“His Power to Rescue”
Mark 1:21-28, Matt. 8:23-27, John 6:1-14, Luke 8:40-56
March 12, 2017
We too should be amazed at Jesus’ power to rescue.
I. Jesus has power to rescue from supernatural forces (Mark 1;21-28)
II. Jesus has power to rescue from natural disaster (Matthew 8:23-27)
III. Jesus has power to rescue from hunger (John 6:1-14)
IV. Jesus has power to rescue from disease and death (Luke 8:40-56)
My son Michael has been a firefighter for the Forest Bend Fire Department for almost two years now. During that time we’ve gotten to see a couple of demonstrations of the Jaws of Life, which are really three different tools used to rescue people trapped in crashed cars or other constrained places. The spreaders are used to open up door or a body panel that has just a narrow opening. The cutters are the most amazing. They take the support columns of the car roof and just cut through in seconds. Often the rescue is done by completely removing the roof of the car. And the ram is used like the spreader, but to open up structural elements of the car, for example taking the instrument panel off somebody’s chest so they can be lifted out.
The point is that when the fire department shows up in that truck they have these and other tools that are powerful to rescue. And my point this morning is that when Jesus shows up he is powerful to rescue. We should be amazed at Jesus’ power. The purpose of his miracles, in addition to the compassion they show, is to assure us that when it comes to the real rescue, Jesus has the power to save. Nothing in all of this fallen desperate world can withstand his power.
So we’re going to read a lot of Scripture this morning, not looking at every detail of these miracles, but noticing that the Gospel authors – and I’ve deliberately taken a miracle from all four Gospels – are in awe of Jesus’ power to rescue. As you listen to each account, you’ll hear a story of desperate human need, you’ll see God’s power at work in Jesus, and you’ll be told that the crowds watching experienced awe and amazement. I hope you’ll experience it too.
We begin with an account from Mark. Jesus has power to rescue from supernatural forces. Mark 1:21-28 And they went into Capernaum, and immediately on the Sabbath he entered the synagogue and was teaching. 22And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. 23And immediately there was in their synagogue a man with an unclean spirit. And he cried out, 24“What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” 25But Jesus rebuked him, saying, “Be silent, and come out of him!” 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him. 27And they were all amazed, so that they questioned among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey him.” 28And at once his fame spread everywhere throughout all the surrounding region of Galilee.
This first episode occurs early in the Gospel of Mark. In 20 verses Mark summarizes the work of John the Baptist, the baptism of Jesus, his temptation in the desert, the start of ministry and calling the first disciples. None of this is narrated in detail, but now Mark describes at length one day in Capernaum. It’s a Sabbath. Jesus enters the synagogue and teaches in a way that astonishes his listeners. Notice that. We’re going to see the astonishment of the people at his power, but they were equally astonished at his teaching, not like the scribes, but as one with authority. This unrecorded teaching must have been like the teaching that is recorded elsewhere, a call to kingdom living that stems from the heart.
This astonishes them, but they are also amazed by Jesus’ works. A demon-possessed man cries out with supernatural knowledge: “What have you to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth? Have you come to destroy us? I know who you are—the Holy One of God.” The demons seem to have had a deep awareness of the presence of Jesus and his power. Not only do they call him by a name usually reserved for the God of Israel, Holy One, but they fear his judgment. John the Apostle will later say that the reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. As Jesus says in John’s gospel, Satan is the ruler of this world, a liar and murderer. All his works are evil, but he is already judged. From Genesis on we’ve known that the Messiah will crush his head. In the end he will be cast into the abyss with all his followers, these demons. In the incarnation the Messiah shows triumphant power by consistently and usually effortlessly defeating demons and the evil one, Satan himself.
Verse 25 “But Jesus rebuked him, saying, ‘Be silent, and come out of him!’ 26And the unclean spirit, convulsing him and crying out with a loud voice, came out of him.” It’s important for us as followers of Jesus to recognize that he had and still has this effortless power. It doesn’t take some magic formula, system of prayer, deep understanding or even spiritual insight to defeat the demons and forces of evil that still surround and at times assail us. All it takes is Jesus, and apart from Jesus and his power nothing else suffices. He alone is the one who can rescue. A couple times in the last few weeks I’ve read things that have reminded me that prayer is not a manifestation of power but an admission of need. We cry to God because we have these incredible needs we can’t meet and he has incredible power to meet our needs. Prayer is not a manifestation of authority but a cry of need to our Jesus who has the power and all authority.
