Who Then Is This? (Mark 4:35–5:20)

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Introduction

I invite you to turn with me once again to the Gospel of Mark. We will continue our study of this Gospel today by looking at Mark 4:35–5:20. Please turn there with me now.

So far we have seen Jesus demonstrate his authority over illness and disease, his authority to forgive sin, his authority over the law, the Sabbath, and religious tradition, his authority in preaching and teaching, his authority to call people to follow him, and his authority over Satan and his demonic minions. And in the second part of today’s passage we will see Jesus once again demonstrate his authority over the demonic realm through the telling of another very well known story.

But in the first part of today’s passage Jesus will demonstrate his authority in a new way. In a way no more or no less amazing than the others, but in a new way nonetheless. Today we will see Jesus’ authority over the laws of nature. And it is my opinion that this is a real turning point for his disciples. We will see in this passage that after watching the wind and sea obey Jesus, his disciples really begin to ask serious questions about who this man is.

Remember I have said from the beginning of this series, Mark wants to answer the question, “Who is Jesus?” And today he shows us another facet of Jesus in an attempt to give us a more complete picture. So let’s fill in that picture a little more today by looking at our Bibles this morning. Follow along with me as I read Mark 4:35–5:20.

35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 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?” 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. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 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?” 1 They came to the other side of the sea, to the country of the Gerasenes. 2 And when Jesus had stepped out of the boat, immediately there met him out of the tombs a man with an unclean spirit. 3 He lived among the tombs. And no one could bind him anymore, not even with a chain, 4 for he had often been bound with shackles and chains, but he wrenched the chains apart, and he broke the shackles in pieces. No one had the strength to subdue him. 5 Night and day among the tombs and on the mountains he was always crying out and cutting himself with stones. 6 And when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and fell down before him. 7 And crying out with a loud voice, he said, “What have you to do with me, Jesus, Son of the Most High God? I adjure you by God, do not torment me.” 8 For he was saying to him, “Come out of the man, you unclean spirit!” 9 And Jesus asked him, “What is your name?” He replied, “My name is Legion, for we are many.” 10 And he begged him earnestly not to send them out of the country. 11 Now a great herd of pigs was feeding there on the hillside, 12 and they begged him, saying, “Send us to the pigs; let us enter them.” 13 So he gave them permission. And the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs; and the herd, numbering about two thousand, rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned in the sea. 14 The herdsmen fled and told it in the city and in the country. And people came to see what it was that had happened. 15 And they came to Jesus and saw the demon-possessed man, the one who had had the legion, sitting there, clothed and in his right mind, and they were afraid. 16 And those who had seen it described to them what had happened to the demon-possessed man and to the pigs. 17 And they began to beg Jesus to depart from their region. 18 As he was getting into the boat, the man who had been possessed with demons begged him that he might be with him. 19 And he did not permit him but said to him, “Go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you.” 20 And he went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. (Mark 4:35–5:20 ESV)

We are getting to a point in Mark’s Gospel where we have already covered a great deal of Jesus’ ministry and made note of the types of things he was doing. And because I am trying to paint a complete picture of Jesus for us, I am being careful not to over emphasize certain parts of his life to the exclusion of others. And though the story about Jesus and the demon possessed man in Mark 4 is a real good one, today I am going to focus mainly on him calming the sea. I am doing this primarily because we have already seen Jesus demonstrate his authority over demons a few times in this series and I want to emphasize some new things we learn about Jesus in the first part of our passage for today.

But before we leave it all together, let me say just a few things about the story in Mark 5:1–20. First of all, this story of Jesus exorcising demons ratchets it up a notch. To demonstrate the scope of Jesus’ authority and the depth of his power over the demonic realm, Mark includes this story of the confrontation between Jesus, and not just one demon, but a whole legion of demons. And Mark shows us just how powerless the demons are as Jesus effortlessly sends them out of the man into a herd of pigs who run off a cliff and perish in the sea. Mark wants us to see that thousands of demons gathered together are no match for the power and authority of Jesus.

