Mark 4:33-5:1 | The Faithless Disciples and the Faithful Savior

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.Introduction:

Illustration:
What does a disciple of Jesus Christ look like? What should the Christian life look like? If you sat down with a follower of Jesus and asked them to share the story of their past week, what kind of stories would you expect to hear?
Maybe stories of waking up before the sun to pray and read Scripture, followed by one victory over sin after another?
Maybe stories of 40-day fasts and blocking Satan’s fiery darts again and again?
What about their home? What does their family look like?
Well-behaved children. A husband and wife who never disagree?
What about their finances? Do they always have provisions?
What about their health? Are they always well?
What about their faith? Does it never fail?
When you picture the life of a follower of Jesus Christ, how much does it look like your own life? Does it look like your life at all?
Illustration/Application
I grew up in a church culture where it seemed that the real Christian life was one of moving from one victory to another victory to another. Do you know what the problem with that is?
You always feel you’re the only one struggling to pray, to read you Bible, struggling against the same sin again. You feel like a fake Christian. So you pretend that everything is fine when you feel like you’re just rotting away on the inside.
And everyone feels that way, because no one feels like it’s safe to share what’s happening on the inside.
What is the normal Christian life like? Our answer is important because our expectations of the Christian life will significantly determine our perspective on our own lives.
Bridging The Gap:
In this story, Mark writes to correct expectations about the Christian life. Yes, this is a story of a storm and a boat, but more than that, it’s a story about discipleship
Why do I think that? Look with me down at verses 35-36.
Jesus says, “Let us go across to the other side.” Jesus calls his disciples.
And how does verse 36 start? “And leaving the crowd.”
Jesus called his disciples. The disciples left the crowds behind. We’ve seen language like this before. Look back with me at chapter 1:
Mark 1:17–18: Jesus said to them, “Follow me, and I will make you become fishers of men.” And immediately, they left their nets and followed him.
Jesus calls them, and they leave their nets behind.
Let’s keep reading
Mark 1:19–20: And going on a little farther, he saw James the son of Zebedee and John, his brother, who were in their boat mending the nets. And immediately, he called them, and they left their father Zebedee in the boat with the hired servants and followed him.
Jesus calls them, and they leave their family behind.
Our text continues this pattern. Jesus calls his disciples, and they leave behind the crowds.
This is a discipleship story. This story shows us what the disciples, who gave up everything to follow Jesus, experienced and what we can also expect to experience as disciples of Christ.
We see this way of reading this passage even in the early church.
The life of discipleship is not one of victories leading to more victories. Instead, it’s often accompanied by failure, doubts, questions, accusations, and barely making it through.
This story corrects our expectations of what it means to be a follower of Jesus. And it helps shift our focus toward our glorious Savior.
What does a disciple of Jesus Christ look like? Let’s dive into our text together and find out.
Our outline today is a simple one:
First, we’ll look at this fateful storm.
Second, we’ll consider the faithless disciples.
And lastly, we’ll conclude by considering the faithful Savior.

MP1: The Fateful Storm

Our story begins on the same day Jesus shared the parables with the crowds and the meaning of the parables with the disciples. And what a fantastic day that must have been! To have heard our Savior teaching and then been called aside to a private meeting to listen Jesus explain the meaning of his parables.
Illustration: One of the most amazing parts of my job is meeting my favorite writers in person. To have a meal the authors who have shaped my theology. More times than I can tell you, I’ve fallen asleep saying, “I can’t believe this is my job!”
Can you imagine sitting down with one of your heroes? Maybe a musician after the concert, an author after the book signing, or a movie star after the red carpet premiere.
Bridging The Gap: That’s what the disciples have here. To use Michael’s language, they are “insiders.” Everyone else heard the parables, but they heard the Master explain them.
Then after a long day, Jesus wanted to cross the sea of Galilee, likely for him to find a place to rest. This journey was about 8KMs long. Just a couple of hours. And since at least 4 of the disciples were fishermen, this trip was nothing out of the ordinary.
But, starting in verse 7, we see that a “great” windstorm unexpectedly comes onto the sea. Unexpected storms were normal on this sea, and even today, with modern equipment, many sailors choose not to sail on the sea of Galilee because of how swiftly these violent storms can come.
