“Don’t Panic” (John MacDiarmid)

Luke 8 v22-25

Notes on Sermon preached at PCF 8 May 2011

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“One day Jesus said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake.” So they got into a boat and set out. 23 As they sailed, he fell asleep. A squall came down on the lake, so that the boat was being swamped, and they were in great danger.

24 The disciples went and woke him, saying, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!”

He got up and rebuked the wind and the raging waters; the storm subsided, and all was calm. 25 “Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples.

In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.” “

This is one of the best loved stories in the life of Jesus and has been often used to comfort, encourage and console God’s people who are in distress, and going through the storms of life. It also carries with it an enormous challenge for those who would be 21st Century disciples of Jesus.

Some Initial thoughts….

1. Jesus intends that we should learn to trust him

Our fruitfulness as disciples of Jesus depends on us learning to trust Him, to rely on Him and to experience His power and His provision day by day

2. The storms of Life

This lesson can be learned in the classroom, through listening to sermons, studying books and learning from those who have walked the path before we have. However it is best learned in the day to day experiences of life. We should note that Jesus training of His men often took place in the experiences of life. It was so with the original disciples of Jesus and it will be so with us.

So today’s passage is about the challenge to learn to trust Jesus, and the opportunity to learn to do so in the day to day training program that God puts together for us.

So with that background let’s walk – or rather sail – through the passage together:

1. The Situation of Change

Jesus tells his disciples that it is time to go over to the other side of the lake. This was in the context of a most phenomenally successful ministry in which Jesus, seemingly had the world at his feet. The disciples could well be excused for thinking “why would we want to go over the lake”. At the other side of the lake was the region of the Gerasene’s, hostile to Galileans and with strange rumours of demon-possession – and anyway it would be a hazardous  trip to get there. Why not stay where we are?

The unpallatable fact is that to follow Jesus means that we will be consistently in a  situation of having to make change, in our moral life, in our personal situation – and in every way. The choice comes down to whether we want to be with Jesus, out of our comfort zone, or whether we want to stay in our comfort zone – but be without Jesus. To the credit of the disciples, they chose to get into the boat, They were heading into challenge, into danger and into  problems – but they were with Jesus.

2. The Storm on the Lake

Getting into the boat had been quite a step of faith. Were the disciples rather pleased with themselves? When we step out in faith and obey God, it is tempting to wait for the blessing which will surely follow. In fact, as often happens, the disciples obey Jesus…and things get worse!

Not only is the wind against them, but a furious squall suddenly appears from nowhere. And Jesus is nowhere to be seen! He is there – but he may as well not be, as far as the disciples can see!

We have to understand that whenever we step out in faith to obey Jesus we are likely to encounter opposition. Difficult consequences do not necessarily mean that we not obeying God (though they may be – compare Jonah’s storm!) They could mean that we are exactly where God wants us to be, and the difficult circumstances are, as in Job’s case, both our enemy contesting our stand, and our Lord allowing it to refine us.

So how do we deal with it? There is plenty that the disciples do wrong, as we will see later, but let’s notice here what they do right: they go to Jesus! We need to heed the advice of Lance Corporal Jones and “Don’t Panic” – but go to Jesus.

As the old hymn says:

What a friend we have in Jesus,

all our sins and griefs to bear!

What a privilege to carry

everything to God in prayer!

O what peace we often forfeit,

O what needless pain we bear,

all because we do not carry

everything to God in prayer.

Let’s spend our time in prayer to Jesus rather than panicking about the storm.

3. The Sovereignty of Jesus

We have seen the humanity of Jesus. He is tired and he needs to sleep. Now we see the divine side of the nature of Jesus. He is able to still the storm with a word. He has allowed it and he can stop it. Let’s remember this in all our situations. Jesus has allowed them and Jesus can stop them. What he needs from us is our co-operation in following Him. Do we really believe that Jesus is sovereign in all circumstances?

4. The Stern Rebuke

If you were to ask a number of Christians what attribute first comes into their head when they think about Jesus, they would probably mention his love, his mercy his graciousness. Not many would think about His sternness! Yet that is what is on display here.

There are no congratulations to the disciples for getting into the boat, or for turning to Him in their time of trouble. What is seen is a stern rebuke. The fact is, that these disciples should have been able to cope with the storm. But they didn’t: they panicked, and, it would seem, only went to Jesus as a last resort.

Maybe, as seasoned fishermen they felt they could cope with the storm themselves. They seem to have waited until the boat was practically sinking before they went to Jesus. And when they did, their prayer is hardly a prayer of faith! “Don’t you care if we drown”. The fact is that after all the disciples had seen and experienced of Jesus, they should have been able to do better than this. Jesus is not impressed. And he tells them so.

Jesus loves you far too much to accept less from you than you are able to give. If you are a one talent person, he only expects one talent. But if you are a ten talent person – as these man were – don’t you dare to give him any less!

5. The Shocked Disciples

We may well wonder what it was like to be in the presence of Jesus and to see him perform amazing signs and wonders. In this case we don’t need to wonder. We are told. They were amazed and terrified. Why? They had just been through a terrifying ordeal – but the fear of that faded into the background when they experienced the power of God. When you realise that you are in the presence of the one who holds the whole world in his hands, there has to be at least an element of fear. The rest of the journey  passed, probably not in joy and celebration and laughter, but in silence, as they realised the awesomeness of the one who was with them, and the fact that He had an absolute and unqualified hold on their lives. Do we know anything of that fear?

6. The Sure result

We read that the disciples reached their goal. They arrived at the other side of the lake. The journey – like ours often is – had been eventful, maybe humiliating, and terrifying. But they had learned that Jesus was to be trusted. That would stand them in good stead for what lay ahead of them.

This narrative of an event in life of Jesus and his disciples is often portrayed as a cuddly story, one that we would tell for our comfort. That is certainly true, but it is not the whole story. The story starts with the disciples being challenged – probably against their will – to move forward. It continues with a frightening ordeal on the lake, and it concludes with a terrifying encounter with the Lord of the universe.

The lesson? Jesus is Lord, and he can be trusted. Jesus, the Sovereign One, is Lord over all our circumstances. Let’s trust Him to work out His will in our lives.

John MacDiarmid

May 2011

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