Second, notice the response of the man who has been liberated from the control of these demons. In verse 18 we see that as Jesus was getting in his boat to depart from that area, “the man who had been possessed with demons begged [Jesus] that he might be with him.” And though Jesus denied his request and told him instead to “go home to your friends and tell them how much the Lord has done for you,” the man was obedient to Jesus’ request to tell others about him. Look at what he did in verse 20, “He went away and began to proclaim in the Decapolis how much Jesus had done for him, and everyone marveled. Friends, a Decapolis was a group of ten cities. And so that means this man took the story of what happened to him when he encountered Jesus to ten different cities. That is what the Gospel of Mark presents to us as an appropriate response to the Gospel.

This is such a great story, I hate to cut it short, but as I said, we have already seen Jesus demonstrate his authority over demonic powers and so I want to focus this morning on the story that precedes this one in chapter 4 verses 35–41. So let’s shift our attention there now.

The Scene

This story opens up in verse 35 with Mark saying, “On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, ‘Let us go across to the other side.’” If you remember from last week, Jesus was surrounded by a crowd as he preached from a boat on the Sea of Galilee. When Mark says, “On that day,” this is the day he is referring to. When Jesus finished preaching that day, he said to his disciples, “Let’s go across to the other side of the sea” (which as you know was really more like a lake).

And so, without even going back to shore it seems, his disciples get in their boats and retrieve Jesus from his floating pulpit and head for the other side. And apparently there were more than just the Twelve following him because Mark points out in verse 36 that there were other boats with him as well. Most scholars believe that the boats Jesus and his followers were using could hold about 15 people. So the fact that there were other boats with him tells us that more than the Twelve were there.

So that is the scene. Jesus and the Twelve along with other followers in boats heading eastward on the Sea of Galilee. We don’t know why Jesus wanted to head to the other side, but we can presume that he was interested in continuing his preaching ministry in new places.

Now before moving on I want to point out how detailed Mark is being in his retelling of this story. I don’t think I have mentioned it before, but most scholars believe Mark received his information from the Apostle Peter and is writing his Gospel according to what Peter told him. And in this story Mark is providing us with lots of details which presumably came from Peter himself. So many details that some do not even seem necessary.

For example, why does Mark tell us in verse 36 that the disciples took Jesus with them in the boat, just as he was? I am not even sure exactly what that means. It is an extra detail that seems unnecessary at first glance. And why does he tell us that other boats were with him? Why is it necessary to say “on that day” and “when evening came”? And these details continue. In verse 38 Mark tells us not only that Jesus was asleep, but that he was in the stern asleep on a cushion. Why all the details?

I think the details are here to make clear this is a real historical event. It happened on a real day, in the evening, with other people around, in real boats, with Jesus sleeping on a real cushion. Mark wants us to know this is real. It was a real storm with real waves and real water about to sink a real boat and kill real people who were really afraid. Mark wants his readers to conclude, that when Jesus orders the storm to stop, that is real too. This is not a myth. It is not simply a story. It was a real, historical event. Here are all the details… down to the very last one.

And so, in verse 37, the excitement starts to build. In this verse Mark tells us that “a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.” The Sea of Galilee was and is known for these types of storms. One commentator describes it like this:

The Sea of Galilee lies nearly seven hundred feet below sea level in a basin surrounded by hills and mountains that are especially precipitous on the east side. Thirty miles to the northeast Mt. Hermon rises to 9,200 feet above sea level. The interchange between cold upper air from Mt. Hermon and warm air rising from the Sea of Galilee produces tempestuous weather conditions for which the lake is famed (James R. Edwards, The Gospel According to Mark, PNTC, 148–149).

