiences chaos in the absence of the Lord. The boat is a symbol of the storm-tossed Church, crying out for help. The boat that sails across the sea symbolizes our journey to eternal life. The sailing is full of ups and downs, storms and struggles.

In fact, the story was intended to bring a message of peace to a storm-tossed Church in the time of persecution. The disciples were in the path of obedience, but even obedience brings no immunity from trouble. Dangers beset the Church even when engaged in carrying out the Master's commands. Nevertheless there is no ground for cowardice or craven fear.

They should have known enough of Him by now to enable them to trust and believe that neither could the Messiah perish in a storm, nor would He allow them to perish because they had obeyed Him. 'How is it that you have no faith?' (Mark 4: 40). God was in Jesus such that the disciples could have known that storm or no storm, the boat was not going to sink. The challenge was and is to believe in God's kingdom despite a world so filled with storms.

After the sons of the prophets convinced Elisha to go with them in 2 Kings 6: 1-7, they got to the river and began to cut down trees. While doing so, a particular axe head fell into the river Jordan. These disciples or students were very worried because it was borrowed.

Vital lesson from this is that the best of plans can go wrong. After putting in place what you may deem a fool-proof plan, and everything suggests a perfect design, something can still go wrong with its implementation. Psalm 127: 1 says, "Except the LORD build the house, they labour in vain that build it: except the LORD keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain".

Whether you believe it or not, sooner or later you would have to face a storm or two. Do not think that because you have given your life to Christ, there would be no more problems. In fact, that is when you would face problems. Before you gave your life to Christ, you were in the same camp with the devil, and posed no threat to him. But the day you gave your life to Jesus Christ, you escaped from Satan's camp. And he will surely attempt to have you back. But thank God the One now inside you is greater than the devil. If Jesus is in your boat and you call upon Him when the storm hits, it will never sink (Mark 4: 35-41).

"When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee: and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee: when thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee" (Isaiah 43: 2). If you observe carefully, this passage did not say 'if' you pass through fire but 'when'. This means, at some stage in life you would have to go through fire. This world is not a bed of roses but if Jesus is by your side, He will cause you to emerge as gold from your fire of affliction or trial. This was the experience of the trio in Nebuchadnezzar's fire (Daniel 3: 19-30).

Are you going through any fire of affliction, persecution or intense difficulty but you are sure Jesus is still in your boat? Be encouraged. You are coming out of that fire. Your latter state shall be greater than how you were before the fire. No fire can burn you. No river can swallow the ship where the Master of the ocean, earth and skies reigns.

We can see from Mark 4: 35-41, that any stormy waters you go into with the Lord Jesus cannot drown you. Are you currently going through the floods? You shall not drown. As long as Jesus is with you, you will stay afloat like the axe head. When an axe head fell into the river in 2 Kings 6: 1-7 and the man of God took a piece of wood and threw it into that river, the wood sank like lead while the iron axe head began to float. In Isaiah 43: 1-4, God says, 'Fear Not'. Are people sinking in the midst of that major challenge? You will not sink! You will stay afloat. In that situation, Jesus is your resting place. He is your foundation so you cannot go under. You will overcome and testify of His goodness. You are coming out victorious.

Faith believes that so long as Jesus is in the boat, then whether or not any given storm is quelled, the church will not be finally or eternally swamped. The Christian Church may have more stormy weather than calm seas. The disciples needed rest, but they encountered a terrible storm.

As Christ's follower, be prepared for the storms that will surely come. There are times when we encounter situations in our lives that are like furious storms or others that defy all solutions. Our immediate reaction is often to try to sort things out on our own until we hit a thick wall. If we could only remember that Jesus is always in the boat and that He is able to calm the storm, we would hand it over and just rest in Him. We can then enjoy His peace even in the midst of the storm.

In the midst of the distress in our world, God's power is at work. The challenges of life may shake our faith, making us wonder if God cares about the affairs of the world. But he directs those affairs in ways that our limited minds find difficult, sometimes impossible to grasp. Our God reigns, even if we do not see it. Ask the Lord for the spiritual insight to understand his ways, his presence and action in our lives.

God loves us and cares for us always and will not let us perish. The Creator who calms the storm and chases the demons is the One whose authority no situation can defy unless He has allowed it for a purpose. When the storms rage, ask for the grace to remain in the boat with the Lord. Be prepared for the storms that will surely come. Do not surrender to the stress, but remain resilient and recover from setbacks. With faith in Christ, you can pray, trust, and move ahead. When a squall approaches, call on God and trust God.

Again, humans are endowed with the senses to live, survive and prosper. Abuse like gluttony, drunkenness, worldliness, corruption and sexual misconduct, bring disaster. Undisciplined sex drive begets fornication and adultery, pornography, homosexuals, paedophiles, rape, bestiality, divorce and other sexual depravity. Disapproval of homosexuality bears divine sanction in the destruction of Sodom from where sodomy got its derivation. Majority vote or plebiscite cannot nullify natural law and divine command. We pray that the Lord deliver us from the storm of moral degeneration that threatens the world (Genesis 19: 15 - 29).

Do we recognize the Lord's presence with us, especially when we experience the storms of life, the struggles, the suffering and the pain of rejection? Whenever we encounter trouble, the Lord is there with the same reassuring message: It is I, do not be afraid. The salvation of the just comes from the Lord. The good-news is that in Jesus, we see God in our boat and hear Him rebuking our storms. Jesus himself knew the pain of suffering and would always identify with us. The main lesson to those who suffer is that they are not alone in their pain, or storm, for Christ himself is close to all who suffer. In suffering such people should glimpse and see through faith that with Christ all is well. We are not alone. In the depth of our anguish, Christ offers us his loving presence.

The challenge is on the need for the people to turn to God even at the darkest moment. Even in our sufferings as Christians, there is hope. In saying this, we imply that suffering has a place in the Christian life but for us as Christians if the experience of suffering was essential in order to equip Christ for his ministry and mission then we should also expect it to be part of our experience. The point however is that Christ is always there to identify with us and grant us victory. There is no doubt that the world is going through storms; but there is hope. The hope lies in Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is our assurance in storms. The Lord will help you out as you yield to Him. With Jesus Christ in our boat, we can live above the storms.

On more practical point, this kind of storm is opposed to progress. It could be a form of opposition on the journey to marriage, in the path of ministerial progress, on the course of a career line or in life generally. The intervention of Jesus brings calmness into any storm.

A storm confronted the men upon whom the future of the church depended. It was not only a threat to their lives but also a threat to their destiny and assignment. Storms can challenge progress no matter the commitment put into the journey so far. The disciples had left everything to follow Jesus, yet a storm beat against their direction of progress.

It is very dangerous to be caught by a storm on the sea of life without Jesus in the boat. The advantage the disciples had was that they had a relationship with the Lord. So when the storm arose against them, the all-knowing Lord was quick to intervene. If the obedience of the disciples faced a storm on the sea, what is the hope of those on a journey of disobedience?

Divine presence is the secret of living above the storms of life. When Jesus is reigning in your life, against all odds, you will surely get to your destination in life. Are you willing to allow Christ to bring the power of His presence into the storms of your life just like the disciples did in John 6: 21? Your willingness to receive and allow Him is very important.

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