This is why the crowd was amazed, a word meaning astonished, dumbfounded. I keep thinking of the British word ‘gobsmacked.’ As one author said “It's a combination of gob, colloquial for mouth, and smacked. Hit in the mouth. It's much stronger than just being surprised; it's used for something that leaves you speechless, stops you dead in your tracks.”
This crowd was gobsmacked by Jesus, both his teaching and his works. We should be tool. He has power to rescue from the oppressions of Satan and his demons. He also has power to rescue from the forces of nature and natural disaster. One place we see this is Matthew 8:23-27 And when he got into the boat, his disciples followed him. 24And behold, there arose a great storm on the sea, so that the boat was being swamped by the waves; but he was asleep. 25And they went and woke him, saying, “Save us, Lord; we are perishing.” 26And he said to them, “Why are you afraid, O you of little faith?” Then he rose and rebuked the winds and the sea, and there was a great calm. 27And the men marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
Violent squalls develop quickly on the Sea of Galilee. The surface is more than six hundred feet below sea level, and the rapidly rising hot air draws violent winds from the surrounding tablelands, whose cold air churns up the water. The Greek word for this storm is seismos, which can refer to a storm or an earthquake and gives you some sense of the violence they were experiencing. As fishermen, some of the disciples would be familiar with this sort of thing, but this storm was exceptionally violent and the boat was being swamped, to the point where the disciples were convinced they were about to die.
And Jesus is asleep. This is the only mention of Jesus sleeping, and as Matthew Henry says, it is at a time when his sleep tests the faith of his disciples. I’m not saying he was faking the sleep. If you look at the day he’d had in Matthew 8, he was legitimately exhausted, to the point where even the raging storm couldn’t wake him. Or maybe it did, but his faith allowed him to go back to sleep without stressing. The disciples don’t have the same faith in the Father’s protecting hand, so as the boat careens wildly in the fierce waves, and as the water deepens around them, they wake him, saying “Lord, save us.” This phrase was later picked up in the liturgy of the early church and is still used in many churches today. In Greek it’s “kyrie eleison,” and if you go to a church with a more liturgical approach than ours you’ll hear it said “Kyrie eleison, Christe eleisson, Kyrie eleison.” Lord have mercy and save us.
Jesus says to them, “Why are you afraid? Where is your faith?” As Matthew Henry says "He does not chide them for disturbing him with their prayers, but for disturbing themselves with their fears" Brothers and sister, you’re in the boat with Jesus. It doesn’t matter how big the storm. If Jesus hasn’t panicked, you don’t need to either. Matthew Henry says “Those who are passing with Christ over the ocean of this world, must expect storms. When lusts and temptations are swelling and raging, and God is, as it were, asleep to it, this brings the soul to the brink of despair. Then it cries Lord Jesus, speak. Act. Or I am undone.”
So Jesus, in the classic image, gets up in the boat, holds on to a line, extends his hand over the sea and rebukes it. Luke tells us that he said, “Hush, be still,” like a mother calming her child. Unlike our children at times, this sea of whom he is the creator and Lord, responds. In an instant the wind and the waves ceased. This is not the way of storms. Even when the crisis has passed, the sea, or the lake is full of waves for a long time. The disciples had never seen a storm turn so quickly into a perfect calm, and it astonished them. They marveled, saying, “What sort of man is this, that even winds and sea obey him?”
Jesus has power over nature, power to shape creation to his will, to rescue from disaster. Matthew Henry say “He that can do this, can do anything, which encourages confidence and comfort in him, in the most stormy day, within or without.” I expect we all have a ‘storm’ song that touches us. I’ve had many over the years. Last Friday I went to an Andrew Peterson concert and he sang the song we used as a prelude, The Dark Before the Dawn, “Oh, I know the wind can bring the lightning. Oh, I know the lightning brings the rain. Oh, I know the storm can be so frightening. But that same wind is gonna blow that storm away. Blow that storm away.” “This is the storm, this is the storm, the storm before the calm. This is the dark, the dark before the dawn.” Matthew Henry was right. Jesus calms the storms within, and often without. He has power over spiritual forces, natural forces, and power to meet human need.
