In our continuing study of the Word of God, we return to the 8th chapter of Luke, this morning, Luke chapter 8. And what I think for many of you will be a recollection of a Sunday school story that you will, no doubt, remember when I read it. This is one of those favorite stories about Jesus that shows up in almost every children's book. Almost every Sunday school teacher has told it. It is the story of Jesus calming the storm, Luke chapter 8. Let me read verses 22 through verse 25.
"Now it came about on one of those days that He and His disciples got into a boat. And He said to them, 'Let us go over to the other side of the lake.' And they launched out. But as they were sailing along, He fell asleep and a fierce gale of wind descended upon the lake; and they began to be swamped and to be in danger. And they came to Him and woke Him up saying, 'Master, Master, we are perishing.' And being aroused, He rebuked the wind and the surging waves and they stopped and it became calm. And He said to them, 'Where is your faith?' And they were fearful and amazed, saying to one another, 'Who then is this that He commands even the winds and the water and they obey Him?'"
Familiar story, right? Brief story. But it's going to take us two weeks to get through this story. I don't know why that is, it just is. And it's not because the story is hard to understand. It's because the reason for the story must be understood. Sometimes we're cheated of the depths of divine truth because we're content with the surface. This is profound revelation and you need to understand the theological and redemptive and historical context in which this fits. So we go back, we go back before the Fall, when God created man and made him king of a perfect earth, paradise. And then we remember that man sinned and paradise was lost and the earth was cursed and man was cursed. The earth by virtue of the curse fell immediately into the hands of the usurper Satan, who became the ruler of this world. Man was stained by sin. The planet was stained by sin. Life then is marked by sickness and pain and suffering and sorrow and death and difficulty, war, injustice, lies, natural disasters, famines, demonic activity, and so it goes.
But God has a plan and it's a twofold plan. He has a plan to redeem His people and to redeem His planet. And that plan begins to unfold early in redemptive history in the Old Testament as God promises there will come a Redeemer who will redeem His people. And He will also redeem His planet and one person will do both.
The first time He comes it will be to redeem His people. The second time He comes it will be to redeem His planet. And that simply defines the first and second coming of Jesus Christ. He came the first time to save His people from their sins. He came the second time to restore the planet to peace and justice and righteousness and joy. The ultimate design then is that man is delivered from his sin and the planet is delivered as well from the effect of sin. Jesus came the first time in humility, to offer Himself as the sacrifice for sin by which to provide redemption. He comes the second time in glory and majesty as a conqueror to destroy all the wicked and all the ungodly and establish Himself as King of the world. He comes then the first time to redeem His people, the second time to redeem His planet.
Now it's obvious that if someone is going to do that they have to have immense power, immense power. It's enough of a challenge to redeem people, but add to that the promise to redeem the planet. To reverse what is wrong with man and to reverse what is wrong in the universe, this is the task laid at the feet of the great Messiah, Savior. It takes power beyond anything human. It takes power beyond any human comprehension. It is inconceivable to us to understand the kind of power that it takes to reverse the Fall and the curse. And it is power that belongs only to God Himself. But that is precisely what God says He will do. We know already in the gospel of Luke that the Messiah came to redeem His people, to save His people from their sin. We know from this story that Jesus the Messiah also has the power to control natural forces, wind and water. In fact, if you wanted to pick an illustration of what is hard to control, wind would be the best one. Everybody talks about the weather, the old adage goes, but nobody does anything about it. And the reason nobody does anything about it is because nobody can do anything about it. With all of our ability to harness energy, with all of our ability to advance scientifically, and to draw out of the resources of this planet wealth and benefit, we can't do anything about the weather. But Jesus could and that's what He did in this event.
It's more than just a...a simple story in and of itself. You've got to get beyond the superficial. This is all about one demonstrating power to fulfill prophecy, prophecy that relates to paradise regained, reversing the curse, renewing the earth. The Bible is very clear about the kingdom that is going to come. During the kingdom, the millennial kingdom, Satan will be bound for the entire duration of a thousand years. Revelation 20 makes that clear. Whoever it is then that's going to come and establish the kingdom has to have the power to triumph over Satan. We already know in the gospel of Luke that Jesus has that power because when Satan came against Jesus, he was totally vanquished, remember that? That's important for us.
We also know that in the kingdom demons will not dominate. They will with their leader, Satan, be bound and the saints will dominate. This is clear in Scripture. And we already know in the gospel of Luke that Jesus had total power over demons. He spoke to them at will and they did exactly what He told them to do. He exercised complete power over that realm.
Scripture says that in the kingdom sin will be instantaneously punished. Everybody in the world will be under the judgeship of one judge, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will act both benevolently and justly instantaneously. Whoever is to be this perfect judge must demonstrate then perfect equity, perfect righteousness, perfect holiness, hatred for sin and love of what is right. So we've already learned that Jesus fits that perfectly.
