Don't You Believe Yet?
Let's Cross To The Other Side Of The Shore
1. We read today one of the well known stories in the New Testament. If I may say about myself, this has been one of my favorites among the Bible stories that I have heard over and over in Sunday School since I was a little boy. Whenever I heard this story I saw vividly in my youthful imagination, the image of a dependable Jesus scolding the storm in contrast with that of the cowardly disciples losing their presence of mind in the storm. And I simply thought, "Yeah, even when it comes to the disciples of Jesus, they were very weak and they were cowardly."
2. But as time soon passed the child I was back then grew as I did and the way I read the Bible also changed with me a little here and there. The biblical story was not just an old tale any more. I began reading it as a story that had something to do with me. I started to find myself, in a certain sense, appearing in the story, too. This stuff about the disciples could no longer be something that only they were supposed to do. Thus, gradually, the disciples no longer seemed like just cowards to me.
3. The Lord Jesus says, "Let's cross to the other side of the shore." The disciples heard his call to them. And they followed his voice. The multitude remained on the shore of the lake. The disciples could have also made the same choice they did. However, they followed the Lord and somehow or other began to row on the Sea of Galilee. Was it expected of them to go together since they were disciples of Jesus? I don't think they had to. Because the disciples had sufficient reasons to refuse the request of the Lord Jesus.
4. First, as it says in chapter five and verse one, it was the region belonging to the Gerasene people that the Lord Jesus was pointing to with [the words] "the other side of the shore." Since Gerasa* itself was originally as much as fifty kilometers away from the Sea of Galilee, it might be more accurately called the region of the Decapolis (5:20). Either way, it was a Gentile land. When we read chapter five, we see that Mark ties that region in with a cemetery and a great herd of hogs. They were all very defiled things for the Jews. For disciples who were Jews it must have been impossible to understand why they would need to head for such an area. To go one step further, all of them were expectantly waiting for the Lord Jesus to revive the nation of Israel for them. Try as they might, they probably didn't think their expectations of God's country and a trip to a Gentile land ever had a connection with each other. This proposal was clearly based on the intentions of the Lord Jesus alone and the natural wishes of the disciples never entered into it one iota. As disciples they didn't want to go. And secondly, the time was the evening. They say since the Sea of Galilee was surrounded by hills, towards the evenings, sometimes, strong winds would come blowing down off the high hills. Most of the disciples were fishermen on the Sea of Galilee. In looking at the conditions, at that hour, they must have seen how dangerous it was to go out on the lake. Even if they had a reason that they just absolutely had to go and cross to the other side of the lake, there had to be a more appropriate time [to cross]. There was surely no need at all for them to set sail on the lake, now, towards evening.
5. Yet, they listened to the Lord's request and obeyed him. [The multitude] remained on the safe side of the shore and not one of them in the crowd who was looking on at the whereabouts of the ship got in and rowed putting their fate in with the Lord Jesus and the other disciples. It is the image of disciples which is depicted here. Of course, those who obeyed the Lord in this way were not only the first disciples. Later, the words of the Lord of "Let's cross to the other side of the shore" must have meant a call out for Gentile missions for those of the first generation church who had transmitted this story. The Lord, heading for the land of the Gerasenes, is making the call out to them, "Let's go together." They listened to his voice and followed him.
6. Then, just as the first generation church was led into Gentile missions, generations of the church, generations of Christians have thought that they had repeatedly experienced hearing the calling of the Lord of "Let's cross over to the other side." That is, it is a time when submission to the Lord Jesus is questioned. It is a time when the question is asked, "Are you following the Lord as a disciple of the Lord Jesus or are you staying behind like the multitude?" ... because "the other side of the shore" which the Lord is pointing to is "the opposite shore" which often times is contrary to our natural wishes, ... and even more, because to head there clearly is "a side of the shore" which is expected to include difficulties. That's why, then, their obedience is challenged. It is easy to live as a disciple of the Lord in good times when you don't give up your will and don't pay any sacrifices. When the crowd came and assembled by the Lord, they must have been rather proud and happy that they were disciples of the Lord Jesus. But, suddenly, he says to those disciples, "Let's cross to the other side of the shore." The disciples of the Lord began to row with the Lord. The multitude stayed on the shore.
Don't You Believe Yet?
7. So, after they had rowed along to a certain extent, severe winds suddenly started blowing on them. It says, "strong gusts of sudden wind arose and the ship took in the waves so that it was engulfed in water," (thirty-seven). The disciples began to feel for their lives while amidst this storm. Even though they got in [the boat] together for the very reason that the Lord Jesus said "Let's cross over," its result was the pits. What in the world was the reason for that? And worse, didn't the one himself who stated, "Let's cross over," fall asleep?! It's not that we don't understand their critical words in verse thirty-eight of "Master, don't you care if we drown?," because such a thing never would have happened, to begin with, had the Lord Jesus not said, "Let's cross over." Some troubles and catastrophes are the result of disobedience to God and when you obey all obstacles are taken away. All went well because I was obedient to God. There have been times I have heard such stories of one's experiences. But, I don't think the Bible always tells us such a thing. Rather, it tells us about an event when as a result of the fact that they rowed out on the lake in obedience to the Lord's voice, they instead encountered a storm. The multitude, who stayed on shore, did not encounter the least bit of trouble like the disciples had.
