DON’T YOU CARE?

This is Chapter Four of my new book Questioning Jesus: Considering His Responses. 

Primary Bible References – Matthew 8:23-27; Mark 4:35-31; and Luke 8:22-25

With the exception of this chapter, all the other incidents discussed in this book are occasions when Jesus’ critics questioned Him trying to test, discredit, trap, trick, and delegitimize Him. The incident to be explored in this chapter, however, does not involve His critics. It is rather His followers who question Him.

In Mark’s account of this incident the disciples asked Jesus, “Don’t you care?” (4:38). The actual question is longer than that, but that’s the gist of it. Unlike all the other questioning of Jesus we are examining, this question was not about testing or tricking Him. But although the disciples were not questioning Jesus as a way to trap him, they were certainly doing more than seeking information.

“Don’t you care?” is a question a lot of people still ask the Lord today, both unbelievers and believers alike. Even if you have never asked it, I suspect there have been times in your life when you have thought it. That’s why I think this chapter will be especially helpful to all of us.

Context and Setting

Mark tells us this episode took place in the evening following a day of Jesus teaching. At Jesus’ suggestion they all crossed the lake (according to Luke 8:22) or the sea (according to Matthew 8:23). In the midst of the trip a severe storm developed, raising concern with the disciples. Because of the low altitude and the surrounding hills, sudden storms still hit the Sea of Galilee today.

I note that the storm raised concern with the disciples without mentioning Jesus because He was asleep. Jesus was asleep because He was tired. I don’t think for a minute Jesus was pretending to be asleep in order to teach the disciples a lesson. This is another indication that although Jesus was and is the Son of God, He was also fully human. There are a variety of places in the New Testament where it is clear Jesus faced the same kind of physical realities we all face in terms of hunger, thirst, and the need for rest. If you ever wonder if Jesus can identify with your fatigue, the answer is yes!

In the face of the situation the disciples determined to wake Jesus—that tells us how strong this storm actually was. At least four of the disciples were experienced fishermen and used to these kinds of storms; they would certainly know when they were in trouble. According to Mark the squall was furious and the waves were breaking over the boat, threatening to sink it. On top on the severity of the storm, this was taking place at night. We never read in the Bible of the disciples interrupting Jesus’ prayer time, but here they do wake Him from His sleep. Apparently they had enough faith in Jesus to believe that if He was awake He could save them, but not enough to ride the storm out while He was asleep.

Questioning Jesus

Mark 4:38 tells us they woke Jesus and asked, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” There is a tone of irritation and reproach in what they asked. It reminds me of Martha’s question to Jesus in Luke 10:40: “Don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself?” She follows this question by telling Jesus what do to; she says to Him, “Tell her to help me.” The disciples did not tell Jesus what to do, but it was implied He needed to do something. Even though they were afraid, and as inadequate as their faith may have been, the fact that they woke Jesus indicates they did have faith in Him.

Considering Jesus’ Response

Jesus’ response to the disciples’ questioning was twofold. Matthew, Mark, and Luke all report He calmed the storm and questioned the disciples. Matthew, however, has Jesus asking the question first (8:26), while Mark (4:40) and Luke (8:25) have Jesus questioning them after He calmed the storm. Mark also reports Jesus asking them two questions.

Even though this book is not about apologetics and defending the reliability of the Gospels, I want to comment on the discrepancies among the three accounts. (And remember it is only Mark who reports the disciples asking, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”) For me these minor differences underscore the reliability of the record. If the writers of the Gospels were in collusion and making things up, they certainly would have gotten their stories straight before writing them down. In addition, if the authors of the Gospels were conspiring to give the best possible account, it seems unusual that only Matthew and Luke omitted the disciples’ questioning of Jesus. Wouldn’t Mark have wanted to eliminate this detail as well so as not to make the disciples look bad? Instead, the Gospels are full of these small discrepancies as well as incident after incident in which the disciples look foolish or unbelieving. In my mind, this is evidence that they should be trusted as authentic accounts written without an agenda other than telling people the good news of Christ.

In response to being awakened Jesus did calm the storm. Mark reports, “He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, ‘Quiet! Be still!’ Then the wind died down and it was completely calm” (4:39). All three accounts report a similar response from the disciples: “The men were amazed and asked, ‘What kind of man is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him!”’ (Matthew 8:27). They were amazed, as in the presence of God. They saw and knew that He was a man, but now they also knew He was more than just a man. Managing nature in terms of the storm and sea was something only God could do. They were coming more and more to understand that He was the Son of God. This entire incident is often pointed to as underscoring in quick succession both the humanity as well as the divinity of Jesus. We see human weariness in His sleeping and the divine voice ruling nature.

