A Conversation with Peter

Original Date: 
Sunday, January 29, 2017

Mark 4:35-5:43 A Conversation with Peter

As far as we know, Mark never met Jesus. At least we are never told of any encounters between them. But according to tradition, Mark was a frequent companion and assistant of the Apostle Peter. Thus, it has long been accepted that the foundation for the gospel that bears Mark's name is the preaching and memory of Peter himself.

In other words, even though Peter never wrote an account of Jesus' life himself, at least not one that has survived to this day, his memories of Jesus are largely preserved in the gospel story that Mark wrote.

It makes sense. The rich detail in much of Mark's gospel can only be explained if it was provided by someone who was there. For example, in the passage of Scripture we just read Mark tells us that after Jesus brought the girl back to life, He told them to give her something to eat. It's a wonderful detail, but it is not a key part of the story. The question, then, is how Mark found out about it. Remember only Jesus, Peter, James, John, and the parents of the little girl were present when she was brought back to life. Mark must have heard the story from one of them or there is no way he could have known that Jesus had said that.

The same is true for a lot of other details in Mark's gospel. They are things that could only be known by someone who was there. And so it just makes sense that Mark would have gotten his information from Peter.

So it is interesting to think about what it would have been like for Mark to sit with Peter and hear these stories told.

Can you imagine what it would have been like to hear about Jesus from someone like Peter, who was with Him all that time?

It might have been something like this...

Mark, did I ever tell you about the days when I really started to understand who Jesus was? When it was that I really began to see what it meant to follow Him?

It didn't happen all at once, but there were a couple of days that really stick out as days when He began to show us just how great His power was.

It all started one night after Jesus had been teaching all day. We were just outside of Capernaum, alongside of the Sea of Galilee, where James and John and Andrew and I had stowed our boats.

Well, there were lots of people around, just like there always were when Jesus was teaching, and it seemed like we could never get a moment's peace. We were always bugging Jesus to take some time for Himself, but He never seemed to listen. It was like He was drawn to the crowds, and they were drawn to Him. But on this night He surprised us by suggesting that maybe we could take the boats over to the other side of the lake.

The other side of the lake was a Gentile area--the Gerasenes--I had never spent any time on the shore over there but I figured if it gave Jesus a chance to rest, then it was worth it. So we pulled the boats into the water and we all scrambled aboard.

It was a nice clear evening, and I've got to tell you it felt good to be out on the lake again. I was also relieved to see Jesus go to the back of the boat and lay down on the cushion we kept there. He needed to sleep, you know?

Anyway, we were just floating along, enjoying the quiet and the chance to get away, when I started to notice a breeze picking up out of the south. Now I've got to tell you Mark, I'd worked on that lake most of my life, and there are only a couple of times that I can remember the wind picking up after dark. It was like the storms that usually blow in during the afternoons, but worse, way worse. We trimmed the sails and started to work the oars, but there wasn't much we could do. Before we knew it the waves were breaking over the boat. We started to bail, but it was clear that we were being swamped.

I was trying to get everybody organized, and trying keep myself in the boat, when it occurred to me that I should check on Jesus. I turned toward the back of the boat and started to yell, "Master, are you O.K.?" when--I couldn't believe it--I saw that He was still asleep.

I was shocked.

Here we were, fighting just to keep the boat afloat, and Jesus was laying there with His head on a pillow as if He were back at His mother's home in Nazareth. Well, I'm not proud of it Mark, but I snapped. I got the attention of some of the others, and we began to shake Jesus and yell at Him: "Don't you care? We're going to drown! Wake up! How can you sleep?"

And do you know what He did? He sat up...looked around as if He were surprised to see the storm...and then He spoke to it: "Silence! Be still!"

And just like that, the storm was gone. Not just the wind, mind you, but the waves too. It was as calm as the bottom of a well. I almost fell over, I was so surprised.

But I'll never forget what happened next. We were still trying to figure out what had happened when Jesus turned and looked at us, and we could see the sadness in His eyes. He said, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?" And then He lay back down and went back to sleep.

To be honest with you, I didn't understand the question. In fact, I was probably more scared then than I was during the storm. We spent the rest of the trip watching Him and wondering who He was. I mean, it was something else when He healed my mother-in-law, but to command the winds and the waves? It was incredible.

But that was only the beginning of our journey.

By morning we had landed in the region of the Gerasenes. We weren't really sure what Jesus planned to do now that we had arrived. He just got out of the boat and sort of stood there on the shore. And then, up in the hills, I heard a strange howl. It was like a man's scream, only it wasn't. It was different, otherworldly. And as we sat there on the shore we could hear it coming closer.

The rest of us were getting nervous, and several of the guys were getting ready to push the boats back into the water--but Jesus just stood there. And then I saw him. He was half naked. He had a broken chain on one wrist and cuts and bruises all over his body. His hair and beard were wild and tangled. He was clearly a madman...and He was running straight down the hills toward Jesus.

