Peace, Be Still

Peace, Be Still

Mark 4:31-35

Dr. Jim Denison

A friend sent me these actual newspaper headlines: “Include your children when baking cookies”; “Iraqi head seeks arms”; “Miners refuse to work after death”; If strike isn’t settled quickly, it may last a while”; “Typhoon rips through cemetery; hundreds dead”; “Kids make nutritious snacks”; and most insightful of all, “War dims hope for peace.” It usually does.

We need peace in our hectic lives.

Wendy’s now averages 150.3 seconds between the time you place your order and you receive your food. McDonald’s is 16.7 seconds behind. But McDonalds will soon offer scanners which work with toll road devices; they will enable drivers to pick up food without paying, and add the charge to our monthly toll road bill.

A new pill is being tested which appears to nullify the effects of sleep deprivation, so we can work more and sleep less. Its inventors expect to make millions.

There is good news for our hectic world. Tuesday’s news reported this fact: scientists have determined that our earth is spinning more slowly with each passing day. In merely 200 million years, a day will have 25 hours in it; in 400 million years, we’ll have 26 hours in a day. Just think what you’ll be able to do with the added time.

In the meanwhile, we need peace for our hectic and troubled hearts.

And of course we need peace in our war-torn world. The conflicts in Afghanistan and the Middle East fill the front pages of our daily papers, and our hearts. Threats of further terrorism are repeated every week. Our first-ever Secretary for Homeland Defense is busy. We need peace.

And so, of all Isaiah’s promises about the baby in Bethlehem, perhaps the one most welcome to us today is that he will be the “Prince of Peace.” Literally, the “Prince who brings Peace” wherever he goes. Let’s watch Jesus prove Isaiah right, and learn how to find his peace where we need it most.

Hear him speak peace

The episode begins safely enough: “That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side'” (v. 35). Note that Jesus has a will for the evening, as well as the daytime, for every hour of our lives. And note that these men are in that will when they sail across the Sea, into the storm they don’t know is coming.

The Sea of Galilee sits 682 feet below sea level, like a bowl at the bottom of the rugged hills and craggy mountains which surround it on all sides. So when weather fronts blow through the area, their gusts are magnified by these mountains like a wind tunnel, and storm down from their heights onto the unsuspecting sea below without warning.

This is just the crisis here: “A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped” (v. 37). Mark’s word is Greek for a terrible storm or even a hurricane. Matthew’s account uses the Greek word for an earthquake—it was that terrifying on these waves.

The waves are literally “attacking” the ship. These seasoned, veteran sailors know a dangerous storm when they’re in one—and they’re in one now.

And Jesus is asleep through it all. The incarnate Lord was fully human. The Bible says that he was tired at Jacob’s well (John 4:6) and thirsty on the cross (John 19:28). He was tired here.

So as he slept, they rowed. They fought the winds, braved the seas. Four of them were professional fishermen and sailors, and all knew boats and the Sea of Galilee. But finally, when all hope was lost, they cried out to Jesus for help.

He arose immediately. He “rebuked the wind” which was causing this storm. Then he shouted to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” In the King James, “Peace, be still.” In the Greek, “Shut up! Put a muzzle on and keep it on!”

Instantly, obediently, “the wind died down and it was completely calm” (v. 39). Like a disobedient puppy cowering before his master. The disciples said, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (v. 41). They said it in amazement. As would we.

Out of all this event can say to our storm-tossed souls and world, I suggest this one principle: we should go to Jesus first. Not last. Not after we’ve rowed our hardest and tried our best and fought as long as we can. If we want peace, we must go to him first. Let’s discuss that principle for a moment.

Admit you need Jesus

Why didn’t they call on Jesus first? Why don’t we?

Think about your own experience with storms—at home, at school, at work, across your day. What is your first response? Do you pray first, or last? Do you decide what to do, then ask God to bless your decision if you turn to him at all? Do you fix the problem as best you can, before calling on God if you can’t?

That’s my nature—performance driven, a little perfectionistic, do whatever it takes, never give up. I understand these disciples perfectly. I’ve rowed my boat against storms just as much as did they. Haven’t you?

Why don’t we turn to Jesus when the storm first attacks? Some of us don’t think we need to. We think our boat is big enough, the storm small enough, our abilities good enough, our training and experience all that’s needed. Like these veteran sailors, we’ve been through storms on our lake before, and we know how to handle our boats. We like rowing. We don’t need help. We want to do this ourselves. We think we can.

But no boat, no ability, no money, no possession, no resource is enough to live at peace without God. That’s just how he made the world, and us.

Some of us have given up on peace. We accept storms as a way of life. We’ve been through so many downpours, so many hurricanes that we’ve given up on peace in our hearts or homes. We’re accustomed to a life filled with stress and strife, hectic hurry and perennial pressure.