The Day Jesus Tackled A Tsunami
I wish to read for you these verses from Mark 4. This is the Word of God.
That day when evening came, He said to His disciples, “Let us go over to the other side.” Leaving the crowd behind, they took Him along, just as He was, in the boat. There were also other boats with Him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the waves, “Quiet. Be still.” Then, the wind died down, and it was completely calm. He said to His disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him.”
May God bless to us the reading and the hearing of this portion of His Holy Word.
Pray with me, please.
Give me Jesus, Lord. Give me Jesus. You can have all the rest, just give me Jesus. Amen.
Tsunami. A rather unusual word. But ever since December the 26th, 2004 that word has been carved indelibly into our hearts and minds because on that day an earthquake registering 9.0 on the Richter scale occurred 6 miles beneath the surface of the Indian Ocean, and that earthquake proceeded to produce a tsunami. Suddenly, one of the most beautiful parts of our world became one of its most deadly. That tsunami. The mountains of water radiated out from the epicenter of the quake and those monstrous waves traveling at 500 miles an hour smashed into densely populated areas, bringing sudden death to more than a quarter-million people and total devastation on an almost unimaginable scale. Tsunami. Ever since that day that word strikes fear into people’s souls.
Now, I don’t know if you’re aware of it or not, but we are actually told about a tsunami on the pages of the Bible. Mark chapter 4. Let me set the stage. Jesus had been preaching and teaching on this particular day virtually nonstop from early morning. As the day, then began to wind toward its close Jesus decided that He was spent, worn out, tired, exhausted. And therefore, it would be a good idea to take His band of disciples and sail across the Sea of Galilee to the other side, away from the crowds, where they could spend a quiet evening resting and sleeping. The disciples agreed and so they all boarded a boat. No sooner had they boarded that boat than Jesus grabbed a cushion for His head, stretched out in the stern of the vessel, and fell fast asleep. The boat then embarked, sailing across the Sea of Galilee to the eastern shore. Shortly thereafter, there occurred both a tsunami and a miracle.
It is actually quite a story, and I’d like for us to look at it together. So here is how the miracle happened that day. The water on Galilee at that point is about five miles wide. Midway in the crossing Jesus, His disciples, and that boat suddenly encountered a ferocious storm. Now, I want you to understand that those disciples would have experienced storms on the Sea of Galilee any number of times in the past. You see, the Sea of Galilee, because of its setting is conducive to producing swiftly developing thunderstorms. And if this storm had been a usual storm, why, they would have sailed through it with relative ease. But this storm was anything but usual.
This storm was, in fact, a tsunami.
I know that’s true because of two specific Greek words that are used in the telling of this story in scripture. The first Greek word. As the story describes the storm, the Greek word normally used for storm was not used here. In fact, a unique word was used at this point, and it was the Greek word seismos. You will immediately recognize that that literally means earthquake. And so the word itself is telling us that there was an earthquake on the bottom of the Sea of Galilee.
And we now know, do we not, that earthquakes at sea produce tsunamis. I want you to understand that the Sea of Galilee lies on what is called the Great Rift Valley. That is a geological fault line that runs from Southern Turkey all the way down to Southern Africa. Earthquakes along that fault line are quite common. And so, therefore, an earthquake at the bottom of the Sea of Galilee was not only possible, it was probable. And so I believe that Jesus and His disciples encountered an earthquake at sea, which produced a tsunami.
And the second proof of that for me is another Greek word used in the story. An unusual Greek word. It is pronounced kaluptesthai. It literally means completely hidden. We’re told in the story that the waves were so mountainous high that the boat was kaluptesthai. Completely hidden. The waves towered above the deck of the vessel, and that is as fearsome a site as any sailor can ever see. So I believe without any doubt, at least in my mind, that Jesus and His disciples in that boat on the Sea of Galilee encountered an earthquake at sea, which produced a tsunami. And in that situation, the wind was roaring, the waves were rising, the boat was in danger of capsizing. In that circumstance, little wonder that those disciples were suddenly gripped by stark, paralyzing fear.
Now, what I want you to see at this point is that they immediately turned to Jesus and said, “Lord, don’t you care that we might drown?” There’s something I want you to see here. Jesus, we’re told, rebuked them. I want you to understand He did not rebuke them because of what they did, He rebuked them because of what they said. In turning to Jesus, there is nothing wrong with that. It’s always right to turn to Jesus, especially in the threatening times of life, and Jesus is always ready to receive us, even when we are panic-stricken with fear, like those disciples. No, Jesus didn’t rebuke them for turning to Him. Jesus rebuked them because of what they said to Him. They said, “Lord, don’t you care about us?”
Oh, that’s a terrible thing to say to Jesus. I mean, here, they had been with Jesus. They had experienced His protective grace and power again and again. He had demonstrated to them repeatedly His love and care for them. And yet here, gripped by paralyzing fear, they doubted His love. My beloved people, I want you to note this down. Write it on paper or write it on your heart, I don’t care which. But note this down. Never, never, never doubt that Jesus Christ loves and cares for you. After all, He went to the cross to prove it.