When the kingdom comes peace will dominate the earth. He will have to be a peacemaker the likes of which the world has never seen. Joy will abound. Isaiah 12, the prophet says, "When the kingdom comes joy will abound in the earth." Isaiah 11 verse 9, "Truth will pervade." The knowledge of God will fill the earth, Scripture says. And nature will change. Natural enemies will become friends, according to chapter 11 of Isaiah. Lion lies down with the lamb. Children play in snake pits without ever being bitten or fearing anything. Carnivorous beasts eat straw like an ox. Crops will flourish, according to Isaiah chapter 30. The planet's ability to produce will be altered dramatically, so much so that Isaiah chapter 30 and Joel chapter 2 tell us the crops are going to grow all night long and the moon will have the same photosynthetic power that the sun does, different world. Isaiah 35 says the desert is going to blossom like a rose, the barren, bleak desert is going to flourish like a garden; that the Lord Himself is going to create a river out of the backside of Jerusalem that's going to flood the desert. It's going to create a new valley. That health and healing will mark the millennial kingdom. Disease will be diminished. There will be healing, wholeness, health. If someone dies at the age of 100 they die as a baby. It will be like it was before the Flood when people lived for centuries. True worship will be restored, according to Ezekiel 40 to 48. There will be one great King and one great Ruler, the Messiah.
All of this is paradise regained. This is the coming promised kingdom of God. His throne will be established in Jerusalem, from which He will rule the world. The ability to change the planet, the ability to redeem sinful people and the ability to literally reverse the curse physically is only possible through God's power. Nobody can do that. We don't have to worry too much about preserving the planet. Perhaps not too long from now the Lord Jesus is going to turn it into something like the Garden of Eden. And only the Creator can have that power. Does God have that power? Of course He does. David said in Psalm 62:11, "Power belongs to God." That seems like a simple statement but the kind of power David was talking about is immense. I read you Psalm 29 earlier in the service. You can go back and look at it. It talks about God's power over the waters, God's power over the seas, God's power over the land and God's power over the animals and God's power over man. Job 26:14 says, "The thunder of His power, who can understand?" Psalm 79:11 talks of the greatness of His power. Nahum wrote, "The Lord is great in power." Isaiah 26:4, "The Lord God is an everlasting power." Psalm 65:6 says, "Who by strength,” speaking of God, “establishes the mountains being girded with power?" Psalm 63:1 and 2, "Oh God, You are my God, early will I seek You. My soul thirsts for You. My flesh longs for You, to see Your power." David wanted to see God's power. And He could have seen it and he did see it. Romans 1 says, "The power of God is manifest in the creation," so that if you don't see the power of God and acknowledge Him for it, then you're without excuse because the manifestation of God's power in the creation is so obvious.
I mean, just think about how much power God has to create and sustain the entire universe. Of all the stupid things that men have ever believed, the most stupid of all is evolution. It is below insanity. It is moronic. How can you explain the fully functioning universe with all of its infinite complexity without some power source? I mean, start simple. A large Caterpillar tractor has 450 horsepower, requires a hundred gallons of diesel fuel a day to push around an acre of dirt. And when it runs out of fuel it stops and has to get filled up again. Where does God get the fuel to run the universe? He doesn't get it anywhere. He is the fuel. You know, Einstein died a disappointed man, disillusioned, despairing because while he was explaining phenomenon, much of it in mathematical equations, he was totally frustrated because he couldn't find the power source. Because he wouldn't accept that God was the fuel for the universe, he died in disillusionment. Where did God get the fuel to literally spin the universe into existence and keep it moving? To believe that it just happened out of nothing is below idiocy. We look four billion light years into space with a Hale telescope or something like that, which is 25 sextillion million miles. That's seven times ten with 67 zeroes. That's how far we can see in a telescope and we aren't even near the beginning edge of the universe.
What's the power for that? And all through that entire universe things are moving fast. We live on a ball twenty-five thousand miles in circumference, eight thousand miles in diameter. Remember that from your science class in junior high. The earth weighs six septillion, five hundred sextillion tons. That's heavy. Yet it hangs on nothing. And it sits in space spinning a thousand miles an hour. That's how fast we're currently moving, like this, in perfect balance and precision so that we're not doing this, all the time because it's somehow out of round. And it moves at that speed with such precision and accuracy that it can be measured to the split second.