And these boats full of Jesus and his followers have encountered these tempestuous weather conditions. The boat is being battered by the wind and the waves. And the waves are spilling over the sides of the boats filling them with water. And all the while, Jesus was lying in the stern of the boat asleep on a cushion. In contrast to Jesus, the disciples are clamoring about the boat in fear. And they run to Jesus and ask, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”

Now, how ridiculous is that question?!?! Jesus has come from Heaven on a divine rescue mission with the express purpose of keeping these men from perishing. A rescue mission that will require him to perish so that they will not. And yet they are asking him whether or not he cares about them perishing. But, while the disciples are to be rebuked on the one hand with regard to their fear and their lack of faith, they are to be commended on the other hand because when the storm got rough and things were out of their control, what did they do? They ran to Jesus. A good example for us today.

Jesus is God

But what Jesus does next is amazing. He rises up from his sleeping position. And Mark says he “rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be Still!’” And amazingly the wind ceased, and there was a great calm on the sea. And this my friends is a demonstration of Jesus’ authority over the laws of nature.

But it also demonstrates something more important about Jesus. Friends, the bottom line is that wind and waves do not stop for the words of someone who is not God. In the beginning God gathered the waters into their appropriate place and made dry land appear (Genesis 1:9). In Jonah, God appointed a great storm on the sea and stopped the great storm once Jonah had been thrown into the sea (Jonah 1:4; 1:15–16). In Psalm 33:7 the psalmist tells us that the LORD gathers the waters of the sea as a heap and puts the deeps in storehouses (Psalms 33:7). In Psalm 107:25, the LORD is presented much like he was in Jonah, as commanding and raising up a storm on the sea which lifted up the waves of the sea. And then, a few verses later, in verse 29, the LORD is said to have “made the storm to be still and the waves of the sea to hush.”

And here in Mark 4:39, Jesus does the same thing. And the men filled with great fear, no longer fear of the storm, no longer in fear of nature and its powers, but in fear of something beyond nature, something supernatural, ask the question, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” They do not yet know the answer to that question… Not completely. But we know. And they will know too, but only after the resurrection. It is only after seeing the resurrected Jesus that the Apostle Thomas falls to his knees before him and cries out “My Lord and My God!” It is only after Jesus has been killed on the cross and raised from the dead that his disciples realize that Jesus truly was God in the Flesh. And they will take this good news and spread it all over the world.

Jesus is Man

But brothers and sisters, the news about Jesus only gets better. Because we see in in this story that Jesus was not only God, but that he is also human. Mark sets both of these realities right side by side for us in this story. Jesus proves his divinity by commanding the storm to stop with the words of his mouth. And he proves his humanity by doing something very human… sleeping on a cushion after a long day of work.

Now, why is it good news that Jesus was human? Does that really matter? Couldn’t he just have come to earth as God and wouldn’t that have been good enough? Well, No. It is just as necessary for Jesus to be human as it is for him to be God. Let me explain to you why this is so.

First of all, when Jesus came to earth he came to earth as the second Adam. And he came to obey where Adam had failed. The Apostle Paul speaks about this in Romans 5:18–19 where he says:

18 Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. (Romans 5:18–19 ESV)

And in 1 Corinthians 15:45 and 47 Paul says:

45 Thus it is written, “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit … 47 The first man was from the earth, a man of dust; the second man is from heaven. (1 Corinthians 15:45, 47 ESV)

One commentator explains it like this: “Jesus had to be a man in order to be our representative and obey in our place” (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology, 540). Adam was the first representative for humanity and he failed. Jesus was the second Adam and he succeeded.

So first of all, Jesus is our representative before God and, to stand in our place as our representative he had to be fully man. And he had to be a man who was totally obedient. And praise the Lord, he was. Obedient to the point of death on a cross.

And secondly, Jesus had to be a man in order to serve as a substitutionary sacrifice for us. Very simply, if Jesus had not come to this earth as a man, his death in our place could not have been accepted by God as a substitute for ours. As Hebrews, 2:14–15 says:

“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.” (Hebrews, 2:14–15 ESV)

And in verse 17:

“Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” (Hebrews, 2:17 ESV)

In other words, unless Christ was and is fully man, he could not have died a substitutionary death in our place on the cross.

