On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 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. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” —Mark 4:35-41
The Second Way
There are two ways God can convince us we are saved by grace, rather than by doing works of the law. The first is to show us our inability to keep the law, revealing to us all the ways we constantly break the law, even when trying to do good works. The second way God can convince us we are saved by grace is to show us that he himself doesn’t act within the law (even while we are trying to do good works). Our passage today demonstrates God’s grace from this second way.
At first, you might be offended by the claim that God doesn’t act within the law; however, to require God to obey the law would be to make God lower than the law. It would make the law into a false god that the true God had to obey. If you’ve ever read through the Bible, whether you’ve realized it or not, you’ve encountered God acting outside the law. For instance, God threatened to kill Moses (Exodus 4); God saved the wicked pagan Ninevites, when he should have destroyed them (Jonah 4); God ruined the life of righteous Job (Job 2); and God killed dutiful Uzzah (1 Chronicles 13). Although we must obey the law, God is outside the law, because he’s the supreme law Giver.
There are two ways God can teach us we are saved by grace, the first is to show us our inability to keep the law, but the second is to show us that he himself doesn’t always act within the law—even when we humans do all the right things.
Yes, sometimes God sends a storm in the middle of fruitful ministry, potentially destroying it all.
God Sends the Storm
I don’t know about you, but I’ve always been uncomfortable after reading the story of the storm at sea. Jesus and the disciples just got done doing many days of ministry, helping hundreds of people nobody else would touch. A great crowd was following Jesus and the disciples, seeking to know God better and obey the teaching of Jesus. The disciples were low on food and rest, and just needed to get away to recuperate. They got into a boat, pushed off into the sea, and hoped to spend a quiet night resting and getting ready for more ministry. Jesus, like all the others, is exhausted, so he falls asleep. That’s when God sends the storm. The expression “no rest for the weary” is quite fitting here.
“God Owes Me”
According to our understanding of the law, if I do good works, then God should reward me, right? If I give myself to ministry, day after day, year after year, then God should “pay” me what I’ve earned. Now, we wouldn’t put it so crassly, but, let’s be honest, that’s what we’re really thinking.
Do you know what it truly means to have a sin nature? It doesn’t mean that we break the law, but it first means that we think keeping the law will save us. The deepest root of sin is the belief “God owes me.” When I read the Bible, God owes me. When I pray, God owes me. When I serve my neighbor, God owes me. When I keep my purity, God owes me. When I perform good works, God owes me. When I give my life to ministry, God owes me. This lethal mentality is so ingrained in our hearts that God sometimes needs to take drastic measures to convince us otherwise. He has to send a storm.
By acting outside our law, God shows us that he doesn’t play the “God owes me” game.
Here’s what the disciples must have been thinking on the boat, as it was being shredded by the storm and they were moments from being lost in the sea forever: “I’ve been helping lepers, loving tax collectors and sinners, and following around the Son of God, himself…so God sent a storm to kill me.”
Can you see? If that statement doesn’t make any sense to you, it’s because your mind has been conditioned by the law, not grace. Better, your mind approves of the law more than it approves of grace.
The story goes to great lengths to prove to us that Jesus is acting outside the normal rules we would expect. “But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion…” (Mark 4:38). It’s not just that God sent the storm to destroy their ministry, but it’s also that Jesus seems not to care at all! He’s the only one who’s fast asleep, while all the others are bailing water! “…And they woke him and said to him, ‘Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?’” (Mark 4:38). In other words, by sleeping while everyone else was awake, Jesus showed them a God who acts outside the “social” law. Jesus cared for strangers and lepers, but he wouldn’t even care for his closest friends!
God will go to extremes to break us of our addiction to the law. Sometimes, this is the only way to get us to accept grace. Grace is what saves us apart from the law, even when we fail to keep the law, grace will not fail to keep us.
His Voice Violated Natural Law
When they were finally able to wake up the sleeping Savior, Jesus, yet again, acted outside the law: he spoke to the storm and caused it to grow calm. With only his voice, he calmed the raging sea, violating the laws of nature and common knowledge. He proved he was not one who had to obey the law, but all laws had to obey him, even natural ones.
When the law rages and threatens to destroy you, remember that Jesus stands outside the law and is able to silence the storm with just his voice. We’re even told in verse 36 that Jesus came “just as he was” with no tricks or tools up his sleeves.
“And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (Mark 4:41). In other words, “Who is this that can act outside the law?”
To the Other Side
Finally, consider the opening verse of this story. “On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’” (Mark 4:35). This statement is not just for the first disciples, but it is for us, too. Jesus looks into our faces and says, “Let’s go across to the other side.” What other side? He wants to take us from the side of the law to the side of grace. But it won’t be an easy journey, because the shore of the law has a terrible tide that keeps pulling us back. If we’re honest, we feel safe with the law, but unsafe with grace. That’s why grace must begin with a storm. It must begin by taking us away from the familiarity and safety of a merit-based existence.
Jesus wants to take us to the other shore, from law to grace. In order to make this journey, we have to go through a storm. If you want to make this journey, you will be transformed, you will not come back the same. Jesus won’t be another predictable, likeable rule-giver, but he will be the Lord God enfleshed. At times, you will be terrified of him.
“He said to them, ‘Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?’” (Mark 4:40). Jesus is looking for faith in himself, not faith in the “God owes me” system. It’s terrifying to meet a Being who can operate outside the law, but it’s the only way he can save us, for we all have broken the law and deserve to come under its condemnation.
This passage is not about the popular, sentimental idea “God is with me in the storm,” but it’s about the God who sends the storm, in order to terrify us away from our reliance on good works to impress him, as well as, convince us of grace, which is our full acceptance from him apart from our doing works of the law.
There are two ways to convince us of grace. The first is to show us we cannot keep the law, and the second is to show us God will not.
- Be honest, has God ever done anything that didn’t make sense to you? That caused you to be afraid or get angry? If you could say anything to God, what would it be?
- How did you grow from the “storm experience” in question 1?
- What is the difference between humanity’s relationship to the law and God’s relationship to the law? Do you agree or disagree with the concept that God is obligated to obey all the commandments? Can God still be good if he is able to act outside the law?
- Examine yourself. Where are you holding on to the “God owes me” mentality?