Now at the same time that the earth is spinning at a thousand miles an hour, all its passengers are also careening through space in an orbit around the sun that covers 580 million miles and we're moving at a speed of a thousand miles a minute, spinning at a thousand miles an hour, moving at a thousand miles a minute. And there's no jets and no rockets. Where's the power? And the sun around which we are moving while spinning is also moving in an orbit that is incalculable at a high rate of speed from one end of heaven to the other dragging our entire solar system with it. Amazing power. And did you know that a codfish can lay nine million eggs? Now that's not related but that is... I just wanted to bring you down a little bit. Nine million eggs! Where's the power to reproduce nine million codfish? Come out of that little tiny fish. Don't tell me evolution.
The sun alone has 500 million million billion horsepower. And there are at least 100 thousand million suns in our galaxy and a hundred thousand million galaxies. I mean, the power in the universe is beyond comprehension. And you remember that spoke it into existence in how long? Six days. And by the way, let's get down to where we live. Did you know, the next time you look at a teaspoon full of water that in that teaspoon full of water there are a million billion trillion atoms? And they're all moving. And let me tell you something that's really shocking, if you took the material that's in each atom, just the material in the atom... Now you remember now, an atom is not all material. It's motion, right? Protons, electrons, neutrons, motion. But if you just took the material without the motion, the material in an atom, listen to this, takes up one trillionth of the atom's volume. Did you get that? The actual material in an atom takes up one trillionth of the atom's volume. What's in the atom is power. The rest is power in motion.
Now I'll make that practical. If you as a person had all the empty space squeezed out of you... Some of you would love that to happen, I'm sure. We're not talking about a diet here. But if you wanted all the empty space squeezed out of you and only the actual atomic material left, you would occupy one 100 millionth of a cubic inch, that's all. You are mostly power. By the way, a full cubic inch of that matter would weigh more than a billion pounds. The whole universe is just power, it's just energy. And it's an illusion. You look at me, I'm only 100...one 100 millionth of a cubic inch. The rest is power! But the same with you, you know, so I don't have anything on you.
What kind of power is this? Where does it come from? It doesn't come from anywhere, it is God. It is God who upholds all things, it says, of Christ by the Word of His power. He is the power and that's why Einstein died in such disillusionment. If you deny God, the God of the Bible, then there is no source for the power. There's no place where everything fills up to refuel. God is powerful. He has the power to create. He has the power to uphold creation, sustain creation. Believe me, He has the power to recreate. He has the power to restore creation. He has the power to curse and cripple His creation. He has the power to reverse the curse and free His creation. And so when you're looking around to see who the Messiah is, look for somebody who has that power. And that's what makes Jesus so remarkable. And when you go through the gospel of Luke or for that matter the other gospels, they're careful to show you how that Jesus is the Messiah, the promised one to come to redeem His people the first time, and to come the second time to redeem His planet. We know it because as Luke points out, He has the messianic genealogy. He had a unique virgin birth. His baptism was a time when the Father God said, "This is My beloved Son in whom I am well pleased," and identified Him as the promised one. We saw the credentials of Jesus in His temptation as He overcame Satan. We saw the credentials of Jesus in the message that He preached: the gospel of forgiveness. We saw the credentials of Jesus in His ability to heal diseases, to conquer death and to cast out demons. All of that is just replete information given by the gospel writers to prove there is only one possible who can fill the design that God has established for His conquering Redeemer, and that is none other than Jesus Christ. He is the power of God.
We have already seen that He can conquer death which is going to be part of the kingdom. Death will be diminished. People will live long lives as they did before the Flood. We've already seen that He can conquer disease which is also part of the kingdom. In fact, all of Jesus' healings were previews of coming attractions. They were all previews of millennial wholeness and health. We've seen that Jesus can conquer demons. Over and over again we've seen it in the gospel record. We've seen His ability to conquer death, demons, disease and Satan himself. And we've also seen that He has power over nature. Back in chapter 5, remember the story of the fishermen. The disciples are out on the Sea of Galilee fishing, they can't catch fish. You remember Jesus called for all the fish to go to the boat? And commanded the fish and they went right to the boat, jumped in the net and stayed there. But here... Here is something beyond that. It's one thing to control the fish. Somebody might say, "Well, you know, there may be a way to do that. They threw some food on the top of the water, etc., etc., etc." You might have an explanation for that. But when it comes to commanding the wind and stopping ripples in the waves, you're talking about something that has no human explanation. The one who is going to reverse the curse and redeem the planet as well as redeem His people is going to have to have that kind of power. And it's so obvious that this power is not human. It shows up in the way people respond.
