One day Jesus called his disciples into a boat, and they headed out across a large lake. But Jesus fell asleep. While he slept, a violent windstorm came down on the lake. The waves became huge and started swamping the boat. They were in danger of drowning. At this point, the disciples could bear it no longer. They shouted at Jesus and woke him up, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” Well, that woke him up. He rebuked the wind and the raging waters. The storm subsided, all was calm. (Adapted from Luke 8:22-24)
In this narrative, who was asleep? The text says that Jesus, God in the flesh, slept, unaware that a monstrous storm had arisen, threatening to capsize and sink the boat that carried the disciples. But was Jesus the only one in the boat who was sleeping? Weren’t the disciples also asleep? Verse 25 displays what I mean.
“Where is your faith?” he asked his disciples. In fear and amazement they asked one another, “Who is this? He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey him.”
At this point in their walk, the disciples really had no clue who Jesus was. They were asleep to the real identity of their Rabbi. But that’s not what I want to talk about. Notice, in the whole story there’s only one place where the disciples talked to Jesus directly. That was in verse 24, where they awakened him and shouted at him, “Master, Master, we’re going to drown!” Then, verse 25 tells us that in “fear and amazement” the disciples talked about Jesus to one another. “Who is this?” No one turned to Jesus, looked him straight in the face and asked, “Who are you?”
There’s an enormous difference between knowing about Jesus and knowing Jesus. Why is the Bible divided into two very distinct sections, the Old Testament and the New? It hinges on this very point. It’s about how God communicates with people. The Old Testament begins with face to face communication between God and individual people having been cut off. Genesis 3 records how Adam and Eve were cut off from intimate, in-person communication with God. From that time forward, God communicated with people only through specifically chosen spokespersons called prophets and through historical events, concrete objects, and ceremonies. Most people didn’t know God personally. They knew about him through the historical record of their nation, their religious ceremonies, and the words of specifically chosen individuals.
Then comes the New Testament. The Gospel of John repeats over and over throughout its chapters the imminent reopening of direct communication with people and God the Father through the Holy Spirit. Jesus’ very name means, “God with us,” (Matthew 1:23). It is true that Christ died on the cross as a sacrifice for sins and rose from the dead in victory over sin, but what was the purpose of the cleansing of the human heart for those who by faith receive from Christ that victory over sin and death? Was it that we should be able to live happy and peaceful lives forever? Or is there something more?
Please listen carefully, because this is so important.
- Matthew 1:18 tells that Mary “was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit.”
- Matthew 3:11 quotes John the Baptist, “I baptize you with water for repentance, but he who is coming after me … will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire.”
- In John 3:5-6, Jesus told Nicodemus, “… no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit. Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”
- He told the woman at the well in John 4:14, “… the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” And in verse 23, “… the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit …”
- In John 14:26 Jesus tells his disciples, “But the Comforter, even the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things …”
- Jesus’s great commission to his disciples in Matthew 28:19 includes the third Person of God, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,”
- Acts 2:4 records this great, historical event, “And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit …”
- In Acts 2:33, Peter explained to the crowd that the arrival of the Holy Spirit fulfilled the Old Testament promise of the Father, “[Jesus] Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”
- Peter in Acts 2:38 claims that the Holy Spirit is for all believers in Jesus, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.”
- Acts 8:17 supports Peter’s words, “Then Peter and John placed their hands on them, and they [the Samaritans] received the Holy Spirit.
- In Acts 10:44-45, the Gentiles receive the Holy Spirit, “While Peter was still saying these things, the Holy Spirit fell on all who heard the word … The circumcised believers … were astonished that the gift of the Holy Spirit had been poured out even on Gentiles.”
- Paul describes one benefit of having the Holy Spirit in Romans 5:5, “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.”
- In Romans 8:14-15 Paul continues speaking about the importance of the Holy Spirit in our lives, “For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, ‘Abba, Father.'”
- Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
- Romans 15:13, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.”
