In Mark 4:35-41, Jesus was sleeping through a storm that threatened to sink the boat He and his disciples were taking across the Sea of Galilee. In what likely rivaled His most dramatic of miracles, Jesus simply stood up and said to the tempest, “Peace! Be still.” Instantly, all was calm. The raging fear of certain death plaguing the disciples caused by that storm changed to marvel, awe, and fear of the One with authority to still the raging weather with only His voice. The whole passage fascinates me, but I have found myself pondering the similarities between the disciples lack of faith in the presence of Jesus to my own far-too-often weak kneed doubting of Jesus’ power and authority today. While digging into that text, I ran across a sermon preached on these same verses 100 years ago. Charles Jefferson, pastor of Broadway Tabernacle in New York City uttered these eerily prophetic yet deeply comforting words on the heels of the first World War.
This scene…is interesting because it is a picture of our own situation. The sea is rough and the waves are beating into the boat, and God seems to be asleep. All through the World War He seemed to be asleep. He allowed ten million boys to be butchered and never opened His eyes. He allowed hundreds of thousands of women to starve to death and tens of thousands of children to be blown to pieces by pitless guns and did not seem to know what was going on. He seems to be asleep yet. It looks as though He were asleep in Asia, for millions of people are starving to death and mothers are eating the emaciated bodies of their dead children.
He seems to be asleep in England, for in England there are over a million men out of work. They have been out of work for years. There is now no work for them to do. The tragedy of poverty has saddened the eyes of the women and you can see the marks of it on the faces of little children, and God does nothing. He seems to be asleep in the United States for our largest American cities are the victims of bandits, some of them low-downs, vulgar thugs and some of them officials in high positions. God seems to be asleep. The waves are beating into the boat.
The criticism against the church is ferocious. The opposition to Christianity is fierce. The attack on religion is violent and venomous…Many Christians are alarmed. Some of them are almost indignant that Christ should allow the church to get into such a predicament. They ought to listen for a voice coming out of the storm, “How is it that you have no faith?…Don’t you know that in every generation brilliant men have written against the church, but the boat has not gone down?” There is no cause for alarm. The waves are beating into the boat, but the boat is not going down. It is not going down because Jesus is in the boat!
20 Centuries of Great Preaching, vol. 7 (Waco: TX, 1976), p. 67-68.
In our day, as we lament the political turmoil of the coming elections, we may be tempted to think that Jesus is asleep and the boat is sinking. As bathrooms become battlegrounds for liberal rights risking the innocence of our wives, mothers, and children, we may be tempted to think that Jesus is resting somewhere unaware. As death grips the most innocent of our day through the death-plague of abortion, we may think that the boat is about to go down. As our Christian brothers and sisters face persecution and death under the Muslim regime in numerous parts of the world, we may be tempted to believe that the ship is going under while Jesus keeps His eyes shut. As cancer ravages the body of a loved one and your prayers seem to bounce off the ceiling, you may think Jesus has not wakened to your plight and you are about to drown. But oh beloved, let me remind you and me! Let me encourage you and me! Let me exhort you and me! In the words of Charles Jefferson 100 years ago, “The ship is not going down because Jesus is in the boat!”