Carest Thou Not That We Perish?
We find this question in Mark 4:38: “He was in a hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow, and they awake Him and say unto Him, ‘Master, carest Thou not that we perish?’”
The incident is familiar, I am sure, to most of you. The day had been a very busy one. The Lord Jesus Christ had preached some wonderful parables; He had effected some amazing cures. At the end of the day He and His disciples took ship to go to the other side of the sea of Galilee. Here the Lord of glory is weary and exhausted, too tired, apparently, even to send the multitude away; His disciples did it for Him. He entered into the ship, and in a moment He had collapsed onto the hard boards of the little ship, His pillow but a fisherman’s net, and He was quickly sound asleep.
The scene was completely peaceful—the sea was like glass as they set out. Then all of a sudden the calm of the evening was broken. As is so often the case in a little inland lake like that, the storm blew from the mountains around it and whipped up that little sea into a raging ocean, and presently the ships were in danger of sinking. That lovely calm evening, which heralded no storm, but which seemed set fair, suddenly was completely transformed into a furious tempest.
That is very typical of life itself. Seldom are we long at ease. “Boast not thyself of tomorrow,” says the Book, “for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.” Changes come. Storms appear in some cloudless sky, all unexpectedly and without warning. At one moment the course of life seems set fair. Everything is smooth, the skies are blue, and all your circumstance and home and family and life couldn’t possibly be more peaceful. In a moment, without any warning, the hurricane has come, and everything is utter darkness.
Our immediate reaction in circumstances like that is very similar to that of the disciples. “Master, carest Thou not that we perish?” they cried. That question was asked in a spirit of complaint. “If you love us,” they said, “then save us.” How soon they began to doubt Him. How ready they were to turn against Him, even though they called Him “Master.” How quick they were to think that He was careless and cruel and heartless.
I don’t know what your profession of faith may be, but I am sure that this question, in one form or another, has sometime been on your mind and on your heart. Doesn’t God care, after all? If He does, why doesn’t He show it?
This question is no abstract theological problem. It touches the heartstrings of every one of our lives, for at one moment or another the storm has broken or will break. The blue skies have changed to thunderclouds; the happiness has been turned into tragedy; and the peace has been turned to a furious storm.
At some time or other in your life this has happened, and your reaction has been immediately to question the love of God, to be skeptical concerning His interest and His power. When nothing happens, and He fails to intervene on your behalf in some remarkable providential way, you have come to the conclusion that after all the Christian’s God is dead.
Let us therefore look at this question, praying that it should meet the need of some heart whether you profess to be a Christian or not. I want you to examine this question in the light of the personal experience of your life.
First of all, let us look here at the apparent indifference of Christ to our fate. Sometimes we complain that God allows the laws of nature to take their course, irrespective of the fact that in so doing they will crush people who profess to believe in Him and to follow Him. If you are not a Christian, you may have observed that true Christian people seem to avoid none of the perils and problems and trouble which beset your path. Why, therefore, should you bother to be a Christian? To do so, in any case, you argue, would mean taking a stand against things in life that are rather pleasant, and that you enjoy, but which, if you were a Christian, you would have to drop. To take a stand for Christ today would, you know perfectly well, cost you something in terms of personal living. If you are not going to reap any benefit, if you are going to have to go through the same trouble and difficulties and anxieties and sorrows, then why should you bother to take up this Christian faith? This Christ whom some profess to love seems to be so utterly indifferent to what happens to His people.
You have observed, haven’t you, prayers being offered up for the safety of some Christians who are going on a journey? But you have learned that they have been killed along with the rest. You have listened to the often repeated prayer for the healing of a loved one, but the fever has taken its course and he or she has died. You have observed a dear saint of God suffer intense pain, and the Lord has paid no attention whatsoever to the entreaties of the family. Apparently God does not alter the physical laws of the body for the convenience of His people. To them, as to everybody else, disease is disease and poison is poison.