And the third reason Jesus had to be human was that we needed a mediator between us and God. We needed someone to come and represent God to us. And we needed someone to come who could represent us to God. We needed a mediator. And that mediator needed to be both God and man. And 1 Timothy 2:5 tells us who that mediator is. Paul writes: For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. Who is the mediator? The MAN Christ Jesus.

One of the first great heresies within the church was not that Jesus wasn’t God, but that Jesus wasn’t man. Those closest to the events of Jesus’ life were not questioning his divinity… they knew the things Jesus was doing could only be done by God…. what they were questioning, what they were struggling with, is how to join together divinity and humanity. And the way some tried to solve this problem was by saying, “Jesus wasn’t human, he just appeared to be.” But as we have just seen, that raises all sorts of problems. If Jesus wasn’t fully God and fully man, if Jesus wasn’t God in the flesh… GOD in the FLESH… God and flesh together, then we are left without a mediator between God and man. We are left without someone who can stand between the divine and the human. We are left without a substitutionary sacrifice. We are left without a Second Adam who can represent us before God. If we deny the humanity of Jesus, the hope of the gospel falls apart.

Conclusion

And so, as we have seen, all in the same story, Jesus demonstrates his humanity through sleeping and his divinity by commanding the storm to cease. One minute he is asleep like an exhausted man after a long day of work. And the next minute he is ordering the wind and the sea with all the authority of God. This must have been an absolutely amazing thing to behold and I suspect that is why the disciples only response was “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

As Christians we must accept that Jesus was fully God and fully man. Jesus’ humanity is as much a part of the good news as his divinity. And his humanity is just as necessary as his divinity. And so while Mark’s Gospel does not give us any details about the incarnation of Jesus or the birth narrative of Jesus, like Matthew and Luke, he does make clear that Jesus is both God and Man. In our passage today we see that like anyone born to a human mother, Jesus is very much human. And like God alone, Jesus commands the sea to be still and it obeys. Brothers and sisters, behold your savior! The God-man Jesus Christ.

So, how are you going to answer the question the disciples raised after seeing their teacher command the storm to stop? How are you going to answer the question: “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” The way Mark wants you to answer it, the way I want you to answer it is: “This man named Jesus, was the Son of God, the promised Jewish Messiah, he was God in the flesh, he was born to a human mother, and was human, yet at the same time, he was conceived by the Holy Spirit and thus the very Son of God. He is God in the Flesh. This Jesus is the one mediator between me and God. He came to earth to wipe away the sin of the world. And by his death on the cross he did just that. He took away the sin of all who will place their faith in him. And he defeated death not only for himself but for those who are willing to die to themselves and be raised by him into a new way of life.”

Friends, has this happened for you? Have you placed your faith in the one and only Savior of the world? If so I urge you to keep looking to the cross. To keep pressing forward in the hope that you have in Jesus. I want to encourage you this morning by reminding you that you are a part of God’s kingdom. Through your faith you have obtained a citizenship you cannot lose.

But if you have not placed your faith in Jesus, what is stopping you today? You have heard more evidence this morning about who this man Jesus really is. You have heard more evidence that demonstrates clearly that he was God in the Flesh. No one but God can command the wind and the waves to stop and have them obey. If this story were not true, there were too many witnesses to allow it to be included in Mark’s Gospel as truth. All of these disciples went on to pay high prices for believing that Jesus was God. All but one paid the highest price. Do you think they would die for a lie?

If you have doubts today about the validity of stories like these, I am not looking down on you or condemning you. Not at all. But my prayer is that you would consider the evidence. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit would open your heart and your eyes to see the truth. My prayer is that you would see that there is only one answer to the question: “Who then is this?” It is my prayer that all of us here this morning will answer it correctly.