In these two texts from Mark’s gospel we find a stunning contrast. We are met with that which appears to be indestructible, but is, in fact, quite destructible; and that which appears so vulnerable and destructible and which is, in fact, indestructible. In Mark 13 the disciples are walking with Jesus and they are admiring the beauty of the temple which had taken decades to build and was their greatest point of pride. Their pride in the magnificence of the Temple comes through their words: “Lord, look at these magnificent buildings! Look at these massive stones.” They believed in the indestructibility of the Temple. It was the one great constant in the life of a first century Jew. The building was the cornerstone of their confidence in their indestructibility as the people of God. Their very preservation was tied to this building. Destroy the Temple in Jerusalem and you have thrust a sword into the very heart of Judaism itself. So what a shock it was when Jesus said, “I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.” Jesus understood that the Temple was passing away and would, in fact, soon be a pile of rubble.
The earlier text in Mark 4 is the account of Jesus and His disciples on the Sea of Galilee in the midst of a great storm. The text tells us that Jesus is asleep in the midst of a great storm which emerged on the Sea of Galilee. When you step back and look at the entire Gospel of Mark up to this point you see that, in fact, Jesus is asleep in the midst of several storms. This makes Jesus’ calmness, and indeed his slumber, in the midst of these storms even more remarkable. Before we reflect on Jesus calming the storm, it is important first to appreciate His calmness in the storm. In fact, to be true to Mark’s gospel we should say, His calmness in the storms (plural). What are these storms? There is the obvious storm on the Sea of Galilee – fierce squalls which would appear suddenly on this Sea and could be quite violent. As you step back and look at the larger context in which Mark has placed this story, however, you are struck by other storms surrounding Jesus. Mark, more than any other Gospel writer, very quickly unveils the opposition which Jesus faces. He delivers it at a relentless speed and pace. In chapter one of Mark’s gospel we find that the forces of evil are arrayed against Jesus and He is challenged by an evil spirit. In chapter two we hear how the Pharisees and the teachers of the law are already grumbling against Jesus. In chapter three Mark records that the Pharisees and the Herodians (traditional enemies of one another) were already conspiring together, plotting how they might kill Jesus. The whole movement of these early chapters seems to reach a climax where, in chapter four, Jesus is actually going to die by a powerful storm in the midst of the Sea. Everything seems to be moving and conspiring to destroy Jesus: The hosts of hell, evil spirits, Pharisees, teachers of the Law, Herodians, and now, even creation itself. Yet, in the midst of these storms, Jesus is asleep in the back of the boat!
As the storm rages, the disciples glance furtively at the storm and back at Jesus again. They are incredulous that anyone could possible sleep through this. But there He is, at rest. Finally, as the storm reaches a fevered pitch, they agree they must awaken him. They awaken him, and the whole thrust of these early chapters – as they have encountered storm after storm – finally finds voice through one of the disciples who asks, “Master, don’t you care that we are going to perish?”
Sometimes we feel like this, don’t we? We may feel at times that the Lord doesn’t care that we are about to be destroyed, or that we are overwhelmed by the storms of life. However, Jesus does not jump up out of his sleep in a panic, offering an apology for sleeping before calming the sea. No, Jesus wakes up in perfect calm and peace. Jesus has no fear, either for his own life, or for the lives of his disciples. Here we meet one of the profound truths of the gospel: The indestructibility of Christ! Despite the storms of opposition which rage around Him, Jesus is not worried. Jesus is not full of anxiety. The reason is because Jesus is indestructible. This is stated quite clearly on the eve of his passion when Jesus declares in John 10:18: “No man takes my life from me; I lay it down of my own accord.” Jesus is in complete control. The hosts of hell, the religious leaders, the Herodians, the Judaizers, and the Romans all conspire together and eventually nail Jesus to a cross. But three days later He is risen and His divine work on behalf of the human race continues to unfold.
Much of the activity in the church is carefully calibrated towards our self-preservation. We are fearful for the demise of the church, so we work to preserve it. We spend a great deal of effort worrying about and managing our own survival. As long as the church stays united to Jesus Christ, however, we share in His indestructibility. The church has no fear of demise. God has an eternal plan for the church, and it will be preserved throughout the annals of time. Jesus promised this himself in Matthew 16:18. The church is indestructible because it is united to an indestructible Christ! This assurance is, of course, not granted to any particular church institution or church bureaucracy. Denominations come and go. That is not the point. The point is that the true church will always be those who remain united to Christ. The gospel advances and the church is strengthened not because of better techniques or clever schemes. The church is preserved and strengthened through its union with Christ. In the church’s infancy, it was so small that the entire church could fit into a single small boat. They were all there, and they were caught up in a great storm. But never has the church been more secure than that day, for in the midst of an array of storms, the disciples caught a glimpse of the indestructibility of Christ!
The image above is “Peace, be still” by HE Qi