Have you ever thought you knew something, but when it came time to test that knowledge everything seemed to fly out of your mind? You might have prepared for a test in school, just for what you studied to not even appear in the questions. Or has anyone ever gone into an interview confident, but walked out thinking, what kind of questions were those? Knowledge and the application of that knowledge are not necessarily the same thing. Just because we think we know something, doesn’t mean we fully grasp it, or are prepared to have that knowledge tested.
Today we’re moving on to verse 35 of chapter 4in the book of Mark. For the last couple of weeks we have been talking about how Jesus has shifted his teaching, from focusing on who he is; which Mark has been showing us that Jesus is fully God and fully man, since the beginning of his Gospel. This shift moves to Jesus being our example, which includes Jesus having authority over all aspects of life, which we are to follow as his disciples. This main focus of Jesus’ teaching has changed because his disciples are beginning to learn. We saw this with the contrast of chapter 3 verse 9, and chapter 4 verse 1. And as the disciples develop, Jesus begins to prepare them for the future of God’s work.
Now last week we talked about how the four parables that Jesus told his disciples were to help them understand the Kingdom of God. The Four Soils parable told them to be good soil, not soil that had been hard packed against God, or shallow in it’s understanding, or full of things that would choke their faith, but rather be soil where the word of God can grow deep and produce great crop.
The next parable, the Lamp, was meant to tell the disciples, that what Jesus teaches them away from other people, they will need to share. And as they share, God will reveal more to them. This is the cycle of of a growing disciple. Good soil learns and grows, this is done by sharing, and by sharing God gives opportunity for more growth.
The third parable is that of the Growing Seed. This parable was to teach the disciples that their job is to share God’s word with others, which is the seed. It is God who does the growth in people’s lives. So, as disciples, we’re not to worry about the growth of the seed, because that’s not our job. But, we do get to experience the joy of the harvest, the joy of people coming to know Jesus.
Finally, the last parable is encouragement for the disciples. Because it doesn’t matter how charming, or how well you’re put together in sharing God’s word, because God can take the smallest work on our part, and make it grow into an amazing tree.
Taken all together, these four parables paint a picture of both God’s and our role in his kingdom. We are to be good soil where growth happens. That growth happens when we share what God reveals, and through that sharing, God will reveal more. But it is God that grows the word inside of people, so we no longer have to worry about that aspect. Instead we share and get the benefits of watching people come to a saving relationship with him. Finally, we also do not have to worry about how good we are when sharing, because it is God who can take our smallest work, and make it grand.
Understanding this will help us now understand what happens next. So let’s dive into Mark chapter 4 verse 35.
35 That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” 36 Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. 37 A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. 38 Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
39 He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
40 He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?”
41 They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”
This is the first of four stories that follow the parables we covered last week. Each one is used to show the disciples a deeper understanding of who Jesus is. So what’s going on here?
A storm comes up, the disciples are scared, Jesus is sleeping through it, the disciples, wake him up, Jesus calms the storm and asks why they are afraid, and then the disciples become terrified at the power of Jesus. But why? Why are they so taken back? The disciples have seen Jesus teach powerfully from the Scriptures. They have seen him heal people from everyday illnesses, to more complex maladies such as leprosy and paralysis.
So why do they seem more afraid of Jesus’ power, than of the storm? The reality is, they haven’t fully grasped who Jesus is yet. They might be learning deeper truths, they might be seeing amazing miracles, but the full grasp of who Jesus is continues to allude them.
And this can be us. We can think we know who Jesus, but we do not fully comprehend him. We can easily think we understand who God is. We can learn and learn and learn, and believe that we have all the pieces. That we have all the ins and outs to who he is, but the reality is, we don’t.
Listen to these passages from Scripture:
Psalm 147:5 says, “Great is our Lord and mighty in power; his understanding has no limit.”
Psalm 145:3 says, “Great is the Lord and most worthy of praise;
his greatness no one can fathom.”
Isaiah 40:28 says, “Do you not know? Have you not heard? The Lord is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom.”
To think that we have fully grasped the ungraspable God is to fall into the same folly that Job did. Again and again in the book of Job, the main character talks about his understanding. About how he understandings the stars, how he understands the earth, how he understands all that is around him. But listen to some of what God has to say in chapter 38, 4“Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation? Tell me, if you understand. 5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? 6 On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone—…16 Have you journeyed to the springs of the sea or walked in the recesses of the deep? 17 Have the gates of death been shown to you? Have you seen the gates of the deepest darkness? 18 Have you comprehended the vast expanses of the earth? Tell me, if you know all this…What is the way to the abode of light? And where does darkness reside? 20 Can you take them to their places? Do you know the paths to their dwellings? 21 Surely you know, for you were already born! You have lived so many years!”
God goes on like this for four chapters. Challenging Job on his understanding. And in the end Job has two things to say to God. One in chapter 40 and one in chapter 42.
Job says in chapter 40, “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth. 5 I spoke once, but I have no answer— twice, but I will say no more.”
And in chapter 42, “I know that you can do all things; no purpose of yours can be thwarted. 3 You asked, ‘Who is this that obscures my plans without knowledge?’ Surely I spoke of things I did not understand, things too wonderful for me to know. 4 “You said, ‘Listen now, and I will speak; I will question you, and you shall answer me.’ 5 My ears had heard of you but now my eyes have seen you. 6 Therefore I despise myself and repent in dust and ashes.”
It is so easy for us to think we understand God. Job and the disciples of Jesus both fell into the folly of thinking that they grasped the ungraspable. Job thought that he understood this world that God created, the disciples thought that they understood this Jesus they were following. But both thought wrong. Both had their knowledge tested and it came up short. And it’s so easy for us to do the same thing.
Instead, God wants us to realize that he is much more than our perception. Much more than the teachings he reveals to us. And all it takes for us to realize this, is to never believe the lie that we fully grasp God. You know that’s a funny saying. To grasp something literally means “To seize and hold by.” We have the tendency to try to grasp the God who is ungraspable. To seize him and to hold him. But the only grasping that is found in Scripture is in John 10:28-30, “28 I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; no one will snatch them out of my hand. 29 My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all; no one can snatch them out of my Father’s hand. 30 I and the Father are one.”
If we try to claim that we no longer have anything to learn of God, then we will be like the ones Jesus mentions in Matthew 13:14, that fulfill the prophecy in Isaiah 6:9,“You will be ever hearing but never understanding; you will be ever seeing but never perceiving.”
When Job came to the realization that God was far beyond his understanding, he wept, throwing dust and and ashes on himself. When the disciples came to this realization, they were terrified. What God calls from us when we realize this, is that we be humble before him. And instead of shrinking back from him, we are to embrace the unknowable God, by seeking to know him more.
Here is my challenge to you this week: In what area do you think you have God figured out? In finances? In action? In theology? In his word? My challenge is that you take the whole of chapter 4 and read it at least once a day for the next week, asking one simple question of God, “What new insight may I learn from you, so that I do not believe the lie that I know all of you.”
It’s easy to think we have grasped God, but what we really have grasped is an idol. The idol of self-conceit. This challenge is left a little opened for a purpose, that we would go to God to show us the storm of his unfathomable understanding, that we might be humbled, and know him more.
Now may the God of the storm, the One who calms and stirs it up, let the storm of his understanding strike against us. Not that we would be torn a part by it, but rather that we would know his power and be humbled before him. Seeking him today, more than we did yesterday. Amen.