Jeremiah 18 & Mark 4

Jeremiah 18

    The word that came to Jeremiah from the LORD: “Arise, and go down to the potter's house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter's house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter's hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.

    Then the word of the LORD came to me: “O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the LORD. Behold, like the clay in the potter's hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. If at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom, that I will pluck up and break down and destroy it, and if that nation, concerning which I have spoken, turns from its evil, I will relent of the disaster that I intended to do to it. And if at any time I declare concerning a nation or a kingdom that I will build and plant it, and if it does evil in my sight, not listening to my voice, then I will relent of the good that I had intended to do to it. Now, therefore, say to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem: ‘Thus says the LORD, Behold, I am shaping disaster against you and devising a plan against you. Return, every one from his evil way, and amend your ways and your deeds.’

    “But they say, ‘That is in vain! We will follow our own plans, and will every one act according to the stubbornness of his evil heart.’

    “Therefore thus says the LORD:
    Ask among the nations,
        Who has heard the like of this?
    The virgin Israel
        has done a very horrible thing.
    Does the snow of Lebanon leave
        the crags of Sirion?
    Do the mountain waters run dry,
        the cold flowing streams?
    But my people have forgotten me;
        they make offerings to false gods;
    they made them stumble in their ways,
        in the ancient roads,
    and to walk into side roads,
        not the highway,
    making their land a horror,
        a thing to be hissed at forever.
    Everyone who passes by it is horrified
        and shakes his head.
    Like the east wind I will scatter them
        before the enemy.
    I will show them my back, not my face,
        in the day of their calamity.”
        Then they said, “Come, let us make plots against Jeremiah, for the law shall not perish from the priest, nor counsel from the wise, nor the word from the prophet. Come, let us strike him with the tongue, and let us not pay attention to any of his words.”

    Hear me, O LORD,
        and listen to the voice of my adversaries.
    Should good be repaid with evil?
        Yet they have dug a pit for my life.
    Remember how I stood before you
        to speak good for them,
        to turn away your wrath from them.
    Therefore deliver up their children to famine;
        give them over to the power of the sword;
    let their wives become childless and widowed.
        May their men meet death by pestilence,
        their youths be struck down by the sword in battle.
    May a cry be heard from their houses,
        when you bring the plunderer suddenly upon them!
    For they have dug a pit to take me
        and laid snares for my feet.
    Yet you, O LORD, know
        all their plotting to kill me.
    Forgive not their iniquity,
        nor blot out their sin from your sight.
    Let them be overthrown before you;
        deal with them in the time of your anger.

(Jeremiah 18 ESV)

Mark 4

    Again he began to teach beside the sea. And a very large crowd gathered about him, so that he got into a boat and sat in it on the sea, and the whole crowd was beside the sea on the land. And he was teaching them many things in parables, and in his teaching he said to them: “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. And as he sowed, some seed fell along the path, and the birds came and devoured it. Other seed fell on rocky ground, where it did not have much soil, and immediately it sprang up, since it had no depth of soil. And when the sun rose, it was scorched, and since it had no root, it withered away. Other seed fell among thorns, and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no grain. And other seeds fell into good soil and produced grain, growing up and increasing and yielding thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.” And he said, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”

    And when he was alone, those around him with the twelve asked him about the parables. And he said to them, “To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that

    “they may indeed see but not perceive,
        and may indeed hear but not understand,
    lest they should turn and be forgiven.”
        And he said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? The sower sows the word. And these are the ones along the path, where the word is sown: when they hear, Satan immediately comes and takes away the word that is sown in them. And these are the ones sown on rocky ground: the ones who, when they hear the word, immediately receive it with joy. And they have no root in themselves, but endure for a while; then, when tribulation or persecution arises on account of the word, immediately they fall away. And others are the ones sown among thorns. They are those who hear the word, but the cares of the world and the deceitfulness of riches and the desires for other things enter in and choke the word, and it proves unfruitful. But those that were sown on the good soil are the ones who hear the word and accept it and bear fruit, thirtyfold and sixtyfold and a hundredfold.”

    And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light. If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear.” And he said to them, “Pay attention to what you hear: with the measure you use, it will be measured to you, and still more will be added to you. For to the one who has, more will be given, and from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.”

    And he said, “The kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.”

    And he said, “With what can we compare the kingdom of God, or what parable shall we use for it? It is like a grain of mustard seed, which, when sown on the ground, is the smallest of all the seeds on earth, yet when it is sown it grows up and becomes larger than all the garden plants and puts out large branches, so that the birds of the air can make nests in its shade.”

    With many such parables he spoke the word to them, as they were able to hear it. He did not speak to them without a parable, but privately to his own disciples he explained everything.

    On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

(Mark 4 ESV)

Mark 4: Jesus Christ is the source of the gospel aroma that lingers throughout the entire Old Testament. It’s difficult to read this particular story of Jesus calming the storm without bringing to mind another great storm that God also calmed back in the Old Testament. It’s a storm found in the narrative concerning the prophet Jonah and the similarities are striking. 

In both stories, a great storm arises upon the sea out of nowhere and begins to sink the boat. In both stories, the men who would be considered professionals at sea are scared for their lives. And in both stories, the two men who can do something about the storm are sleeping in the midst of it. There is really only one big difference between the two stories, and that is the way in which the storms were stopped. Jesus speaks to the storm in order to silence it, but Jonah offers a sacrifice.

What does Jonah do to stop the storm? He tells the men on the boat to cast him out. Throw him overboard. Jonah is willing to be sacrificed for the sake of everyone else. He knows that if he dies then everyone else will live. And without question, it’s here that we begin to smell that gospel aroma. 

In Matthew 12:41, Jesus declares that “something greater than Jonah is here.” Who is this Jesus that the disciples are dealing with? He is the one who has come to willingly offer Himself to be cast out. Thrown overboard. To be sacrificed for us. To die in order that we may live. He has calmed this storm with a command, but He will calm the ultimate storm with the cross. “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you know who I am?”  

If He is willing to be cast out and suffer death so that we may live, can we not trust Him no matter what storm we may find ourselves in here on earth? If God is for us, who or what could possibly be against us? Who or what can possibly separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or persecution, or danger, or sword or storms? No, of course not, for we should be convinced that neither death nor life, nor things present nor things to come, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God clearly displayed in and through Christ Jesus our Lord.

So Jesus looks at His disciples and simply says, “Why are you so afraid? Don’t you know who I am?” And just like in the story of Jonah, the men on the boat are now more terrified after the storm is calmed than they were in the midst of it. 

The disciples ask themselves, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” (v. 41). And here is their unforgettable lesson - Jesus had just done what only God can do. Only God makes storms be still (see Psalm 107:23-32). For the disciples, Jesus is becoming just as unpredictable and uncontrollable as that storm upon the sea. That can be a terrifying thought. However, we must not fear and always remember - Not only is He God; He is good, and He is for us. Jesus is using this opportunity to teach His disciples that the power of salvation lies in the object of our faith not in faith itself. “Who then is this?” and “Is He worthy of my trust?” Failure to understand who Christ really is will always lead to a deficiency in our faith and an increase in our fear.