In Jesus, God came into the world as a baby. Who doesn’t like babies? Even the non-Christian world likes Jesus the baby. The modern church always seems comfortable with Jesus the baby, Jesus the kind man who was nice to children, Jesus the storyteller, even Jesus the corpse taken down from the cross.
But Jesus’ birth as a baby was the beginning of God’s sneak attack against sin, evil, the devil, and death itself. The supernatural Jesus makes everyone uncomfortable, even the church, even his closest friends.
Jesus lives out a parable
Most of the fourth chapter of Mark is devoted to a sample of Jesus’ parables, along with his private explanation of the Parable of the Sower. The chapter’s closing narrative, verses 35-41, amounts to an illustration of that parable.
In demonstrating Jesus’ mastery over the natural world, this passage explicitly asserts his deity. Earlier chapters in Mark has already shown him as a healer, as someone with authority over demons, and even recognized by them as the Holy One of God.
So when Jesus said, “Let’s go across the lake,” the disciples should have known enough to take it as the word of God. That is, the sower sowed the word. If Jesus, who had worked so many wonders in their presence, said they were going across the lake, nothing could prevent them from going there.
Jesus, exhausted from a long day of ministry, fell asleep. In a way, that should have been a model for everyone else in the boat—not that they should have been asleep, but that they should have been confidently at rest as they went about their various tasks.
Seed sown on the disciples’ hard, rocky soil
But the message of the parable of the sower had not registered. In teaching the parables, the sower sowed the word of God. Even though he explained it to his disciples, we can see that his word fell on the path, and the devil came immediately to take it away. When the storm came up, they fell away, offended.
They woke Jesus up and rebuked him for not caring that they were about to sink and drown. He commanded the wind and waves to be calm, and they obeyed his voice. Then Jesus asked the disciples why they were afraid.
Probably no command in the Bible occurs more frequently than “fear not.” Fear of this kind cannot coexist with faith. The disciples thought they were perishing; Jesus didn’t. If Peter and the others had been at rest, displayed the same restful trust Jesus did, they would not have been offended at him.
The wrong kind of fear of God
They still feared when the sea became calm, but it was now a different fear. They were quite comfortable with a human Jesus. Who was this whom the forces of nature obeyed?
Nowadays, we can’t have the experience of walking with him bodily, as Peter and the rest did, but that experience didn’t do them any good until after they couldn’t, either. The Holy Spirit ministered truth to them, resulting in Scripture. Through that Scripture, the Holy Spirit can minister truth to us.
After Jesus rose from the dead, the disciples finally began to catch on. The written gospels reflect their teaching about this less comfortable, supernatural Jesus.
The epistles, especially Paul’s, explore the theological significance of his origin, birth, life, death, and resurrection. Eventually, the church found it necessary to codify biblical teaching in the Nicene Creed.
We can now affirm that Jesus was fully human and at the same time fully God. And still, we turn him aside with the wrong kind of fear. We’re comfortable with the human Jesus. We’re comfortable discussing doctrines about Jesus the Son of God. We have developed a very comfortable Sunday talk.
So why do so many of us run like mad whenever the Son of God starts to get too close to us?
- Probably because Jesus came into the world “through the door,” which the devil didn’t expect, in order to launch a fatal campaign of shock and awe against the devil and all his works.
- Probably because a part of our human nature, which Paul calls the flesh, remains unregenerate, being itself a work of the devil.
- Probably because our flesh fears, correctly, that this supernatural Jesus wants to remove us from our comfortable but sinful habits.
- Probably because, according to Scripture, we ourselves must crucify our flesh and die daily.
- Probably because we’re promised not only a baptism of water but a baptism of fire.
“For he is like a refiner’s fire.” A hot, uncomfortable fire that burns away impurities.
God promised Noah that he would never again destroy the earth with water. Next time he destroys the earth, he’ll use fire. As in the fire that incinerates trash.
Let’s try to stay still and patient when Jesus comes around with his refiner’s fire, as uncomfortable as our flesh will always find it. Actually, once we get over the shock, what’s left is the awe that is the proper fear of God.