Whether Jesus calmed the storm before He spoke to His disciples or not, He did scold them and ask a convicting question: “You of little faith, why are you so afraid?” The answer to His question is suggested in His address “you of little faith.” Jesus wasn’t miffed that His disciples woke Him, He was disappointed they didn’t have more faith. After all, by this time they had seen Him do quite a bit and had heard Him teach often; He expected their faith would have been stronger.

Wrap Up

This exchange between Jesus and His disciples challenges us to think about our faith. It would be difficult to overstate the importance of faith in the Christian life. Hebrews 11:6 declares, “And without faith it is impossible to please God, because anyone who comes to him must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who earnestly seek him.” We are saved by faith; or in other words, we become Christians by faith. Not only are we saved by faith, however, we are also to live by faith. Jesus repeatedly made this point in His teaching as does both the Old Testament and the New Testament. And living by faith means that faith is something in which we grow. In His words to His disciples Jesus was challenging them to greater faith and He does the same to us today.

One thing we might suggest from this entire episode is that storms are a part of life. In a printed message by Rick Warren he notes storms “are inevitable, they are unpredictable, and they are impartial. They’re going to come, we’re not sure when, and we’re all going to face them.”

Isn’t it interesting that in this account the disciples were in a storm because they were following Jesus? It was His idea to go across the lake. Perhaps the disciples expected everything to be smooth sailing because they were with Him. Being a Christian and following Jesus does not guarantee cloudless skies or smooth sailing in life. Sometimes being a follower of Jesus leads us into storms. I don’t think the storm this particular evening surprised Jesus, do you? The reality is nothing ever surprises God.

Just like the disciples we sometimes wonder if Jesus really cares. We sometimes believe Jesus has let us down. God does not always perform miracles to rescue us from life’s storms. And there are false teachers who wrongly suggest that if we had more faith we would be saved from the storms of life; we would be healed, our marriage would not fail, our financial woes would be resolved, or our child would not suffer. But that is cruel and not what the Bible teaches. Real faith trusts God in the storm no matter what the outcome. There is also a connection between fear and faith. As we grow in faith, fear becomes less a factor in our lives.

Considering Jesus’ assessment of the disciples, “You of little faith” (Matthew 8:26), we must ask ourselves how much faith is enough. I’m not sure I know. Probably just like you, I’m still trying to cultivate my faith and root out fear in my life. One thing we might note, there is no record of Jesus ever telling anyone they had too much faith! How much faith is enough? I don’t know, but I suspect you and I both could use a little more. The point is that Jesus can be trusted, especially in the storms of life.

I read that one day Mark Twain and a friend walked outside in the rain. The friend asked him, “Do you think it will stop?” And Twain responded, “It always does.” That’s true with any storm. You’ve got to go through it, but it’s not going to last forever. Eventually, or ultimately, it will end.

To learn more about the book, read some editorial reviews, and order it go to

http://www.amazon.com/Questioning-Jesus-Considering-His-Responses/dp/1517785855/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1455234806&sr=8-3&keywords=Questioning+Jesus

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ARE YOU GOING TO SEE RISEN?

With a few exceptions, I have been disappointed the last several years with the movies I have seen based upon the Bible. If you saw Noah and/or Exodus: Gods and Kings you know what I mean. If you didn’t see them you were wise not to waste your time or spend your money.

I saw the new film Risen yesterday and I am pleased to report that not only was I not disappointed, I was impressed and enjoyed it. I agree with both Fox News’ reporter Todd Starnes who proclaimed “It’s a miracle! Hollywood finally tells a great Bible story” and Christianity Today’s chief film critic Alissa Wilkinson who reported it “is not quite like any film based on the Bible that I’ve seen before.”

As the title indicates, Risen is about Jesus’ resurrection on Easter Sunday following His Good Friday crucifixion. Others may not agree with me, but I thought the movie was biblical, realistic, inspirational, and touching. It cost me $21.50 for my ticket, diet coke, popcorn, and candy; but the $8.25 for the ticket was worth it as was the time it took to see it. (Note I did not say the diet coke, popcorn, and candy was worth $13.25).

Was the movie perfect? No. No movie made from a book or novel will be perfect. Think about some of the movies you have seen that were made from a novel. I remember years ago reading Jaws and then how surprised I was when I saw the movie. The movie was not like I had imagined it would be based upon reading the novel.

Does Risen add to the Bible’s account? Yes. Is what it adds speculative. Yes. To make a movie from the Bible requires that some speculative addition be made. Risen tells the story of what happened after Jesus rose from the dead through a Roman tribune soldier named Clavius who was Pilate’s right hand man. His assignment is to find the corpse of the crucified Nazarene so they can refute the rumor that He rose from the dead.