8. When I read this narrative, I think of one of the characters in the Old Testament. I think of Moses. At eighty years old he heard the call of God on him. God made a request on him that was absurd. You might say, he showed Moses "the other side of the shore" that he was supposed to cross over. [He was supposed] to lead the Israelites out of Egypt. Just as the disciples of the Lord had more than enough grounds to reject the request of God, so did Moses. That's why Moses says, "Who am I? Why must I go to Pharaoh and even lead out the Israelites from Egypt?," (Exodus 3:11). But, at the end of the long dispute between Moses and God, he obeyed Him. He went to Pharaoh with his older brother Aaron and announced that, "The God of Israel, the Lord has thus said, 'Let my people depart and let them have a festival for me in the wilderness," (Exodus 5:1).
9. Moses obeyed God. He rowed where he was supposed to. So, what was the result [of his obedience]? The king of Egypt got angry and made the work load of the Israelites even worse. It says in Exodus 5:19 that the lower officials, who bore the responsibility for Israel's work load "perceived that they themselves were put in trouble [as managers in charge]." In the end, it resulted instead in Moses being criticized by the Israelities, whom he was about to help. The lower officials said to Moses and Aaron, "May the Lord appear to you and judge you. Thanks to you we are hated by Pharaoh and his assistants. It is tantamount to delivering into their hands swords to kill us," (verse twenty-one). A storm awaited them ahead where they had rowed. At that time Moses appealed to God like this, "O my Lord. Why are you giving this people catastrophe? Why ever in the world did you send me? For, since I went to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has afflicted these people more and more. Besides that, you are not even trying at all to save your own people," (Exodus 5:22-23). Don't his words seem so similar to the words the disciples gave forth? The disciples, too, cried out like this to the sleeping Lord Jesus, "Master, don't you care if we drown?"
10. Unfortunately, both those words of Moses and the crying out which the disciples gave forth to the Lord Jesus will be very familiar to us. "Don't you care about us?" We too often cry out like this. When we look [at things] from our eyes, there are times it looks like the Lord Jesus has no concern at all for our current situation. There are really times it seems like [Jesus] is alone asleep like the Christ of this story. "Don't you care if we drown?"
11. What kind of answer did the Lord Jesus give to their appeal for help? "Jesus got up, scolded the wind and said to the lake, 'Quiet. Be still.' Then, the wind stopped and completely died down," it says in verse thirty-nine. Thus, as the results go, the disciples were saved from the storm. But, we should not keep our attention only on the miracle itself, [that is] the result itself of their having been rescued through this miracle. If that were the most important thing, then later the Lord Jesus would have said that, ""You were saved from the storm. You're okay now. You don't have to worry." But, the Lord didn't say that. The Lord who scolded the wind also rebukes the disciples too. "Why are you frightened? Don't you believe yet?"
12. The point of importance is not that they were rescued. That is not the important point, but rather it is that before they were rescued there had already been in the same boat [with them] Him who could say, "Why are you frightened? Don't you believe yet?" However much they might have been played with by the storm or [the ship] took in waves and was about to be engulfed in water, the Lord Jesus had been right there with them in the same boat. The Bible does not say if you follow the Lord you won't have storms. When you follow the Lord you will have plenty of storms around you. But then, one thing is for certain. It is that whenever you follow the Lord he is with you. It is that when you don't stay on shore, but hear the Lord's call, get in the boat and row out, the Lord will also be with you in that boat. Isn't that just what you'd expect? Because the Lord didn't say "Cross over to the other side, " but said, "Let's cross over to the other side."
13. And since the Lord Jesus is with them, his disciples also are under the complete control of God. Since the Lord Jesus is relaxed in the hands of God, the disciples in the same boat with him should have been relaxed, too. For had he been afraid, then those with the Lord Jesus should have been afraid. Still, people are always preoccupied with the current storms around them rather than the peace of the Lord. They come to only think that they will end up drowning. The truly important thing for us when like that is not just to have the winds and the waves of trouble in our lives quieted down. It is not to be saved out of our predicaments. It is that we still be believers even while in the midst of the storm. It is that we be persons who entrust ourselves over to the rule of God. That's why the Lord Jesus says, "Why are you frightened? Don't you believe yet?" The Lord is looking for faith from those who would follow him.
*Gerasa is also called Gedara, which makes things more confusing. In addition, the Sea of Galilee is known by four names, which include the Lake of Gennesareth, the Sea of Tiberias, and the Sea of Chinnereth.