Illustration: We see something like this at the beginning of Krempt. When, in a matter of about a minute, we move from a nice day to heavy rain and hail. It’s easy to get caught in the middle—a strong, unexpected storm.
But there was something unique about this particular storm. It wasn’t just unexpected; it was also severe. The ESV calls it a “great windstorm.” In the original, we could even translate this as “a great hurricane.” At the end of verse 37, the boat was filling up with water. This severe storm came out of nowhere, and it threatened to end their lives.
Application:
What do we learn about the Christian life from this catastrophic storm? What is the normal Christian life like?
First, the normal Christian life is filled with unexpected, severe suffering. The normal Christian life is filled with unexpected, severe suffering.
Illustration:
In 1856, Charles Spurgeon was invited to speak to 10,000 people at the Surrey Gardens Music Hall, and he planned to preach the gospel of Christ to this large crowd. As Spurgeon approached the stage to begin his sermon, someone in the crowd yelled one single word, a single word that brought terror and panic to the entire crowd. The word he yelled was, “Fire!”
The crowd went crazy, and the doorways were far too small for all 10,000 people to leave simultaneously. People were pushing, shoving, and knocking one another over. One person there said this about the evening,
The people treading furiously over the dead and dying, tearing frantically at each other. Hundreds had their clothes torn from their backs in their endeavors to escape; masses of men and women were driven down and trodden over heedless of their cries and lamentations.
What a terrible scene. But when the evening was over, the most disturbing reality of all was this…there was never a fire. Rather, pickpockets and thieves pretended there was a fire so they could rob the people as they frantically left and stole all the money from the offering that evening.
And to make matters even worse, when Charles Spurgeon woke up the following day and looked at the newspaper only to find accusations against him, he asked someone to yell “fire” so that he could personally take all the money from the offering box.
In a moment, slander and misrepresentation ruined his reputation, and it seemed he would never recover.
Have you ever experienced something like this? When it seems like things are going well, in a moment, a severe trial comes.
The normal Christian life is filled with unexpected, severe suffering.
Peter, who himself was on the boat with Jesus that day, wrote this in 1 Peter 4:12
Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you.
Maybe even this scene at the sea was on his mind as he wrote these words. And Peter says Christian-suffering is not a strange thing, and we shouldn’t be surprised by it.
The normal Christian life is filled with unexpected, severe suffering.
And, like the disciples, when this suffering comes, it doesn’t come to destroy us but to reveal to us something about ourselves. That’s what we’ll see in the next part of the story. So far we’ve seen the fateful storm; now, let’s keep reading and consider the faithless disciples.

MP2: The Faithless Disciples

When the storm comes, the disciples run to Jesus, and do you see what they say to him in verse 38?
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”
When the storm came this is what came out: doubt in the goodness of Jesus, questioning the heart of Jesus, wondering if he even cares about their troubles, that they are coming close to death itself.
Certainly, these disciples wouldn’t have asked this question when they had one-on-one time with Jesus earlier.
Certainly, they wouldn’t have asked this question when Jesus called them his brothers at the end of chapter 3.
And Certainly, they wouldn’t have asked this question just 10 minutes earlier before the storm came and they were sailing on still waters.
But when the storm came and Jesus felt absent, that’s when the questions came.
Does he even care?
If Jesus cared about us, I know he would be right here alongside us.
If Jesus cared about us, he would be praying to his Father, asking for help.
If Jesus cared about us, he would be up here helping us get the water out of the boat.
No, he doesn’t care if we live or die.
This storm showed something the disciples would never have known without it. The storm showed the disciples that their faith was shallow, and their trust in Jesus could easily break.
Because faith isn’t proven in easy times but difficulties.
Faith isn’t proven in devotional experiences but devastating experiences.
Illustration:
When a dating couple gets married, they feel like their love is strong and could never break. They feel the flutters in their heart and breathless moments, and they think those experiences show their true love.
But those aren’t the moments that prove their love. When do you know if they love one another? When their love is tested.
When one of them explodes in anger.