Of course there is no Clavius in the Gospel accounts, but Matthew 27:62-64 does tell us the chief priests and the Pharisees were aware that before His death Jesus said He would rise again. Those verses also tell us the religious leaders were afraid Jesus’ disciples would steal His body and tell people He had risen. And Matthew 28:11-15 tells us the chief priests paid the soldiers to lie about what happened. In the movie almost everything Clavius deals with from Jesus’ death to His ascension has some basis in the Gospels. That is why I said above the film is realistic.

In the midst of a lot of biblical material in the movie, there are a few dislocations of sayings in terms of where they appear in the Bible. I can live with that as I was pleased to see so much Bible in the story’s speculation and additions. I don’t know if any Roman soldiers became believers after Jesus’ resurrection and before His ascension. But I do know that when Jesus died some soldiers remarked, “Surely he was the Son of God!” And Acts 10 tells us about a centurion name Cornelius who later became a Christian.

You have to decide for yourself if you want to see this movie. Having seen it I can say it was not totally satisfying, but it was worth seeing.

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PUT IN YOUR NAME

Since it was Valentine’s Day this past Sunday I preached about love from I Corinthians 13. This passage is the most profound piece on love ever written and I call it “The Bible’s Love Song.” I call it a love song because it can be divided into three stanzas. And it is a love song like no other love song that has been or ever will be written.

Verses 1-3 provide the first stanza and it tells us Love Is Essential. Verses 4-7 give us the second stanza and Describe Love telling us what love is, what it does, and what it doesn’t do. Finally, verses 8-13 form the third stanza and tell us Love Is Eternal.

The first stanza proclaims that without love wonderful speech, great spirituality, and sacrificial giving aren’t that impressive. And it is a troubling thought to think someone could speak in tongues, have the gift of prophecy, fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, have a faith that can move mountains, or sacrifice everything, and yet not have love.

The third stanza proclaims that contrasted with prophesy, tongues, and knowledge, love will endure and continue forever. In the here and now faith, hope, and love all remain. Nevertheless, some day our faith will become sight and our hope will be fulfilled. But because it is the greatest, love will last forever.

But it’s the second stanza I want us to focus on. In the message I did what I have done many times before suggesting that we all substitute our name for love in the description Paul gives. To make clear what I was saying I read verses 4-7 putting in my name in place of love. And after all these years of being a Christian, a pastor, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a neighbor, a friend, a teacher, and many other roles, I was overwhelmed. More than any other time I had used this illustration in the past, I realized how far short I fall in terms of living out and showing this description of love.

I invite you to read these verses (possibly out loud) putting your name in place of love:   4 [your name] is patient, [your name] is kind. [Your name] does not envy, [your name] does not boast, [your name] is not proud. 5[Your name] does not dishonor others, [your name] is not self-seeking, [your name] is not easily angered, [your name] keeps no record of wrongs. [Your name] does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. [Your name] always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

In doing this I hope you are convicted, challenged, and encouraged as much as I was when I did it in front of the church on Sunday. “Dear friends let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love” (I John 4:7 and 8).

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SELF-PROMOTION?

In publishing my second book last week, Questioning Jesus: Considering His Responses, I’ve been reading and thinking a lot about getting the word out about it. Since it is not being put out by a major publisher, how do I let those who may want to read it know it’s available? From the time I published my first book (A Pastor and the People: An inside Look through Letters) in May of last year I have been cautious about talking too much about the book. And I want to be equally cautious about this one.

Book marketing guru and author Tim Grahl reports he often hears from authors: “I hate doing self-promotion.” That’s my concern with getting the word out about my book. In letting those who may want to read the book know it is available, I do not want to be perceived as promoting myself and I know that constant pitches to buy my book can come across as self-promotion. I know that because my email inbox is regularly flooded with all kinds of “offers” to buy books, training, and videos that will change my life in many areas.

Tim Grahl suggests self-promotion disappears when an author focuses on the “why” of his or her writing. He notes “your favorite authors write books to add something to your life. They have a ‘why’ that they are deeply connected to.” Grahl concludes that once you know and are deeply connected to your “why” it’s no longer about you and your self-promotion.

The reality is that I want to sell copies of this book; I want people to get it and read it. But I have no illusion about it becoming a bestseller or me becoming a famous author. My why is getting people to read, think, and talk about the Christian life, the Bible, and the church. For the past 45 years my heart has been set on teaching the Bible. But more than that, my central goal has been teaching people about Jesus. The purpose of Questioning Jesus: Considering His Responses is to help “readers become familiar with the details when Jesus was questioned and gain a greater appreciation for Him in light of the way He responded to both the questions and His questioners.”