Now here we are, you know, a couple of thousand years later and I'm trying to make this as dramatic as I can, but if you were there when these things happened, you would see what shocking power this is. For example, if you would just notice verse 25, which is the last verse in the account we read, that after Jesus had done what He had done and stopped the wind and stopped the water, it says, "They were fearful." That's not a... That's not a minor word, that's a major one. They were terrified because they knew who He was. They were literally traumatized with terror. Here was someone stopping wind and waves. There's no other person but God who can do this. They knew they were in the presence of God and that is terrifying because they are very much aware of the fact that God is holy, they are not. They are exposed then. That's why Peter in chapter 5 when Jesus commanded the fish and they all ran into the net, he said, "Depart from me, Oh Lord, I'm a sinful man,” go away, I can't stand the intimidation. He knew exactly what he was dealing with. Whoever could control the fish was the omnipotent, omniscient God Himself and He would know what Peter was on the inside and that was too intimidating and Peter eagerly confessed, I know I'm a sinful man, go away, Your presence is too intimidating.
Now you'll see in this section of Luke starting in verse 22 and going to the end of the chapter, there are four miracles. Luke pulls them together to make a point. It's a point about Jesus' power. There's the miracle over the wind and the waves, the miracle over natural forces in verses 22 to 25. And then in verse 26 to 39, the next long section, again you see His power over demons in the maniac of the...the Gerasenes, which is an incredibly compelling account that we'll look at later. But you see that Jesus again has power over demons. But I want you to notice the reaction. Go down to verse 37. When Jesus displayed His power over the demons that were in this man, and you remember Jesus commanded the demons, they left, they went into a herd of pigs and the pigs all ran down and dove into the lake. It was an incredible scene. But verse 37 says, "All the people of the country of the Gerasenes' surrounding district asked Him to depart from them." They had the same response that Peter did: Get out. It was obvious who He was. They were intimidated because of their sin to have God in their presence. And it says in verse 37, "Because they were gripped with great fear." It was terrifying, terrifying to realize you're in the presence of God.
And then in the next account of a miracle, it's about a disease, Jesus' power over disease. Go down to verse 47. Jesus heals this woman, and the woman, verse 47, saw she had not escaped notice, she came trembling and fell down before Him. She is...The word is “shaking.” She too has been touched by Jesus, healed, knows she's just felt the power of God. There's no human that can do it. And she is literally shaking in fear.
And then the fourth miracle that Luke gives is a miracle of Jesus' power over death. He raises a girl from the dead. Go down to verse 56. Here's the response to that miracle. The response is always the same. The people who saw Him stop the storm they went into fear and terror. The people who saw Him heal the demon-possessed man they were gripped with great fear. The woman who had been healed of a disease in the midst of a big crowd was literally shaking with fear and terror. And here the parents of the girl that was raised from the dead, it says, verse 56, were amazed. And you know that word "amazed" just doesn't do it. The Greek word is existēmi. Histēmi is a word that means to be in place, to stand. Ex, just like you think, exit, out of place is what it means, to literally be put out of place. That's the literal significance of the words, but the actual metaphoric meaning is to be driven out of your mind, to be out of your senses, to lose your mind. The parents literally lost their minds over the trauma of realizing the power that had just been displayed, power to stop death and give life; power to heal a disease and make a person completely whole; power to dispel demons instantaneously; power to stop a storm. All of that causes trauma to the people who experienced it. So obviously supernatural that they were all in stunned terror, realizing they were in the presence of God, realizing they were sinful people and being exposed to God is a frightening reality.
Luke is telling us a lot here. Jesus is proving to be exactly who He needs to be to fulfill the plan of God: the one who can conquer sin, the one who can conquer disease, the one who can conquer demons and death, the one who can conquer the curse in nature.
Well let's go back then to the text. This event is recorded also by Matthew chapter 8 verses 23 to 25 and by Mark chapter 4 verses 35 to 41. And they give us some insight that helps us enrich the story a little bit. Most people call this the story of the storm. I want to do a little different approach to it. I want to call it the story of the calm, the calm. It was when I first came to Grace Church many years ago, I happened to be in Seattle speaking, I remember I was in downtown Seattle. I was getting something to eat and next door to where I was getting something to eat was a lithograph shop where they had...they did architectural reproductions and things like that and this...they had some little pictures in the window. One of the ones they had in the window was a picture of this story of Jesus stilling the storm. And, of course, I always loved the story and the picture showed a boat and Jesus was standing in the bow and He had his hands out and it was if He was commanding the storm, and the storm was in full force, waves were crashing over the boat and disciples were obviously hunched over trying to protect themselves. And it just was such a...such a wonderful, you know, rendition of that story that I went in and I bought one of those sort of copies that they ran off. And I framed it and I had it in the office here. I don't know, it disappeared years ago but it was just a reminder to me of the power of Jesus. Whichever one of you has it, bring it back.