Startled, I rushed up the shore to get between this crazy man and Jesus, but Jesus just put His hand on my shoulder and stepped past me. He held up his hand and the man fell to his knees. And then, very gently, Jesus said, "Come out of this man, you evil spirit!"

But it wasn't like the other exorcisms I had seen Jesus do. The spirit didn't leave the man, but instead he began to yell at Jesus in a loud voice and looked again as though he might attack. But Jesus remained very calm, and instead of rebuking the spirit, He asked it for its name.

"My name is Legion," the man growled, "for we are many."

And then, the spirits began to beg and plead for Jesus to show mercy, and to let them stay in the area. There was a very large herd of pigs in view on one of the nearby hillsides. And the spirits pleaded to be given permission to go into them. Jesus dropped His hand, said, "Very well," and the man immediately relaxed.

At the same time, though, I could hear the squeals from the pigs and turned to see them all racing down the hill into the lake, where they drowned. It occurred to me that if they had been allowed to keep possession of the man, they would have done the same to him.

Well, the rest of our group came ashore and we began to tend to the man. James and John helped him get the manacle off his wrist while the ladies tended to his wounds and the rest of us gathered enough clothes to dress him appropriately. At the same time, he couldn't stop talking as he shared his story with Jesus.

It seems that just beyond the hills where we had come ashore there were a bunch of tombs. For years this man had been possessed by demons and lived among those tombs. When he had first been possessed the people in his town had tried to subdue him--they had even attempted to chain him down--but no man and no chain was strong enough to bind him. And so they had just abandoned him in the area of the tombs. Day and night the evil spirits would make him roam the tombs and hills crying out and cutting his body with stones.

While he was explaining all this, a crowd began to gather. I guess the guys who had been watching the pigs had run into town to tell about what had happened. The people were beginning to bunch up, but rather than rushing up to Jesus like the people back home did, they seemed scared to see the wildman fully clothed and talking normally with us. Finally, some of the braver ones among them came up and asked Jesus to leave.

Jesus just shook His head sadly and motioned for us to get back into the boats. I helped the others shove off and then came back to get my boat--the one Jesus was riding in. Jesus was still talking to the man he had just cured. He wanted to get in the boat and go with us, but Jesus just kept shaking His head no. The man kept insisting, and finally Jesus had to say firmly, "Go home. Go to your family. Tell them how much the Lord has done for you. Tell them about the mercy you have received." That seemed to satisfy him, and the last I saw of him as we sailed away he was excitedly trying to get the attention of the people on the shore.

You know Mark, a few years ago I went back to the 10 cities in the region of the Gerasenes to tell them about Jesus, and they already knew that story. Apparently that man went to every one of those cities and told anybody who would listen about Jesus the Judean and what He had done for him.

Well, as if that wasn't enough excitement for a couple of days, when we got back to our side of the lake there was already another large crowd waiting for Jesus.

But this crowd was different. Instead of the sick being pushed to the front and everybody clamoring for Jesus' attention, they were all staring at one man.

His name was Jairus, he was one of the leaders of the local synagogue, and he was obviously distraught. Apparently his daughter had become very ill. He had tried several doctors and they had all said there was nothing they could do. They had told him his little girl was dying. And so, he had come to find Jesus

When Jesus walked up on shore Jairus fell at his feet and began to explain about his daughter. He pleaded with the Lord to just come and touch her because, he said, then she would surely be made well and live.

Jesus said He would go, and we began to make our way towards Jairus's house. But the whole crowd followed along. The other apostles and I tried to make a ring about Jesus to give Him some room, but the press of the crowd was just too great, and instead of going quickly to Jairus's house we moved along at the snail's pace of a mob.

I could see the worry and frustration in the face of Jairus, but Jesus seemed unconcerned. He just kept moving as quickly as the crowd would allow Him.

I don't know if you've ever been in a mob Mark, but it isn't much fun. There is always somebody grabbing you or stepping on your toes or sticking an elbow in your gut. It was especially bad for Jesus. It seemed like everyone wanted to get close to Him, and there were always people grabbing at His clothes and stuff. But then, all of a sudden, He stopped and turned around and yelled: "Who touched my robe?"

Well, I couldn't understand what He was asking. Everybody around Him was touching His robe and bumping into Him. Some of the other disciples wondered how He could even ask such a question. But Jesus didn't say anything, and He didn't move. He just kept looking around until finally a woman--I could see that she was shaking she was so scared--came forward and fell at His feet.

As Jesus listened patiently, she told her whole story. Apparently she had been suffering from a continual issue of blood for the past twelve years. She had seen many doctors, and spent all she had trying to be cured, but their treatments had only caused her more pain and made her condition worse. Then she had heard about Jesus and decided that if she could only get close enough to touch His clothes, she could be healed.