I believe this book will be good for both individual reading and Bible study as well as small group reading and Bible study. Questions for reflection and discussion are included at the end of each of the 13 chapters. To learn more about the book, to read some endorsement reviews, and to order it go to
http://www.amazon.com/Questioning-Jesus-Considering-His-Responses/dp/1517785855/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1455234806&sr=8-3&keywords=Questioning+Jesus

I invite you to help me get the word out about this book to those who may be interested. Also, if you get it and read it please consider writing a review on amazon.com.

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SHAKE UP YOUR PRAYER SEQUENCE

While praying and trying to put into practice the call to “delight in the LORD” (see last week’s post) I stumbled into a sequence I found helpful and rewarding. It certainly isn’t in league with the model prayer Jesus gave us, and I don’t know that I will follow it often, but that morning it worked for me in a way that refreshed my time with the Lord in prayer. As I was praying four lines of thought came to me that formed my prayer.

LORD, I LOVE YOU . . .

In reflecting on the idea of delighting in the Lord I simply told Him I loved Him. In doing that it occurred to me that I probably don’t express my love to Him often enough. I don’t know why, but I proceeded to directly address each member of the Trinity telling the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit each separately of my love.

LORD, I THANK YOU . . .

As I reflected on my love for the Lord I was reminded of how thankful I should be and am. Once I began noting specifics for which I am thankful my prayer of thanksgiving began to flow. I listed things any of us would mention, but then continued by thanking God for a variety of things I tend to take for granted and do not often express gratitude for.

LORD, I PRAISE YOU . . .

Having spent time thanking the Lord I was reminded of a distinction I learned many years ago between gratitude and worship. It isn’t that the two don’t go together, but I remember hearing someone suggest we thank God for what He does for us, but we worship Him for who He is.  So I began to tell the Lord I praised Him and worshipped Him and honored Him for who He was. And I returned to directly addressing again each member of the Trinity noting specifically how I praised each.

LORD, I ASK YOU . . .

To be honest I surprised myself that I prayed as long as I did before I got to asking God for things. So often in my prayers I get to asking Him about things pretty quickly but on this morning it took a while. I still had a number of requests, but coming to the requests after the first three parts of my prayer made my asking seem different. Like pretty much everyone who will read this post, I have some troubling and heavy issues I took to the Lord. I’m not aware of any instantaneous resolutions that came about, but I did have a greater sense of comfort and calm about things.

I don’t know if what I have relayed to you is something you will want to try or not. What I do know is that thinking about and trying to put into practice the Psalmist’s call to “delight in the LORD” has made and will continue to make a difference in my prayer life.

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DO WHAT?

Over the past few years I have read Psalm 37 several times and it has become one of my favorite passages of Scripture. Recently I was reading it again and an aspect of the Psalm struck me as it never had before. Verse 4 affirms, “Take delight in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.” And verse 23 notes, “The LORD makes firm the steps of the one who delights in him.”

Who doesn’t want the desires of their heart and what believer wouldn’t want the Lord to make his or her steps firm? Those two promises were the primary reason I had returned to this Psalm so often. As I contemplated my future I was trying to determine what the Lord’s will was and exactly what I wanted.

Although I am still interested in what God’s will is, I made an important decision a couple of years ago and moved into a new phase of my life. So when I read Psalm 37 a couple of weeks ago it wasn’t with the goal of finding direction; I was reading it because it is one of my favorites.

But what struck me when I recently read it was verse 4’s instruction “Take delight in the LORD” and verse 23’s description “the one who delights in him (the LORD).” And the question arose in my mind that arises often when we read the Bible: “What does that mean?” What does it mean to take delight in the LORD or delight in him? I’ve been thinking about that the past couple of weeks.

Through an internet search I found a simple definition of delight as “something that makes you very happy, something that gives you great pleasure or satisfaction.” That definition doesn’t answer my question, but it is helpful. One commentator suggests “in this particular context it means to be dependent upon God and to derive one’s pleasure from Him.” That’s also helpful, isn’t it? I think we know what it means to be dependent upon God, but to derive our pleasure from Him takes us back to the original idea of delighting in Him.

In searching other translations of Psalm 37:4 I found two that really help me understand what it means to delight in the LORD. In The Message paraphrase Eugene Peterson renders Psalm 37:4, “Keep company with God.” That suggests to me spending time with God in corporate worship, reading the Bible, and in prayer. The Contemporary English Version translates the verse, “Do what the LORD wants.” That suggests obeying God by doing what He asks and not doing what He forbids.

We might ask ourselves a few questions. Do we find great pleasure and satisfaction in worship, in reading the Bible, and in spending time in prayer? Are we gratified by doing what God calls us to do and refraining from what He tells us is wrong? Does it give us joy to live our lives with the goal of pleasing Him? Are we confident and comfortable knowing we are dependent upon Him and thankful for His care?

If we answer “yes” to those questions I think we are delighting in God. What do you think? Make comments below and share this post if you think others would benefit from it.

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