Category Archives: Bible Study

Jesus Calms the Storm

The-Storm-on-the-Sea-of-Galilee-Rembrandts-painting35 On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” 36 And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. 37 And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. 38 But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” 39 And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. 40 He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” 41 And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”

In Mark 4:35-41, there is a familiar story of Jesus calming the stormy sea. Perhaps you are familiar with the story from Sunday School or the old flannel graphs and can picture Jesus standing at the front of the boat, arms outstretched commanding the sea to “be still”.  It could be that you’ve heard this passage preached on many times maybe calling you to have faith through the storms of life.  Certainly, there is even an aspect of Christ’s sovereignty over nature that flows right out of this passage.  But there are two elements about this passage that I’d like to point out, which you may not be aware of.

The first, perhaps more obvious, is the typological fulfillment of Jonah from the first chapter recorded on his ministry.  In short, typology is when a person, event, or institution points forward to a future person, event, or institution.  The type points forward to the antitype.  In the account from Jonah chapter 1, we see Jonah, the type, and above in our passage from Mark, we see Jesus, the antitype.

In Jonah 1:1-3, Jonah was instructed by the Lord to go to Nineveh in order to call them to repentance.  He refused and instead headed on a boat to Tarshish.  We pick up in verse 4 below:

4 But the Lord hurled a great wind upon the sea, and there was a mighty tempest on the sea, so that the ship threatened to break up. 5 Then the mariners were afraid, and each cried out to his god. And they hurled the cargo that was in the ship into the sea to lighten it for them. But Jonah had gone down into the inner part of the ship and had lain down and was fast asleep. 6 So the captain came and said to him, “What do you mean, you sleeper? Arise, call out to your god! Perhaps the god will give a thought to us, that we may not perish.”

7 And they said to one another, “Come, let us cast lots, that we may know on whose account this evil has come upon us.” So they cast lots, and the lot fell on Jonah. 8 Then they said to him, “Tell us on whose account this evil has come upon us. What is your occupation? And where do you come from? What is your country? And of what people are you?” 9 And he said to them, “I am a Hebrew, and I fear the Lord, the God of heaven, who made the sea and the dry land.” 10 Then the men were exceedingly afraid and said to him, “What is this that you have done!” For the men knew that he was fleeing from the presence of the Lord, because he had told them.

11 Then they said to him, “What shall we do to you, that the sea may quiet down for us?” For the sea grew more and more tempestuous. 12 He said to them, “Pick me up and hurl me into the sea; then the sea will quiet down for you, for I know it is because of me that this great tempest has come upon you.” 13 Nevertheless, the men rowed hard to get back to dry land, but they could not, for the sea grew more and more tempestuous against them. 14 Therefore they called out to the Lord, “O Lord, let us not perish for this man’s life, and lay not on us innocent blood, for you, O Lord, have done as it pleased you.” 15 So they picked up Jonah and hurled him into the sea, and the sea ceased from its raging. 16 Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.

Now, just upon reading that passage, the similarities between the passage from Mark should become evident.  Between the two accounts, we have both continuity and discontinuity.  In other words there are things that are similar, and things not so much so.  The similarities from the two events would be: the boat, the storm, the fear displayed by the mariners, Jonah sleeping, the call to Jonah (“Why are you sleeping!?!”), etc.  As a side note, it’s important when examining typology that we don’t make every point find similarity.  For instance, Jesus was asleep in the stern or rear of the boat while Jonah was asleep in the “inner part.”  That aside, the similarities from the two stories are striking and here is the point, or where we begin to see how Jesus is the antitype, i.e. the greater Jonah.  Whereas Jonah was guilty of sin before God, the only solution to calm the storm was to throw Jonah overboard, ridding them of guilt from his sin.  Christ, the greater Jonah, had no sin.  As such, this Greater Jonah, did not need to cast Himself overboard to calm the storm.  He had dominion over the storm and rebuked it to be still.  But notice the common response of the mariners on the ship with Jonah and the disciples on the ship with Jesus:

“Then the men feared the Lord exceedingly, and they offered a sacrifice to the Lord and made vows.” Jonah 1:16

“And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” Mark 4:42

In each case the men recognized that it was the Lord who had control and dominion over the sea and as a direct result of that recognition, each group of men were seriously afraid. This is the right and biblical response to the power and majesty of God.