But... So I didn't have that picture for a long time. But when they were doing an office in the seminary building for me, I wanted to put a picture on the wall and I happened to come across a particular artist that I appreciate very greatly who had painted a masterful rendition of the exodus out of Egypt. And I came to find out that he had done a painting of this calming of the storm scene and when I saw it I was amazed because it purports to be, and may well be, the only painting ever done of this scene — and there are many that have been done — the only one ever done where it is perfectly calm. Everybody paints it as a storm. He paints it as calm. But what you see when you look at it... Your mind is immediately drawn to Christ, first of all, who's standing there. And then secondly, you're drawn to the sheer panic on the faces of the disciples. You can literally...He's painted their eyes almost white as if their eyes are wide open and you can see the whites in panic. He got it right. What created the real panic was not the storm. What created the real panic was the calm. This is a remarkable story of calm.
Now I read a lot of ways to outline this but I've got my own. It's the story of the calm before the storm, the calm during the storm, and the calm after the storm. For this morning, let's look at the calm before the storm. Go back to the text, verse 22. This is very important for us.
"It came about on one of those days that He and His disciples got into a boat. And He said to them, 'Let us go over to the other side of the lake.' And they launched out. And as they were sailing along, He fell asleep." Now we'll stop at that point.
It was one of those days, Luke says, vague, indefinite. He doesn't tell us what day. And the reason he doesn't tell us what day is because he's already broken the chronological flow. Because remember, verses 19 to 21 is an incident that happened later, chronologically, but He took it from later in the life of Jesus and brought it back and stuck it in with verses 16 to 18 because it fit his theme. And the gospel writers often do that. They're not bound to always be chronological. And so because he's interrupted the chronology a little bit by borrowing a scene from the future, he just sort of restarts by saying, "One of those days." But Mark tells us exactly what day it was. It was the same day, the very same day that Jesus was teaching down at the Sea of Galilee, or the lake, same day that... Remember, He had gotten into a boat, pushed off from the shore because the massive crowd of tens of thousands had pushed Him down to the water and the only way He could get away from them to speak to them was to get in a boat and get out in the water. And He had taught them all day and what He had taught them primarily was the parable of the soils, starting in verse 4, I think, of this chapter, and then the parable of the lamp in verses 16 to 18. It's the same day. It's the same day near Capernaum. Matthew 8:5 puts the scene very near Capernaum, which was the main town where Jesus sort of launched His ministry at the northwest tip of the Sea of Galilee. It was that same day that Jesus had been in the boat teaching all day long and featuring the parable of the soils and the parable of the lamp, that very same day. In fact, Mark says that this little trip across the lake took place the evening of that same day.
And why is that important? It's important because now we understand why Jesus went to sleep. It was a long day and teaching can be exhausting. I can vouch for that. It's more exhausting for me to teach for a whole day than it is to dig a ditch. The mental strain is exhausting. Sometimes...I remember one time when I was invited to go to Russia. I had been there many times but this one time I actually was going to Belarus...Minsk in Belarus and they said, "We want you to...We want you to take six days and teach the whole New Testament." You know, my first reaction was, "Wrong guy. I can't teach the whole New Testament in six days." They said, "Well we need it in six days. We've got 100 pastors, young pastors. They want you to teach the whole New Testament in six days." Six days of teaching twelve hours a day...one day of teaching twelve hours a day is absolutely exhausting, beyond description in terms of weariness. You're fighting just to maintain any kind of mental clarity about eight hours into it.
Jesus did that day after day with very little rest. And you can be certain that wherever Jesus was, if there was anybody else there, there was a question and answer session going on. It was a long and exhausting day teaching massive crowds who were literally draining Him of His human strength.
Very likely after a day of teaching as dusk began to arrive they went to a nearby house in Capernaum and they had a meal. It may have been at that meal where Jesus explained to the disciples the meaning of the parable of the soils and the parable of the lamp, which you remember He didn't any longer explain to the crowd. As an act of judgment when they were fixed in their unbelief, He just said, "I won't speak to them in anything but parables anymore so that in hearing they will not understand, seeing they will not comprehend." So He gave parables which hid things from the crowd. But you remember disciples came after He gave the parables and said, "We want to know what they mean." And so perhaps it was at a house or some other location where they met with the disciples and He explained the parables and they had a meal.
Well after that, He and His disciples got into a boat. The other gospel writers tell us that Jesus initiated that, said, "Let's get in a boat." They got in the boat. He said to them, "Let's go to the other side of the lake." Now we know that Peter, James, John, Andrew were all fishermen, right? And that they were from that area. And so, likely their boats were still there. They had been newly called, of course, to follow Jesus. They hadn't yet received their official apostolic commission. That will come a little later as we get in to chapter 9. They were already following Jesus. You remember it was in chapter 5 when Jesus said to them, "Drop your nets, get out of your boats and become fishers of men." So they're in that mode but they haven't sold everything they own and probably they still had their boats there. Very likely so because even after Jesus rose from the dead the indication in the last chapter of John's gospel is that some of them when they got back to Galilee actually got in their boats and went back to fishing. So they had their boats available and the same boats they were fishing in back in chapter 5, and they got into the boats. And Jesus' plan was to go to the other side of the lake.