John 6:1-14 After this Jesus went away to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. 2And a large crowd was following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing on the sick. 3Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. 4Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand. 5Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a large crowd was coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” 6He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. 7Philip answered him, “Two hundred denarii worth of bread would not be enough for each of them to get a little.” 8One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said to him, 9“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish, but what are they for so many?” 10Jesus said, “Have the people sit down.” Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. 11Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted. 12And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, “Gather up the leftover fragments, that nothing may be lost.” 13So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves left by those who had eaten. 14When the people saw the sign that he had done, they said, “This is indeed the Prophet who is to come into the world!”
This is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels, and each emphasizes something different. Matthew and Mark emphasize the compassion of Jesus, his heart to meet different kinds of needs, physical and spiritual. But John emphasizes the scope of the miracle, the superabundance with which Jesus meets the need. Do you see that? He takes five loaves and two fish, offered by the small boy, a tiny amount, one child’s lunch. He gives thanks to the Father, a point John takes as central, and then he breaks and breaks and breaks and breaks the bread, distributing it to five thousand men, plus women and children, maybe fifteen thousand total. At the end he has the disciples gather the leftovers into baskets, and there are twelve large baskets full of what people couldn’t eat. So John is showing that Jesus is not only powerful to meet our needs, powerful to rescue, but able to do so super-abundantly, above all we ask or imagine.
I’ve said before that this miracle and others like it should astonish us. We tend to want to see miracles for ourselves, like Thomas wanted to see the resurrected Jesus for himself, but if the Scriptures are a true account of what really happened, then these incidents should and can be just as real and astonishing to us as if they took place before our eyes. Blessed are those, Jesus said to Thomas, who have not seen yet believe. May we believe, and be astonished.
John doesn’t actually use the word amazed in his account, but when the people see the sign they say “This is indeed the Prophet,” foretold by Moses, “who is to come into the world.” And they want more. That leads to the Scripture we studied two weeks ago where Jesus rebukes their seeking after more provision and redirects their longing to him, because he is the Bread of Life. Whoever comes to him will never be hungry and whoever believes in him will never be thirsty. He takes their amazement over loaves and fishes and multiples it, if you will, into proper amazement over his provision of himself. “Everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him will have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Jesus has power to rescue from every need, including the sin and guilt that separate us from eternal life with the Father.
Finally, our last passage shows that Jesus has the power to rescue from disease and death. Luke 8:40-56 Now when Jesus returned, the crowd welcomed him, for they were all waiting for him. 41And there came a man named Jairus, who was a ruler of the synagogue. And falling at Jesus’ feet, he implored him to come to his house, 42for he had an only daughter, about twelve years of age, and she was dying. As Jesus went, the people pressed around him. 43And there was a woman who had had a discharge of blood for twelve years, and though she had spent all her living on physicians, she could not be healed by anyone. 44She came up behind him and touched the fringe of his garment, and immediately her discharge of blood ceased.
45And Jesus said, “Who was it that touched me?” When all denied it, Peter said, “Master, the crowds surround you and are pressing in on you!” 46But Jesus said, “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” 47And when the woman saw that she was not hidden, she came trembling, and falling down before him declared in the presence of all the people why she had touched him, and how she had been immediately healed. 48And he said to her, “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” 49While he was still speaking, someone from the ruler’s house came and said, “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” 50But Jesus on hearing this answered, “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” 51When he came to the house, he allowed no one to enter with him, except Peter, John and James, and the father and mother of the child. 52All were weeping and mourning for her, but he said, “Do not weep, for she is not dead but sleeping.” 53And they laughed at him, knowing that she was dead. 54But taking her by the hand he called, saying, “Child, arise.” 55And her spirit returned, and she got up at once, and he directed that something should be given her to eat. 56Her parents were amazed, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.
This is one of my favorite Gospel accounts, and in terms of our study today it’s a buy-one-get-one-free, a miracle interrupted by a miracle, as Dan Wales said the other day. As Luke lays out the story, we’re expecting a healing. Jairus, a prominent Jewish synagogue ruler, comes to beg Jesus to heal his twelve year old daughter, who is dying. We immediately identify with this. What if it was our daughter, our parent, our brother our sister our friend who lay dying. We would cry out to Jesus. Prayer is not power, but the cry of need, of inability.