When one of them reveals a hidden past.
When one of them misunderstands the other.
That is when you know if the love is real, deep in their hearts, or if it’s just a fleeting feeling.
The same is true with our faith.
For the disciples —
true faith wasn’t proven when Jesus was teaching them on the shore but when they felt his absence at sea.
It wasn’t proven when they saw and heard him and felt his presence. True faith is proven when it feels like he’s asleep, distant, and uncaring.
For us —
True faith isn’t proven when we’re experiencing intimacy with Jesus, but when we don’t feel his goodness and nearness.
That’s why James calls these difficulties, these storms, “tests of faith.” Do you remember that in James chapter 1?
James 1:2–4: Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.
Difficulties in life are tests of our faith.
Illustration:
I’ve been teaching Greek every morning in the Pastors College for the past year. And the students worked through a Greek textbook over 650 pages long. And after all that work, we just finished reading 1 John chapter 1 in class together [round of applause].
This past Friday, the students had their final exam, where they were tested over all the material they learned this year. That test they took, what was the purpose of it? It was to see what they knew, what they learned from the year, and where they still need to grow.
Application:
Do you see, that’s what James calls these difficulties. They are tests and exams for our faith. They show us where our faith is strong and where it is still fragile.
They show us that we still aren’t as mature as we thought. They aren’t meant to harm us or destroy our faith, but to remind us how weak our faith is.
Or, to say it another way, difficulties in life don’t create doubt in our hearts; they expose the doubts already there.
Illustration:
[ Take Out Coffee Cup ]
A few weeks ago, when we were drinking coffee after church, I had the coffee in my hands when one of the kids ran underneath me and bumped me, and the coffee fell out of the cup.
Why did the coffee come out of the cup?
We might say, “because someone bumped me,” but that’s not all the story. Let me ask it a different way:
Why did the coffee come out of the cup?
The coffee fell out of the cup because there was coffee inside the cup. And nothing would come out of the cup that was not already there.
What’s the difference between a mature Christian and a baby Christian? It’s not if they are bumped or not. It’s not how hard they are bumped. The difference is what is inside the cup.
Because if water was different inside the cup, when I was bumped, water would come out.
So the same is true when the storms of life come. That’s when what’s inside our hearts comes out.
And if faith is in our hearts, trust in Jesus comes out.
And if there are doubts in our hearts, questioning Jesus comes out.
This storm was like the final exam of the semester for the disciples. The final exam for their faith. And they failed it because the exam showed them how small their faith was.
Here’s the point: unexpected and severe trials aren’t the enemy of faith; they aren’t the enemy of Christian growth; they are the very means God uses to reveal where we need to grow.
What do we learn about the Christian life from these faithless disciples? What is the normal Christian life like?
The normal Christian life is filled with unexpected failures and reminders of how far we still have to grow.
The normal Christian life is filled with unexpected failures and reminders of how far we still have to grow.
Application:
What it means is that failure is not the enemy of growth. Failure is not the enemy of growth. Failure reveals where we still need to grow.
Without the storm and failure, the disciples would never have known how weak their faith was.
And the same is true for us as well.
Disciples of Jesus aren’t perfect; we are still sinners.
And the great enemy of growth isn’t failure; it’s pretending that we’re already perfect.
It’s pretending that we’re strong when we’re actually weak.
It’s pretending that we’re mature when we’re actually immature.
It’s pretending that we already have it figured out when we need prayer.
And often, the stronger Christian isn’t the one who looks good on the outside but admits that they have fallen again.
Application:
There is something wonderfully freeing about admitting that we need help. When John — who was on the boat with Jesus that day — when he talks about the marks of a true Christian, this is what he says.
1 John 1:8–10: If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.
John learned from his time with Jesus that the true Christian isn’t the one who presents himself as perfect to others but the one who confesses his neediness to others.
Application:
All of us here who have trusted in Christ for salvation we’ve already admitted the worst thing imaginable:
We’ve all already admitted that we’ve betrayed God so severely that the Son of God had to die for our sins.
We’ve all betrayed God so severely that the Son of God had to die for our sins.