But that’s not the end of the connection between Jesus and Jonah.  An additional point of typology is brought out through the words of Jesus Himself in Matthew 12:38-41:

38 Then some of the scribes and Pharisees answered him, saying, “Teacher, we wish to see a sign from you.” 39 But he answered them, “An evil and adulterous generation seeks for a sign, but no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. 40 For just as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth. 41 The men of Nineveh will rise up at the judgment with this generation and condemn it, for they repented at the preaching of Jonah, and behold, something greater than Jonah is here.”

Here we see that just as Jonah was cast overboard from the boat as a result of sin and spent three days and nights in the belly of the God-appointed whale, so also Christ as a result of sin, though not His own, was to spend three days and nights “in the heart of the earth”, following His death on the cross.  Similarly, upon the command of God the whale spit out Jonah and Christ was raised victoriously from the grave.  Christ asserted Himself as not only the fulfillment of the type and shadow that Jonah portrayed through his actual, physical encounter with the whale, but also that He was the greater Jonah, sinless on all accounts and reigning supreme over the sea and more importantly death.

But there is a second point from the account of Jesus calming the storm in Mark and for this, we go to Psalm 107:23-32.  Some of the key words/phrases are highlighted:

23 Some went down to the sea in ships,
doing business on the great waters;
24 they saw the deeds of the Lord,
his wondrous works in the deep.
25 For he commanded and raised the stormy wind,
which lifted up the waves of the sea.
26 They mounted up to heaven; they went down to the depths;
their courage melted away in their evil plight;
27 they reeled and staggered like drunken men
and were at their wits’ end.
28 Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble,
and he delivered them from their distress.
29 He made the storm be still,
and the waves of the sea were hushed.
30 Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,
and he brought them to their desired haven.
31 Let them thank the Lord for his steadfast love,
for his wondrous works to the children of man!
32 Let them extol him in the congregation of the people,
and praise him in the assembly of the elders.

Isn’t this a fascinating example of the unity and harmony of God’s Word. Here in a small, but familiar passage from the Gospel of Mark, we find connectivity with Jonah in which we see the supremacy of Christ as a fulfillment of the type and evidence of Him as the greater Jonah.  We can observe the right response that man should have when he encounters the awesome and majestic power of God. Additionally, we see a Psalm of David as a near word for word account of Mark’s Gospel, in which the psalmist magnifies the almighty power of God that is on display as He delivers those who seek Him in their time of despair.  Likewise, we can observe a second response of those who have experienced the blessing of God’s magnificent power and work, thankfulness and praise.

All means all and that’s all all means but not always

I confess I was never familiar with the phrase “All means all and that’s all all means” until the last couple of years and while it certainly sounds good, especially as it is related to the Bible, is it an accurate statement?  You might need to go back and read the phrase again.  It’s simply stating that the word all means all and doesn’t mean anything else.  But is that always true? (pun intended)  Here’s what I mean.  Take the following examples:

  • “I got home late last night to find that someone had eaten all the cookies.”
  • “The mother told her child that she expected all the dishes to be washed.”
  • “There’s a guy in my office that talks about politics all the time.”

Each of these statements are true in their usage of the word all, however, even in our English language we know that there is an applied context in each example.  For instance, taken in a wooden literal sense that “all means all and that’s all all means”, we would be left to assume that in example 1, someone ate all the cookies that are in existence.  In the second example, every dish including those clean and shelved, the fine china, and the holiday ware should all be washed, in every person’s house, everywhere.  And finally, this statement, using all in the wooden literal sense, implies that the office person is incapable of talking about anything other than politics.