Well, they were on the northwest tip of the Sea of Galilee and wanted to go to the eastern side to an area where the Gerasenes live, and that's what happens when we get down to verse 26. They go to the country of the Gerasenes because there's a divine appointment to meet a maniac that Jesus heals, incredible story which we'll see. But I think initially they didn't go just to meet that divine appointment. They went to get some rest from the crowd. To go to the other side of the lake was the best way to shake the crowd. They didn't go away. When the Lord came out from wherever He slept in the morning, they would all be there waiting. And they had come from towns and villages all over the place and consequently they had literally come and camped with this moving crowd. And they were going to be there and Jesus needed rest. There could only be so much physical strength exerted before He had to find a place to replenish. And so He said to the ones He had been teaching, His disciples, "Let's go to the other side of the lake."
The lake is the Sea of Galilee, as we know it. Matthew and Mark call it thalassa, the word for “sea.” Luke calls it limnē, the word for “lake.” I mean, technically it's a lake. If you think of a sea you think of the Mediterranean Sea, or something like that. You think more of a small ocean. But it is actually a lake. It is a lake, fresh-water lake, fed by Mount Hermon, primarily, which is just north of there up by Caesarea Philippi on the Lebanon border. It's about nine thousand two-hundred feet high, snow-capped. The peak is Mount Hermon. There are other mountains there and the snow melt comes down. It forms the little Jordan River. It's a very small river when it passes on down and enters the north part of the Sea of Galilee. It fills up that sea which, by the way, is in a low spot. The surface of the Sea of Galilee is 680 feet below sea level and so the Jordan comes off the mountains, runs into that...that deep bowl, fills it up, the Sea of Galilee. Out the south end comes the Jordan River. The Jordan River runs continuing from 680 feet below sea level down to the Dead Sea which is almost 1,400 feet below sea level. It runs down what’s known as the Great Rift Valley, the Jordan Valley, then continues the Great Rift Valley all the way down into Africa.
But the sea is really the main center of Galilee. The Galilee is all around it. And around the sea are vineyards and crops and on the sea are all kinds of boats, and fishing is a major enterprise. If you go there today and you circle the Sea of Galilee, you're going to see farms everywhere, things growing. It's not at all densely populated. Capernaum doesn't exist as a city. It's just a few ruins. Not much there. You'll go to Tiberias and you'll see probably the flourishing city, the only real main city there and it's not that large. It's mostly agricultural. It hasn't changed a whole lot. You'll go out on the lake, if you ever go there, I hope, and you'll float around a little bit. I'll say more about that next time. And you'll see the fishing boats coming and going. Hopefully you'll stop at a little seaside restaurant on the edge of the lake and you'll have the fish they catch out of the lake which are now called St. Peter's fish. They weren't in the time of Jesus. They've been renamed. I don't know what their old name was but you'll eat the very fish that are caught there. It's still a part of life. And as I said, it dominates the area of Galilee. It's kind of the heart and center of it. And we'll say more about that.
Its... Its southern part is a little bit flatter as the Jordan River flows out. The western part all rolling hills. The northern part: rolling hills into higher mountains. The eastern side, cliffs, sheer cliffs with canyons all the way along a more stark portion. And that above it has what is called the Golan Heights where you remember in some of the wars against Israel, Arab forces lined up and bombarded the towns below around the Sea of Galilee. So it's a... It's a wonderful, wonderful agricultural center. It was the center of life for the apostles and for the Lord. Familiar they were with it. To jump into a little boat and go six miles or so across the northern tip down to the area of the Gerasenes was a small and short trip.
They got into a boat, ploion. That's a generic...generic word. It could be a small boat or a big ship. This is a fishing vessel. We know something about it because it says in verse 23 they were sailing along. It was not a rowboat. I've seen it depicted as a rowboat. It was not. The verb is not elauno, which is to row. It is pleō, which is to sail. It was a sailing boat, which meant it was of some substantial size and could hold a dozen or couple of dozen men, perhaps. And so they got into the boat to go to the other side of the lake to get a little respite, a little rest, to have at least the next day free from the crowd.
Mark adds an interesting note. Mark 4:36 says, "And there were with Him other boats." He never really could get away from everybody. And apparently the disciples who were with Him in the teaching session jumped in other boats and so it's a little flotilla going across the lake in the dusk. They're sailing along. The calm is evident and it says, verse 23: "He fell asleep."