And so she had worked her way up through the crowd and grabbed His cloak. Immediately she felt the bleeding stop and the pain in her body go away.

But she didn't want Jesus to know she had touched Him. Under Jewish law any woman with an issuance of blood was unclean, and it was illegal for her to intentionally touch another person--since contact with her would make them unclean as well. And she was very afraid that Jesus would be angry.

But Jesus wasn't mad. Instead he said, "Daughter, your faith has healed you. Go in peace and be freed from your suffering." And with relief on her face the woman got up and went on her way.

Well, I could see that Jairus was getting very impatient while all this was taking place. As soon as the woman was gone, he started urging Jesus to get going again. But before we could start walking some men from Jairus's house arrived to tell him that his daughter had died. "Why bother the teacher anymore?" they said, "there is nothing more that can be done."

Jairus started to break down, but Jesus just put a hand on his shoulder and said quietly, "Do not be afraid, just believe." And then, signaling for me, James, and John to follow while the rest stayed behind, He started walking again towards Jairus's house.

Let me tell you Mark, I hate funerals. And, probably because Jairus was such an important part of the synagogue, this was a big one. There were already a bunch of people--many of them professional mourners--gathered around the house crying and wailing. They were playing their flutes and really carrying on. Jesus walked up to them and asked, "Why all this commotion and wailing? The child is not dead but asleep." But they laughed at him.

Then Jesus told everyone to leave the house except for the girl's parents and the three of us. Together we went into the room where she was. She looked so peaceful, and yet so sad lying there on her bed. 12 year-old girls are supposed to be playing with their friends and helping their mothers, not lying dead on their beds.

Jesus took her hand in His and said in Aramaic, "Talitha Koum". And just like that, her eyes came open and she got out of bed and started walking around.

Her mother started to sob with joy, and Jairus couldn't stop saying thank you. James and John just stood there in stunned silence, and I guess I must have looked pretty bewildered too. My head was just spinning from everything that had happened. But Jesus was still as calm as ever. He told us all that we should keep what had happened to ourselves for awhile. And then, even as Jairus and his wife continued to cry over their daughter and we tried to figure out what was going on, He reminded us all that maybe the girl would like something to eat.

I'd like to tell you that everything started to make sense to me then Mark, but I can't. After those two days I really think I started to understand that Jesus was the Messiah, that He was the Son of God. But I still didn't understand what that meant. I still didn't understand the question He asked while we were in the boat, "Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?"

It wasn't until after Jesus had been crucified and resurrected that I started to understand what it really meant to follow Jesus. It's because of who He is--and what He did in dying for us and defeating death--that we don't need to go through life afraid.

You see, I didn't understand that. Despite everything I had seen, I was still scared. That's why I attacked that soldier that night in the garden. That's why I denied knowing Jesus during His trial. I was defensive. I was worried about what would happen to me. It was only when I saw Jesus after the resurrection that I remembered His question and understood what He meant. My faith in Him, my trust that He would take care of me, was the doorway out of fear.

Jesus told the woman that it was her faith that healed her. She was scared that she would be punished for making someone unclean, but instead Jesus sent her away in peace. Her faith was the antidote to her fear.

Jairus was scared that He had lost his daughter forever. But Jesus told him to replace his fear with belief, and his little girl lived again. Faith drives away fear.

You see, what He was asking us in the boat that night was the same thing He said to Jairus when they told him his daughter had died, "Don't be afraid, just believe." And what He did for us in the boat was the same thing He did for that demon possessed man and for the bleeding woman and for Jairus's daughter: He took something that we are usually scared of--disasters, evil, sickness, death--and demonstrated that they are all under His control. He showed that if we just have faith in Him, we don't need to be afraid.

And Mark, He did the same thing for the whole world when He went to the cross and died, only to come back from the dead. He showed His power over the hostile powers of the world, and let us know that if we would just have faith in Him, then we don't need to be afraid.

It’s like this Mark: imagine you are up on a hillside and you slip over the edge and start to fall, but suppose there is a branch sticking out of the side of the cliff. How much faith do you have to have in the branch for it to save you? Must you be totally sure that it can save you? No, of course not. You only have to have enough faith to grab the branch. Just reach out for it.

It’s not the quality of your faith that will save you; it’s the object of your faith. When you reach out and find out that the branch is secure, then you know you are safe. Well, Jesus is the branch. He’s strong enough to quiet the wind and the waves, to command demons, to heal in an instant, to defeat death. All you need to do is reach out and hold on to Him.

I'll never forget the night we sailed with Jesus to the Gerasenes and what happened afterwards. That's when I really began to understand just how great Jesus' power was. But more importantly, now I'll never forget the lesson that I learned during those days: "Don't be afraid, just believe."