“And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and sea obey Him?’” (Mark 4:41).
Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ!
Put yourself in the disciples’ sandals for a moment. It’s still early in Jesus’ ministry. They have not yet been away from the region of Galilee where Jesus called the first of them. But they’ve already seen a lot! They have been astonished by His teaching. Amazed by His casting out of the evil spirits. They’ve seen Jesus heal multitudes, including Simon’s own mother-in-law. They’ve watched Jesus heal a paralytic and forgive sins. They’ve heard Jesus skillfully answer the questions about fasting and keeping the Sabbath. They’ve been sent out by Jesus to preach and given authority over demons. They’ve had Jesus explain the meaning of His parables about the kingdom of God. That’s a lot to process in itself.
But now they are all in a boat, crossing the Sea of Galilee, in one of the worst storms they have ever seen in all of their days. The fierce wind is howling. Whipped by the wind, the waves crash over the bow and sides, and the boat is filling fast. Even these experienced fishermen think they’re going to die. And where is Jesus? Asleep on the cushion in the back of the boat. They wake Him and say, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”
Jesus awakes. He rebukes the wind and says to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” Immediately, the wind ceases, and there is a great calm—calm in the wind and water, but not the hearts of the disciples. So Jesus asks them, “Why are you so afraid. Have you still no faith?” And they are filled with great fear and say to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey Him?”
Who is this? Who is this Man, so exhausted that He sleeps while the storm rages yet so powerful that He rebukes the wind and waves and they obey at once?
The disciples have seen Jesus do a lot of amazing things. They know He has power—divine, supernatural power. He’s not just your everyday, ordinary rabbi. That’s been obvious for a while. But this cranks it up to a whole other level. This is power over nature. This is power over creation. And the realization of what that means fills them with greater fear than they had when they thought the storm was going to do them all in This is something only the Creator can do!
That would mean Jesus is God Incarnate! The man who just spoke to the storm is the One who spoke to Job in our first reading. He is the One “Who shut in the sea with doors when it burst out from the womb,” the One Who “made clouds its garment and thick darkness its swaddling band, and prescribed limits for it and set bars and doors, and said, ‘Thus far shall you come, and no farther, and here shall your proud waves be stayed’” (Job 38:8-11). How can this be?
There’d been some hints to Christ’s deity before. At Jesus’ Baptism the voice from heaven had said, “You are My beloved Son; with You I am well pleased” (Mark 1:11). The unclean spirit had called Him “the Holy One of God” (Mark 1:24). But you can’t really believe anything a demon says, can you? Jesus certainly implied He is God when He told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven,” and scribes had questioned in their hearts, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:6-7). Jesus had added fuel to the fire when He told the Pharisees, “The Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath,” a bold claim to divinity that had not been lost on His opponents. (Mark 2:28; 3:6).
While at least some of His opponents understand who Jesus is and/or claims to be, and the lifeless storm recognizes Jesus’ divine power and authority, it won’t be until Jesus is near the end of His ministry, that His disciples will recognize Jesus’ divinity and confess Him as the Christ, God’s Anointed One. It’s going to take a while for them to sort out everything. They won’t really understand until after Jesus’ resurrection, ascension, and the coming of the Holy Spirit.
Living on the other side of Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension we have the benefit of nearly two thousand years of Christian history to process and formulate just who this is that dwells among His people and has power over all creation, that even the wind and waves and storms obey His commands!
Our fathers in the faith have given us creeds, catechisms, and confessions so we can better understand and confess our faith. Our theologians have laid out the doctrine in books of dogmatics and systematic theology so that we teach the truth and steer away from heresies. It’s all so perfectly arranged and neat and packaged that I fear we might miss the some of the sense of awe and mystery experienced by the first disciples as they learned who Jesus is.
The union of God and man is beyond our ability to fully comprehend or explain, but God’s Word does tell us quite a bit. An Explanation of Luther’s Small Catechism does a good job of explaining from Scripture while still maintaining the mystery of Christ’s incarnation and what it means for you and me.
As Christians, we confess: “This man Jesus is God and Lord: He is both my Creator and my Redeemer.” To acknowledge that Jesus is Lord “means to acknowledge that He rules over all things as our Creator and Redeemer, and that Jesus is the Lord God Himself (Yahweh) in our human flesh.”[i]
St. Paul writes, “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved” (Romans 10:9–10).
He adds, “For by [Jesus] all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together. And He is the head of the Body, the Church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything He might be preeminent. For in Him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and through Him to reconcile to Himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of His cross” (Colossians 1:16–20).
The Lord Jesus is the eternal Son of God, who entered human history, born as a man with a body and soul, in fulfillment of God’s Old Testament promises. Thus, He is both Creator and creature, God and man, in one person.”[ii] St. Paul writes: “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4–5).
To confess that Jesus is true God means to say that “the Son is God in the very same sense that the Father is God—namely, He existed from all eternity and, together with the Father and the Spirit, created the entire universe and everything with it.”[iii] As John writes, “All things were made through Him [the Word], and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3).
“To confess that Jesus is true man is to say that Jesus is human in the same sense that we are human, except without sin.”[iv] The author of the letter to the Hebrews explains what a benefit that is to us, “We do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
We call the event by which the Son of God became man “the Incarnation, the great mystery that the true Son of God, who created the universe, entered His creation and became a part of it by becoming a man.”[v] As St. John reports, “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
“How did the Incarnation take place? The Holy Spirit fashioned from Mary a true human body and soul for the Son of God.”[vi] As the angel told Mary, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God” (Luke 1:35).
This means that the Son of God (the Creator of the universe) has become our Brother in Jesus Christ. He is one of us. Jesus is human in the very same sense that we are human, except without sin. Jesus has a human ancestry. Jesus has a human body and soul. Jesus has a human sex. Jesus has human needs and feelings.[vii]
“Why is it so important for us sinners that the Son of God has become our Brother? As our Brother, Jesus fulfilled our obligation to keep the Law. Jesus suffered and died to pay the penalty of our sin. Jesus overcame death so that we, too, can be raised from death.”[viii]
Because Jesus, our Brother, is the true Son of God, Who created the universe, He reveals God to us—for there is no other God than this God who took on our flesh. He has provided a sufficient ransom and atonement for the sins of the world by His death on the cross. He is always with us. He intercedes for us before the Father. He rules over creation and the Church. He has the authority to judge and forgive. He is worthy of divine honor and glory. He loves us with an everlasting love.[ix]
Take heart in this mystery that is the Incarnation. The same God-man who healed the sick and raised the dead promises you healing and resurrection, too. The same God-man who ruled creation even while He slept on a cushion in the back of the boat, now rules eternally at the Father’s right hand for the good of His Church and for you. The same God-man who stilled the storm with His Word of peace, now speaks His Word of peace to you. Go in the peace of the Lord and serve your neighbor with joy. You are forgiven for all your sins.
In the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen
Unless otherwise indicated, all Scripture quotations are from the Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
[i] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (2017). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p 165.
[ii] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (2017). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p 166.
[iii] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (2017). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p 166.
[iv] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (2017). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p 166.
[v] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (2017). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p 168
[vi] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (2017). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p 169
[vii] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (2017). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p 169-170.
[viii] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (2017). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p 171-172.
[ix] Luther, Martin. Luther’s Small Catechism with Explanation (2017). St. Louis: Concordia Publishing House, p 172-173.