He was weary. This is the human Jesus. Aphupnoō is the word used. "He fell asleep." It's only used here in the New Testament. It's an unusual word speaking of sound sleep. And it's the only place in Scripture where it ever tells us Jesus slept. But He did. I mean, He went to bed like any human being does. But here it tells us He was weary and He slept. It was a sleep of weariness, exhaustion. And He just went to sleep. Mark adds that He had a pillow under His head. There are all kinds of speculation about what the pillow would be. Some have suggested it was a wooden pillow. That's a stretch. If it was wooden nobody would call it a pillow. It was some kind of cushion that perhaps someone would sit on who was steering the ship or resting and He put His head on it and He was out, gone, sound asleep, physically, mentally exhausted, peacefully sleeping even though He knew what was coming. He knew a storm was coming. He knew. But He had no concern. It was the sleep of fearlessness. It was the sleep of trust. It was the sleep of sovereignty. It was the sleep of omnipotence. He knew He could awaken at any moment and stop the storm. So you have a lovely picture of the divine and human Jesus who is in full awareness that a storm is coming because it's ordained by God and yet so human that He sleeps as they sail along in the calm.
By the way, we know also by now night had come. They were sailing in the moonlight in the calm. Now if I can leave Christ asleep as we should, let's look at the disciples. What is a disciple? It says in verse 22, "His disciples got in a boat." I need to clarify something for you. When I say the word disciple, the first thing that comes to your mind is the apostles, the twelve, right? Wrong. The disciples were...Some of the disciples were apostles. The apostles were also disciples because disciple means "learner," mathētēs. It means “learner.” But the apostles were chosen from among the disciples. Jesus had many learners, many students, many followers who could be called disciples, dozens of them, maybe a hundred or more. We don't know how many were in the little fleet that night.
When you think of the word "disciple" all you can go with... The only place you can go with that word is a learner, a student. That's as far as it really wants to take you. And yet there are people today who just misrepresent that. When...and I understand that because it's sort of a popular term. If I say "disciple" you immediately think of someone devoted to Jesus Christ. If you don't think of Peter, James and John, or somebody like that, you think of somebody really following Christ. That's not right. I know that...that's common because of you say, "I'm discipling someone," the assumption is that someone is a Christian. You don't disciple a non-believer. But Jesus had disciples who were not converted, disciples who were not believers. We know that because in John 6:66 it says, "Many of His disciples walked no more with Him." Remember that? They went away. And Jesus said to the ones that stayed, "Will you also go away? Are you going to also abandon Me? You've come to the conclusion that you're not anymore interested in following Me?" And Peter said, "No, Lord, to whom shall we go? You and You alone have the words of eternal life." And there we find that there were some disciples who stayed in contrast to those that left. Not everybody called a disciple is by any means saved, regenerate, justified, converted, a true believer.
In fact, if you look at the end of chapter 9 for a moment, verse 62, just the very end of the 9th chapter, Jesus said to the would-be follower, "No one after putting his hand to the plow and looking back is fit for the kingdom of God." What He said is, if you start down this furrow with Me, if you start with Me and you don't finish, you're not going into the kingdom. If you put your hand to the plow and then turn around and look back, you're not fit for the kingdom. And the indication is that there were people who started down the furrow. They picked up the plow and they started going in that direction, but they turned around. He has just described them. Verse 57, they were going along a road. Somebody said to Him, “I'll follow You wherever You go.” Really, He said, “Foxes have holes, birds of the air have nests, the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." Let's get it straight, I don't have anything to offer you. Oops. And the implication here is that was all there was of that disciple. He said to another one, verse 59, "Follow Me.” “Permit me first to go and bury my father." And the implication is his father wasn't even dead. Let me go home till the old man dies and I get the inheritance, then I'll come. He said, "Let the dead bury their own dead. Go proclaim everywhere the kingdom of God." And another one said, "I'll follow You, Lord, but first permit me to say goodbye to those at home." Jesus said, I can't deal with part-time followers. I can't deal with people who go a little way with Me, turn around and go back. If you don't put your hand to the plow and keep going in the same direction, you're...you're not going to even enter the kingdom of God, which is synonymous with salvation. So He had followers who said, I'll follow You, I'll follow You; just let me go back and do this, let me go back and do this, and they didn't enter the kingdom.