- 1 Corinthians 12:3, “… no one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”
- Fellowship with God and with each other is made possible by the Holy Spirit who lives inside every believer: 2 Corinthians 13:14, “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”
- When Paul speaks of PROMISE anywhere at all in the New Testament (I’m making a huge claim here) he ALWAYS means the Holy Spirit, never physical property–land. Here is one example in Ephesians 1:13, “And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit.”
- The Holy Spirit lets us know God himself, not merely to know about him, Ephesians 1:17, “I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better.”
- 1 Thessalonians 1:6, “… you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit.”
- What more could a believer possibly want than the very presence of God himself living within her heart, 1 Thessalonians 4:8, “… the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.”
- 2 Timothy 1:14, “Guard the good deposit that was entrusted to you–guard it with the help of the Holy Spirit who lives in us.”
- Titus 3:5-7, “he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously trhough Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life.”
- Hebrews 3:7-8 and 12 records how God cries out every day to a lost and lonely people, “So, as the Holy Spirit says: ‘Today, if you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion, during the time of testing in the wilderness, … See to it, brothers and sisters, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God.”
Jesus died and rose again in order to open the pathway back to God–remember Genesis 3–by means of faith through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the difference between knowing about God–hearing about him, reading this blog written about him, listening to sermons about him–and knowing God yourself. Knowing God himself means that occasionally you will feel his presence in you, touching you, wrapping his arms around you, and at times speaking directly to you, so that you know unmistakably that he knows you, sees you, loves you, sometimes corrects you, and is with you.
In closing, I want to talk about my second granddaughter when she was two, and even now, when she is three. Sometimes her parents would have me babysit after school and stretch it out through the dinner hour and even past bedtime. Bedtime was difficult. This little girl wanted to be tucked in for the night by mommy or daddy. She would cry and cry. I would sit on her bed and tell her that mommy and daddy would return, that they loved her, that when she awakened they would be with her, and that she would never be alone. She would never be alone because I myself would not leave the house until her mommy and daddy returned. Sometimes she would fall asleep crying softly with these reassurances. This part of the story represents hearing and knowing about Jesus.
Often, however, the little girl refused to be comforted by my words about her parents’ love for her and the promise that they would return. Often she just refused to fall asleep. Occasionally, the parents would come back while I was still in the room. Then mommy or daddy would enter and hold her in their arms hugging her and whispering softly to her that they were home, that they loved her, and that it was time for her to take a rest and sleep. That part of the story represents knowing Jesus directly through the Holy Spirit.
So, what are we to do in times of stormy trial when we are close to death? We are supposed to do as the psalmist did again and again, and as the disciples did in the boat when the wind and waves threatened to capsize their little boat and cause them to drown. We are to awaken Jesus by giving it all we are worth, shouting even, Savior, don’t you know that I am about to drown? Help me!
Why does God allow turbulent times to happen in our lives? Jesus said in Luke 5:31, “… It is not the healthy who need a doctor, but the sick.” Our sickness is that we are cut off from God. Jesus came to change that. I opened by saying that in a sense the disciples were asleep to the real identity of the Rabbi/teacher who rode in the boat with them. If the storm had not come, would they have become frightened enough to call out to him for help? Would they have known that they were sleeping in the sickness of death? Would they ever have seen his power over nature?
From time to time there are storms in our lives and all around us. Factual, historical events cause our hearts to fear and tremble. We lose control, we lose our peace, we lose our joy, and often we lose hope. That is when we need to turn to Jesus and cry out to him, “Jesus, Jesus, I’m going to drown. Help me!” His promise to us is that he will.
It’s the death of the soul within us that is the greatest danger of all. Peter, quoting the prophet Joel (2:32), spoke these words of promise and assurance in Acts 2:21, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” I love Pa in the Little House on the Prairie book series. The family faced one catastrophe after another, and as narrated through the eyes of his little daughter Laura, he always would say, “There is no great loss without some small gain.” The world and our nation are currently passing through a time of tremendous loss. May there be not a small gain, but a huge gain–eternal life for the many who turn to the Lord, cry out to him, and are saved.