My family and I have always loved the water. A number of years ago now when our children were young, we purchased a sailboat. Our son John David was three years old at the time, and it became quite apparent that if we were going to enjoy sailing John David was going to need to learn how to swim. And so Tricia enrolled him in swimming lessons. The kind of lessons where they literally throw you in and you learn how to swim because you have to. Well, at first John David was afraid. But then he looked up at his mother, and he said, “Will you be here when I swim back?” That’s another way of saying, “Do you love me enough not to leave me?” And when she said “yes,” that was all John David needed to hear and in three days’ time, he was swimming like a fish.
Well, that points to what I count to be a great Biblical truth. How does the Bible put it? Perfect love casts out fear.
Perfect love casts out fear. True. If those disciples had just remembered the tremendous perfect love that Jesus had for them, they would never have approached Him as they did. But gripped by fear, they doubted His love, and so Jesus rebuked them. And then almost as if to underscore the foolishness of what they had done Jesus actually stood up in the midst of that rocking, rolling boat, and he addressed the tsunami as if it were nothing more than a puppy dog barking at the mailman.
I know that’s true because of the words Jesus actually used. Oh, our English translation has Jesus say to the tsunami, “Quiet. Be still.” That’s a really rather sedate translation. When you understand the literal meaning of the words that Jesus spoke there, it comes out like this. “Hush. Cut it out. Settle down.” And the Bible says, “It was completely calm.” The wind stopped, the waves flattened, and the storm in the hearts of the trembling twelve disappeared as well. Perfect love for Jesus Christ always casts out fear. So that’s how the miracle happened that day, but now here is why the miracle happened that day.
I want you to know that Jesus performed every miracle for a purpose. He didn’t just go around performing miracles for fun and entertainment. He didn’t just exercise His supernatural power willy-nilly, tossing miracles here and there at random. No. Just as every parable Jesus ever told had a point, so every miracle Jesus ever worked had a message. And the message of this miracle is this. Jesus wanted to show His disciples not the miracle of calming the storm, no, but the miracle of calming them in the midst of the storm.
I find it absolutely fascinating to note that the Bible writers frequently use the term sea as a symbol for evil. The sea equals evil. In the first book of the Bible, in Genesis, you get a hint that God had to somehow overcome the dark primeval waters in order to create the world as we know it. In the last book of the Bible, the Book of Revelation, where we find our ultimate hope, there we are told that in the life that waits for us in Heaven, there will be—listen. There will be—no more sea. There will be no more evil.
Jesus wants His followers to know that no matter how many cataclysms we encounter, no matter how many crises sweep over us, that nothing of ultimate harm—catch that, nothing of ultimate harm—can come to us as long as we are in the boat with Jesus. With Jesus, in our lives, and at our side, there is no reason to fear anything in life. In the tough, turbulent times we encounter, Jesus may not calm every storm but Jesus will calm us in the midst of every storm. That’s a great word to hear, and it’s a word I need to hear.
You see, I’ve had to sail some Galilees in my life.
I have encountered storms which have broken upon me with terrifying suddenness. I have experienced tsunamis seeking to destroy my soul. And every time that has happened, like those disciples, I have turned to Jesus, choking in fear, and every time Jesus has been there. Every single time. He is always there. Always whispering in my ear, “It’s all right. I love you. I am with you. Every time Jesus is there saying to me, “I love you enough so that I will never, ever leave you.” Oh, what an incredible experience it is to know that Jesus is in my life and at my side.
For you see, the more and more we become conscious of Jesus’ perfect love for us, the less and less we need to fear anything that may happen in life. As a matter of fact, we wind up becoming rather like that young sailor whose mother was so afraid that his ship was going to be sunk in the war, and he would be lost and so the young sailor sat down and wrote a note to his mother. The note read, “Mom, if my ship goes down and I am on it, it will only be down into the arms of Jesus.” My beloved people if you catch hold of that truth in your life, then I promise you fear in your life will be finished because fear will be transformed into faith.
Back in 1735 when the great John Wesley was making his way from England to Georgia, he was sailing on the merchant ship The Simmonds. The ship encountered a terrible storm out in the Atlantic. The mast was splintered. The sails were shredded. The ship was tossed about like a leaf on the wind. All of those on board were paralyzed with fear. All that is except a small group of Moravian Christians. That little group of Moravian Christians during the whole ordeal stayed on the deck holding fast to each other and holding fast to Jesus Christ, and they sang the hymns of our faith.
When at last, the storm subsided, John Wesley asked them how it was that they evidenced no sign of fear. They said, “God was with us. There was no reason to be afraid.” Those Moravian Christians had learned the secret of overcoming fear through faith in Jesus Christ. And my guess is, they learned that secret from the story of the day when Jesus and his disciples encountered on the Sea of Galilee a tsunami.
It would be my fondest hope and deepest prayer that you and I might learn that same secret from that same story on this very day.
Soli Deo gloria.
To God alone be the glory.
Amen. And amen.