These might sound like far fetched examples, but that’s really what the statement “all means all and that’s all all means” is implying.  Instead, we know that the context of the statement in example one limits or confines “all the cookies” to either a particular package or all the cookies within possession at the home.  Secondly, the confining context of example two is that the mother is clearly implying that all the dirty dishes, or all of the dishes in the sink, are the ones to be washed.  Finally, in our third example, the context simply means that the office person excessively talks about politics, not exclusively, but rather in abundance.

So what does this have to do with the Bible?  Well, if we are not careful, a wooden reading of Scripture will leave us with a faulty interpretation, unless we let context define what is being said.  Let’s examine some usage of the word “all” to see if this common phrase “all means all…” is really true.

“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.” Luke 2:1 KJV Now, a wooden meaning of the word all here would lead us to believe that every single person in the world was to be taxed based on the decree from Caesar.  The problem with this reading is that every person was not under Roman rule.  Rome’s empire during the first century extended to much of the area surrounding the Mediterranean Sea, so it would be unreasonable to expect that Caesar would tax the Far East, a region over whom he had no control.  Instead, context allows us to realize that this tax sent out from Caesar was for all the Roman world.

“And all the country of Judea and all Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” Mark 1:5 Here we are given a picture of the ministry of John (the Baptist).  John was preparing the way for the Messiah by baptizing people as a symbol of their hearts preparation for the Gospel.  But again, if we were to take the word all here to mean literally every single individual man, woman, and child, then we would be led to believe that John was baptizing over 500,000 people, the conservative estimate of Judea alone during the first century.  Is that possible?  Certainly, all things are possible with God (Matthew 19:26, pun again), but was it likely?  Well, just a few short verses later we are informed that John is arrested (Mark 1:14).  Are we then to assume that the very same people who were repentant of their sins and who were publicly denouncing their association with Judaism for their desire to accept the coming Messiah had now arrested John?  Did this all include the Pharisees and Sadducees who would trouble and harass Jesus throughout His ministry, even to the point of His crucifiction?  Not likely. Instead, through the use of all, Mark is conveying a significantly large number of people who were going out to be baptized by John.

For similar usage of the word all, see: Mark 1:33, Mark 7:14, John 8:2, John 11:48, Acts 19:27 and all the rest.

These examples might seem basic and straightforward, but what about those where the wooden reading of all would significantly impact one’s view of what Scripture is saying.

“who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 1 Timothy 2:4  This is a much debated passage on the true desire of God to have all people saved.  Some argue, “if this is God’s genuine desire, then why doesn’t He do it since He’s all powerful?”  Others say, “this passage shows that God has a genuine desire for all men to be saved, but He leaves the choice to them and eagerly waits their decision.”  In other words, leaving God powerless.  This debate aside, let’s look at this passage in context to see what it is saying.  In context, all is often defined by it’s nearest antecedent.  Or if we think back to our English grammar days, antecedent would simply be that word (noun) referenced later, often by a pronoun. (Example: I have not seen John. He is not here. – He is referring to the antecedent John).  When we apply this to  all in this passage, we run into some difficulty, but let’s see if we can trace it out.

“First of all, then, I urge that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, 2 for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way. 3 This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4 who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. 5 For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time. 7 For this I was appointed a preacher and an apostle (I am telling the truth, I am not lying), a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and truth.” 1 Timothy 2:1-7

Note here in verse 1, Paul uses the same phrase, “all people” as the group to whom he is urging prayer.  Now, if we were to take our wooden use of the word all again, we might get started obeying Paul’s plea by picking up our local phone book and start praying for “all people”.  But that isn’t the case because Paul is going to define this for us in the following verse, “for kings and all who are in high positions”.  Paul has defined his group, “all people” as leadership, i.e. kings and those in high positions.”  In other words, he is instructing Timothy (and us) to pray for our leaders.  Keeping this in mind, we move to our verse, verse 4, and see the phrase “all people” again.  Having just seen this exact phrase first mentioned in verse 1 and defined in verse 2, we can surmise that Paul is stating God desires “all [kinds of] people” to be saved, which is not limited to those who aren’t in leadership.  God desires kings to be saved too.  Again, in this context we can conclude it’s saying God desires all people without distinction (kings, leaders, paupers, slaves, etc.) to be saved, but not necessarily all people without exception (i.e., every single individual person).  Does God desire all (every, single, individual) people to be saved? The argument cannot be made conclusively from this particular passage and maintain the context.  (However, for more on this debate see John Murray’s The Free Offer of the Gospel)