And if that’s true, then we’ve already admitted the worst thing about us. And there is great freedom to be found in knowing that the normal Christian life is filled with unexpected failures and reminders of how far we still have to grow.
But that’s not the last thing that our text teaches us today. Let’s continue the story and look now at the Faithful Savior:

MP3: The Faithful Savior

The doubting disciples wake their Savior, and he calms the storm with the simple command, “Peace! Be still!” After he does, there is a “great calm.” The “great windstorm” turns into a “great calm.” But that great calm is in the sea alone, because, in verse 41, we see our third use of the word “great” in the text. The disciples are filled with “great fear,” not during the storm but after it. The moment of truest fear came when all was calm, and they realized that the man in the boat with them was far greater than they had thought.
Then the disciples ask a second question. Do you see it? When the disciples see Jesus in the fullness of his power, their question changes from
First, they asked, “do you care?”
Now they ask, “who is this man?”
The experience of the storm and the power of Jesus caused these disciples to realize that they didn’t know Jesus as well as they thought they did and that Jesus is far more excellent, glorious, and complex than they realized.
The purpose of the storm, then, was far different than the disciples thought. The purpose of the storm was not that they would perish but that they would be brought to Christ.
The purpose of the storm was to bring them into the presence of the Savior.
The purpose of the storm was to bring them into the presence of the Savior.
Application:
The same is true for every disciple of Jesus. The storms in our lives: the difficulties that come suddenly and feel like they are meant to destroy us, they come to crush us, they don’t come to punish us, they don’t come because we lack faith,
No, they come to lead us to Christ.
They come to make us feel our need for him.
They come to show us that we can’t cross the sea of this Christian life by ourselves; no, we need his strength for every moment of every day.
We need to go to him repeatedly in life's difficulties and say to him often, “I can’t do it on my own. I need your strength.”
Are you letting the storms of your life do that? Are you allowing the difficulties of life to lead you to Christ?
When difficulties come, what is your response? The great indicator of how we view the trials in our life is what we run to when they come, whom we tell, and where we seek relief and joy.
Do you find your heart discouraged at the seemingly endless trials that have come your way?
Do you find yourself discontent, longing for an easier life?
Do you find yourself frustrated and angry at others or angry at God?
My friends, there is, in Christ, the greatest comfort, the greatest joys, and the greatest mercies.
The longings of our hearts that our trials reveal are meant to show us our great need for Jesus. They are our soul's thirst for Christ.
Like when our stomaches ache in need of food, so our souls ache in need of Christ.
The problem is not the difficulties in our lives; the problem is that we haven’t learned to recognize that those longings are hunger pains for Jesus himself. We feel hungry but don’t go to the bread of life for food.
The waves and the winds were meant to show the disciples their need for Jesus and to send them running to Jesus.
Charles Spurgeon famously said, “I have learned to kiss the wave that throws me against the Rock of Ages.”
That doesn’t mean that we think the evil in our lives is good or that Christians sadistically desire difficulties.
But it does mean that when human eyes see waves and winds intended to destroy me, the eyes of faith see those same waves as highways to the heart of Jesus.
When the disciples went to Christ, they saw him in his power, and after he calmed it, their questions changed. It changed from “do you care” to “who is this man in the boat?”
The same happens to us when we see the storms of life, not as a challenge to be overcome but as a means of seeing Christ. And the great point of the story is not the storm; it’s not the disciples; it’s Jesus himself. The great application of this text is to see what the disciples saw and to feel what the disciples felt.
Because number three,
The normal Christian life is filled with unexpected awarenesses of how little we know about Jesus and invitations to know him better.
The normal Christian life is filled with unexpected awarenesses of how little we know about Jesus and invitations to know him better.
That’s what the disciples experienced in their suffering, and that’s what our text calls us to experience in our suffering. To say this man, Jesus is much more excellent than we thought.
This question will drive the rest of Mark’s Gospel until the declaration of the Centurion, “Truly this man was the Son of God.” That’s the ultimate answer to the disciple’s question, but more specifically to this text, I think there are two characteristics of Jesus that we can draw from this text, two attributes of Christ that draw us close to his heart.
First his perfect patience.
