A couple of weeks ago, Ellie (my 5-year-old daughter) drew me this picture:
Ellie tells me that the face just left of centre is mine. I’m in the middle of a storm, and I’m smiling. The face in the top right hand corner is God’s, who is also smiling. Of course, I’d love to say that this was an accurate reflection of my demeanour during trials, but I’m more likely to be wearing a pained, anxious expression. Would it give God joy to see me full of the fruit of His Spirit, even during a storm? Yes, it would.
In this passage, Jesus continues to both define and demonstrate the Kingdom of God. He describes the Kingdom as like a mustard seed:
- It can look small and insignificant. God has a track record of using ordinary people to achieve extraordinary things in His name. Don’t let your age, education, background, history, or anything discount you from being used to His glory.
- It needs to be planted. Take root in a local church; be part of a family; be teachable; take steps to guard your heart and mind.
- It grows wildly and is difficult to tame. Jesus calls us to boldness, not to dry religion! God has a plan for your life that is the greatest adventure you’ll ever know.
- It tastes great! Medieval travellers used to carry “mustard balls” with them to liven up bland food. In Jesus, there is new life, there is new hope and there is fresh joy.
A couple of weeks ago we read that “if you have faith as small as a mustard seed, you can say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move” (Matthew 17:20). Jesus goes on to demonstrate the Kingdom’s power through two stories.
In the first, Jesus isn’t smiling through the storm, but he is sleeping peacefully! The disciples do what many of us would do: panic, and question why God is inactive. (Interestingly, Mark tells us just a few verses previously that Jesus had “explained everything” about the Kingdom of God to them. How easy it is to forget!) Jesus wakes, rebukes the waves and wind, and then rebukes his disciples. The disciples wonder who it is who has authority over the wind and waves.
In the second story, Jesus demonstrates his Kingdom authority over strongholds. There’s a valid literal interpretation: Jesus has power over the demonic authorities that have overtaken the Gerasene man. But there’s also a picture painted here, as Richard Hays explains (cited on the Think Theology site). The spirit describes himself as “Legion” (Mark 5:9) – a reference to Rome’s oppressive military power. At Jesus’ words, Legion is driven into the water, through two thousand pigs. Hays explains it as “a kind of political cartoon, in which the Roman army is driven out by Israel’s true king, sent back into the sea from which their invading ships had come.”
So in response: let’s praise God that through his Son we can live under his authority and be led by Him, and by the Spirit we have authority over storms and strongholds (both physical and spiritual). Let’s be full of confidence, knowing that God longs to use us to advance His Kingdom, and full of joy through the storms.