Now what is important about this is this. There are some who adamantly suggest that discipleship, being a disciple in the gospels is the equivalent of being a super saint, of being a high level devoted believer. This is what the quote-unquote "no lordship" people say. This is what the easy believism doctrine teaches, that is that you can become a Christian, you can become saved, you can receive eternal life by just believing in Jesus, no repentance, no confession, no obedience, no nothing. You just kind of come and you believe and you're in the kingdom. But what you really should do somewhere along the line is leap to the second level and become a disciple. Disciple is a devout, upper level, superior follower of Jesus who is not only in the kingdom but who has inherited all that the kingdom holds. That is the kind of stuff that we have been dealing with for years and years in the lordship discussions that we've had. Are there two levels of Christianity? Is... Is all of this discussion about discipleship calling people who are already into the...in the kingdom to a higher level of devotion? Absolutely not. A disciple is somebody who’s a learner. It doesn't tell you where they are spiritually. We have to find out over time how they respond. Some of them look back and leave and they're not even fit for the kingdom. Some of them follow Him no more, as I read in John 6:66. That's all we can say about these. They were followers. What kind of followers? All across the spectrum, all the way from those who were convinced that He was God, the Messiah, the Lord, to those who were becoming convinced of that, to those who weren't sure who He was, to those who were curiously wanting to hear His teaching. That's disciples. There isn't anything to indicate that discipleship is some second level of spiritual life to which you need to leap after you've entered the kingdom, absolutely foreign to the text.
Let me give it to you another way. You remember the temporary soil where the seed went in and there was rocky ground under and it popped up for a while and then died? Those were disciples. Those were followers. We know they were followers because they received the Word, right? They heard what He said. They received the teaching. But when there was a price to pay for it, and they didn't like the fact that the foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, and the Son of Man has not where to lay His head, and that they couldn't hang around and get their father's inheritance and there would be some sacrifice and there might be some persecution, they're gone. Those were disciples.
And then you remember the weedy soil? Where the love of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the pleasures of this life choked out the Word? Those were disciples. They were around. They heard the Word. The Word went into their minds. They thought about it. They made an initial response, positively to the Word. But over time their love of the world choked out the Word. Those were disciples. It was disciples who said, "Lord, Lord, we've done many wonderful things in Your name, cast out demons, proclaimed Your gospel." He says, "Depart from Me, I never knew you, you workers of iniquity." And they said, "Lord, Lord." In John 15 Jesus described it this way. He said, "Every branch in Me that doesn't bear fruit is cut off." And later in verse 6 He says, "Bundled up, dried out, thrown in the fire."
You can attach to Me, be literally, He says, in Me and end up in hell. That's a superficial attachment. Don't believe any of these foolish people who say that disciple is a term to describe a Christian taken to the highest level. It only means a learner. It doesn't even tell us whether the person is a true believer or not. If they are true believers, there will be repentance, confession, obedience, consistency in following Jesus. There is no such thing as a minimalistic salvation. I hope you understand that.
So being a disciple was only an indication that they were learners. And why is this important? Because Jesus wants to take these people... And listen, here's the good part: They're not back with the crowd who didn't care to know the meaning of the parables. And you understand that? They're not back with the hard, obstinate unbelievers to whom Jesus doesn't explain anything. They've at least come out of the crowd. They're like some of you who are here today, you're here, you're listening to the truth, you've come that far. And so Jesus is saying, "This is good, this is right, you're not with those who have been literally judged and left in the dark by that judgment and will never understand these truths, you've said we want to know. We want to understand." Good, for you I'm going to put on a display that will move you to faith. That's what He's saying. And when He does this miracle of calming the storm, the crowd's not there. Who's there? The disciples. Why is He doing it for them? Because they were all over the place in terms of believing or not believing, or semi-believing. And much of what Jesus does — as well as everything He says for the rest of His Galilean ministry — is directed at this group so that they will be brought from this position of being a disciple to being a true believer, which is, of course, the consummate discipleship.
So these...these disciples — I'm sure the apostles were there — but these other disciples in all the little boats that were moving along, they were about to see something that should have a massive impact on their faith. And Jesus enters into — as you remember from verse 25, and it's embellished even more from Mark and Matthew's account — He enters into a discussion with them about their faith. You were wondering who I was? What does that tell you? I just controlled the wind and the waves.
Well, so that sets the scene. That's the calm before the storm. Next week: the calm in and after the storm.
We thank You, Father, for the rich and magnificent portraits of Christ that are given to us again in Scripture. How blessed we are to see His wondrous majesty, to see His warm, tender humanity. It's so wonderful to see Him stop a storm. It's equally wonderful to see Him asleep because He's so worn out. Not only do we know by those perspectives that He has power to bring the kingdom, but we also know that He understands our weariness, that He is a High Priest who can be touched with the feelings of our weaknesses, that He is a sympathetic and merciful High Priest to those of us who suffer with our humanity. We thank You for the God-Man, Man to die for man, and to intercede for man; and God to conquer sin, death, and hell. We thank You again for the glory of our Christ. We thank You that He is literally in our boat, those of us who know Him and love Him at rest and available to calm all the storms. We wait to see how that unfolds next week. In the meantime, may our love for Him increase. Amen.