Exp:
Do you see the patience of Jesus on display here? Look back at the end of verse 38. After the disciples woke him up, they accused him of not caring for them. It’s a claim that goes beyond the actions of Jesus and attacks his heart.
“You don’t care about us.” “You don’t care if we live or die.”
To be woken up and immediately accused would severely test my patience. But do you see how Jesus responds? Look at verse 39,
Mark 4:39: And he awoke and rebuked...
How would you expect that sentence to end? Whom do you expect him to rebuke? I’d expect him to rebuke the disciples. Wouldn’t you?
I’d expect him to say, “how can you doubt my compassion?”
I’d expect him to say, “don’t you remember when I took you aside and taught you personally?” “don’t you remember when I chose you to be my disciple?” “How dare you doubt me?”
But how does that sentence end?
Mark 4:39: And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.
Jesus didn’t rebuke the disciples; he condemned the sea. He wakes up and says nothing to the disciples until after the storm is calmed.
And after he calms the storm, and only after he calms the storm, does Jesus turn and speak to his disciples. And when he does speak, he asks them questions.
“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
What do you think Jesus’ tone is when he says these words? We can easily read this as if Jesus is condemning the disciples as if he’s annoyed with the disciples. But I don’t think that’s how Christ is speaking here. Why is that?
Look at verse 41. The disciples are filled with “great fear,” not because Jesus scolded them, like an angry parent. No, the great fear they feel is awe at the power of Jesus.
So I think we read these words not as accusations, not as rebukes, not as deriding and chiding. No, these are the words of the gentle Savior who deeply cares for his people. And when he says these words to his disciples, it’s not to condemn them but to call them deeper faith and fellowship with himself. He’s not condemning their lack of faith but revealing where they can grow in deeper faith.
App:
Do you see here the perfect patience of our Savior? He’s gentle with his failing disciples. And he is the same towards us as well.
Have you ever felt like the disciples did here? While suffering, wonder if Jesus sees if Jesus cares. Or maybe that wondering has changed even to accusing; it’s changed from “does he care” to “I know he doesn’t care.”
Have you ever questioned God's heart and his love and care for you? I know I have. I’ve had moments of doubts when life is hard, the suffering won’t lift, and it feels like the waves of the sea will destroy me.
App:
My friends, behold the patience of Christ towards his disciples and towards us as well. Even as we look at their question once again, we can see its irony.
“Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing.”
Do you see the irony? Oh, surely he cares that they are perishing in the storm. How do I know? Because beyond this storm on the sea, there was another storm that the disciples were perishing in, a storm that all humanity was perishing in, the storm of divine justice and divine wrath against sin.
Did Jesus care that they were perishing? Must certainly he did. How do I know? Because the very reason he came to earth was precisely to ensure that his disciples would not be swept up in the storm of divine wrath and perish for eternity.
And on the cross, as Jesus took the sins for all who would trust in him, he calmed the storm of God’s righteous wrath against sin so that we would never perish but have eternal life.
Does Jesus care about our suffering? Most certainly, he does! If he cared enough to die for our sins, then I know that he cares for us in the struggles and pains of daily life.
And even in our accusations against him, he still cares. Even when we accuse him of not caring at all, he still cares. In those moments of weak faith, he draws more near to us.
How do I know this? Look back at the text with me. When did Jesus calm the storm? Did he do it when the disciples had enough faith? No. He did it when they had no faith at all.
Certainly, Jesus calls his disciples to have a deeper faith in him in verse 40, but he didn’t need the disciple’s faith to care for them, and he doesn’t need our faith to care for us.
And actually, the great patience of Christ is most fully on display in our moments of deepest doubts and fears. And in those moments, he is still patient with us, just as he was with his disciples.
Or perhaps you feel you’ve run so far in your sin and doubt that Jesus has no patience left for you.
Dear Christian. If this is you, let me remind you of Jesus’ further patience towards his disciples.
He was patient with them in all their doubts.
He was patient with them in all their questions.
He was patient with them in all their confusion.
And he was even patient with them when, in his moment of deepest trial, they uncaringly slept as he prayed in the garden and sweat drops of blood.