Finally, let’s look at a positive use of the word all, where it actually does mean all.  “And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good,for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28  How can Christians be sure that this means all things?  What if we applied the same reading here as earlier and discovered that not everything is included in the all?  Surely that we leave us open to discouragement and despair, but is that the case?

“29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.”

Here, in verses 29-30 Paul grounds the assurance of “those who love God” and “those who are called according to his purpose” (this refers to the same group), in God’s foreknowing, predestining, calling, justifying, and glorifying of them.  In this “golden chain of redemption”, God is certainly showing that He has worked all things in relation to each of those links for the good of those who love Him.  But that is not all.  God continues to unfold this good in verse 31 (Romans 8:31- 39) and following and it looks something like this:

  • God is for us – who can be against us
  • He did not spare His own Son – But gave Him up for us all (the group defined as those who love God)
  • Who shall bring a charge against God’s elect – It is God who justifies
  • Who is to condemn – Christ Jesus died
    • More than that: raised and interceding for us (same group as earlier)
  • Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? – not tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, danger, or sword.
  • He adds, not death/life, angels/rulers, things present/to come, powers, height/depth, nor anything in all creation can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

Does this sound like a comprehensive all here?  Yes, I think so.  But again, context determined it.

So does “all mean all and that’s all all means”?  We’ll yes and no, depending on how the context defines all.   But rarely does all mean every single individual person without exception.  Perhaps this popular phrase would be more accurately represented by, “All means all when that’s all all means.”  Lord willing, I hope to write-up a post on an extremely surprising result when I applied this to a popular verse read in context.

Grace and peace!

This Little Light of Mine

Mark 4:21-22 “21And he said to them, “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket, or under a bed, and not on a stand? 22For nothing is hidden except to be made manifest; nor is anything secret except to come to light.”

The following is commentary from Matthew Henry on the passage included above:

That those who are good ought to consider the obligations they are under to do good; that is, as in the parable before, to bring forth fruit. God expects a grateful return of his gifts to us, and a useful improvement of his gifts in us; for (v. 21), Is a candle brought to be put under a bushel, or under a bed? No, but that it may be set on a candlestick. The apostles were ordained, to receive the gospel, not for themselves only, but for the good of others, to communicate it to them. All Christians, as they have received the gift, must minister the same. Note, 1. Gifts and graces make a man as a candle; the candle of the Lord (Prov. 20:27), lighted by the Father of lights; the most eminent are but candles, poor lights, compared with the Sun of righteousness. A candle gives light but a little way, and but a little while, and is easily blown out, and continually burning down and wasting. 2. Many who are lighted as candles, put themselves under a bed, or under a bushel: they do not manifest grace themselves, nor minister grace to others; they have estates, and do no good with them; have their limbs and senses, wit and learning perhaps, but nobody is the better for them; they have spiritual gifts, but do not use them; like a taper in an urn, they burn to themselves. 3. Those who are lighted as candles, should set themselves on a candlestick; that is, should improve all opportunities of doing good, as those that were made for the glory of God, and the service of the communities they are members of; we are not born for ourselves.

The reason given for this, is, because there is nothing hid, which shall not be manifested, which should not be made manifest (so it might better be read), v. 22. There is no treasure of gifts and graces lodged in any but with design to be communicated; nor was the gospel made a secret to the apostles, to be concealed, but that it should come abroad, and be divulged to all the world. Though Christ expounded the parables to his disciples privately, yet it was with design to make them the more publicly useful; they were taught, that they might teach; and it is a general rule, that the ministration of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal, not himself only, but others also.