And Jesus responds. He’s on the way. But then a second need interrupts. A woman is there who has had a discharge of blood for twelve years. She’s desperate. The doctors can’t do anything but take her money. So she acts out a prayer, coming up behind Jesus and touching the fringe of his garment. And Jesus has power to rescue from disease. Immediately, without a word, she is healed. And Jesus knows it. “Who was it that touched me?” “Someone touched me, for I perceive that power has gone out from me.” This is not mechanical, like Jesus was some healing machine you could touch and get healed. This was intentional, a way to encourage the woman to more fully express the faith embodied in her touch. She comes forward and confesses her dependence on Jesus. And he says “Daughter, your faith has made you well; go in peace.” Jesus has power over every human circumstance and thus the power to rescue those who cry out to him, even wordlessly, who reach out to him in faith. Don’t miss this. The power lay not in her faith, nor in some manipulation of God, but in Jesus. Healing is not a formula, but a person. And the person is not you or me, not the elders or one with a gift. The true healer is always Jesus.
And even more wondrously, the one with the power to heal disease is also the one with the power to rescue from death. Remember, Jesus was on the way to heal Jairus’ daughter. But after the interruption, someone comes from Jairus’ house and says “Your daughter is dead; do not trouble the Teacher any more.” But Jesus said “Do not fear; only believe, and she will be well.” Notice, for the fourth time in these accounts, that there is a faith element here. Jesus has power to rescue, from spiritual forces, from natural disasters, from need, from disease and even from death. He’s the giver of eternal life. But just as prayer is the recognition of our dependence, faith is the recognition of his power, of his ability to rescue. Like the disciples in the boat, he calls us to trust, to believe, to have faith in his power and in his rescue.
So Jesus comes to this scene, where traditional mourning is loudly taking place and where the real pain of the parents is crushing. He picks out three of his disciples, Peter, James and John, probably to keep the scene as non-intrusive as possible. Even so, when he asserts that she is not dead but sleeping, the mourning turns to jeers. They know she is dead. What they don’t know is that Jesus has the power to rescue even from death. He takes her by the hand and he says ‘child arise,’ which Mark leaves in the original Aramaic, “Talitha Cumi.” And her spirit returned. Matthew knows that the mourners were right. She was dead. Jesus used the metaphor of sleep only to diffuse the mourning.
She gets up, and Jesus directs them to feed her. She hasn’t been given eternal life, but returned to mortal life. And of course, verse 56, “Her parents were gobsmacked, but he charged them to tell no one what had happened.” Jesus has both kinds of power. He can give life to the dead spiritually and physically. When he raises Lazarus, he says “I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, 26and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” He has the power to rescue from eternal death.
And in rescuing from death, Jesus reveals his power to rescue us from sin. We heard him last week when we celebrated communion. “This is my blood of the covenant which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” Jesus rescues from the most tragic condition of humanity, our fallenness and sin, our rebellion and evil, our separation and selfishness. All of the power he displayed in his miracles was to show that he could rescue from every human condition, so that when we are confronted with rescue, with his death on the cross for us and his resurrection, we will turn from sin and believe in Him.
There are two consistent threads in these rescue accounts. One is faith. If prayer is our cry of dependence, recognizing that we do not have the power to rescue ourselves, then faith is our cry of confidence that Jesus can rescue.
Jesus commends faith. He wants us to trust. And we can, because every rescue Jesus attempted was successful. Someone once said that Jesus never attended a funeral he didn’t disrupt. Even his own. Every rescue he attempted and succeeded at is a faith builder for us, so that we can take seriously his ultimate rescue by sacrifice and resurrection from sin and death. Blessed are the ones today who sees these things in Scripture and believe that “He is victorious over my sin and rescues me from my death.” Do you believe that as reality?
But the second thread here is amazement. They were amazed, they were astonished. They were flabbergasted. They were gobsmacked. They marveled at these things. This power of Jesus is the power to arouse our wonder, our awe and our worship. Can I ask you to stand up? Can I ask you to stand amazed? Close your eyes and imagine the little girl rising to life. The storm stilled to peace. The demon fleeing to the farthest horizon. The twelve baskets left-over. The woman’s face as she realizes she’s healed. Imagine Resurrection Day. Mary, touching her Savior’s feet and saying “Rabboni” and Thomas, touching his Savior’s hand and saying “My Lord and My God.” Jesus we stand amazed not only at your power, but at your power used to rescue.