And he was even patient when they ran away and denied him at the moment of his arrest.
And he was even patient with them after his resurrection when they didn’t believe it was truly him.
And today, dear friend, that patience has still not worn out, for, as the author to the Hebrews reminds us,
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” -Hebrews 13:8
He is perfectly patient yesterday and today and forever, and his care and compassion never come to an end.
But that’s not all this text would show us of our Lord this morning. First, we’ve seen his perfect patience. Now, look with me at his perfect power.
Second his perfect power.
It is this characteristic of Jesus that especially strikes the disciples at the end of this story,
“Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
For a first-century Jew, there was no mistaking what this miracle meant.
No mere prophet could command nature.
Only one person could do a miracle like this—God himself.
There are echoes here of the creation story when God made the world out of the chaotic waters.
Echoes of the Noah story, when God caused the rains to calm, and the water receded.
And there are echoes of the Exodus story when God caused the Nile river to split in two.
There was no mistaking it: this miracle which shows the authority and power of Jesus, can mean only one thing: he is God incarnate.
And the point is made even more evident when we look back at how he calmed the storm. Do you see it in verse 39? He doesn’t pray for God to calm the storm. No, he calms the storm with the very words of his mouth.
Only God has the authority to rebuke the waves and the winds. And only God has the power actually to calm the seas.
Exp/App:
And when Jesus uses this great power. How does he use it? For the good of his people. His deep care and compassion led him to calm the storm that threatened to kill his disciples.
This miracle of Jesus, showing his power, is intended to help us look beyond the miracle to a day in the future when he will take all the unruly forces of nature that have been subjected to the curse and calm them for good.
There’s even a hint of that in this text in Jesus’ words in verse 39. We could translate it like this, “be stilled, and stay stilled.”
There’s a foreshadowing of a day when he will forever silence all storms. The day is coming when Jesus will use his great power to say finally and climactically, “peace! be still,” and this world will know no more storms, floods, drought, or famine anymore.
The day is coming when this earth will be healed, and all things are made right again.
App:
This truth of the power of Jesus serves to comfort us greatly. Because suffering has an expiration date, and whatever trial you’re presently going through, whatever storm feels like it’s shaking you — I can’t promise you that Jesus will calm it tomorrow, or next week or next year, but I can promise you this — the day is coming when Jesus returns and calms all your storms for good, never to return.
He is coming back, and he will make all things new. And no matter how powerful and strong the storms in our lives may be, they can not match the great and awesome power of Jesus, and one day they will be quieted forever.
App:
This great power of Jesus is good news because it ensures that no difficulty will ultimately sink us. The waves may be strong, but our Lord holds us in them.
And do you see how this story ends? In chapter 5, verse 1? It’s a small detail, and you might not notice it.
“They came to the other side of the sea.”
Jesus is all-powerful. And how does he use his power?
He uses his power to ensure that every one of his disciples makes it across the stormy sea of life.
He uses his power to ensure that not a single member of his blood-bought church drowns at sea, but every one of them crosses it safely.
The winds may blow. The waves may threaten to sink us, but we have a Savior who is more powerful than them all. And he has said to us the same thing he said to his disciples in verse 35:
“Let us go across to the other side.”
And his power ensures us that we will, and one day, when this short life is over, we will look at one another through tears of amazement and we will say, “He did it! He brought us safe to shore!”
And we will see that every storm he brought into our lives was for a good purpose, and we will recount how we were kept by his powerful, sovereign hand through it all.

Conclusion: (maybe?…Feel it out)

That’s the perspective on our lives this text calls us to have. It calls us to have eyes of faith when the waves and winds would fill us with fear and doubts. It calls us for fresh faith, and a fresh perspective on the “normal” Christian life.
What is the normal Christian life like?
It’s filled with
Unexpected, severe suffering.
Unexpected failures and reminders of how far we still have to grow.
And unexpected unexpected awarenesses of how little we know about Jesus and invitations to know him better.
Or, to make it easier, we could say it like this…the normal Christian life is filled with
Severe Suffering
A Sinful Self
and A Sweet Savior
eThat’s what the normal Christian life is like.
Let’s pray.
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