Indeed, almost to make the picture darker from the angle of the man who believes God, I would remind you that there is no such thing as the law of nature operating by itself. What we call the law of nature is simply a description of the way in which God works. The man who dies of sickness does not die because he is gripped by some ungovernable force of nature. He dies because God continues to give strength to destructive agencies in the man’s body. He creates light, and He creates darkness. There is not a bud which becomes a flower except behind the law of nature there is God at work. The Christian knows that behind all the law of nature is God operating according to His law. And if He does not choose to break into a situation and reverse the law of nature, you will discover that the Christian no longer says “Master, don’t you care that we perish?” Rather has the Christian altered that question, and he says, “It is the Lord. Let Him do what seemeth to Him good.” The child of God in the storm knows that behind the storm there is a sovereign purpose of God, and even though he may not understand, he is resting in the assurance that the will of God shall be accomplished.
But this question remains a great problem to Christian people. “Carest Thou not that we perish?” Master, don’t you care that it is we who are perishing? We love you, Lord, we spend our lives in your service, yet we perish. We could understand a boatload of sinners going to the bottom of the ocean, but why us?” When one of Job’s comforters comes across our path and tells us we are only getting what we deserve because of our sin, we know his diagnosis is incorrect. We know that by the grace of God we have preserved our integrity. Master, therefore, carest thou not that we perish?
But my Bible does not say, “As many as I hate, I chasten.” Far from it. My Bible says that “the wicked shall flourish like a green bay tree, but the end thereof is near.” God says, “Whom I love, I chasten.” The Bible does not say, “the branch that brings forth no fruit shall be pruned.” No, the branch which brings forth no fruit shall be cast into the fire. But my Bible does say that “every branch that beareth fruit He purgeth it that it may bring forth more fruit.”
Listen to me, if the physical healing of the body was included in the atonement of the blood of Christ, those verses would not be in the Bible. It is not that God does not heal the body; it is not that He is not able to heal the body. Of course He is! And occasionally, only very occasionally, He will break into His law of nature, and stop the course of disease. He is well able to do it. But listen, the gold is put into the furnace because it is gold. The corn is crushed because it is corn—if it were weeds, it would be neglected. A diamond of exceptional quality is sure to undergo far more cutting than any others, because the king desires a gem more perfect to reveal his beauty and his glory.
But then you say to me: “Why does not God work a miracle for my deliverance?” You have read of extraordinary providences, of remarkable cures. You have heard of great deliverances that God has given in specific circumstances, but none of these things come your way. You are getting weaker and weaker; you are getting more and more desperate. You are getting absolutely to the end of your tether, and you are saying, “Master, don’t you care that I am perishing?”
My friend, listen to me, have you understood that God sometimes works a greater wonder when He sustains His people in trouble than when He brings them out of it? Do you remember when God spoke to Moses and called him to his life work? He spoke to him out of a bush, an ordinary, common bush, and Moses turned aside to see the great sight. What did he see? He saw a bush that burned with flame, but the bush was not consumed. To let the bush burn on and on and not to be consumed is a greater thing than to put out the flame and save the bush.
If only you understood that, I believe that you would say, “Lord, if this thing is for your glory, then pile on the burden, only give me strength for each day, and I shall never be crushed underneath it. I shall only illustrate as I could never otherwise have done, the power of God to keep His people in the way.” Can you not believe in a silent God?
In the second place, let me remind you that the indifference of the Lord Jesus Christ is only apparent. It is not real. What are the facts? The facts are that He has loved us with an everlasting love. If He had meant to cast us away, He could have done so long ago. Did He go through the agony of Gethsemane; did He face Calvary, did He endure what it meant to be forsaken by His Father in heaven; did He allow Himself to become sin for us, He who knew no sin; did He bear all the wrath of God on your behalf and mine only to let us perish? Did He arise from a tomb, did He ascend to heaven, does He ever live to make intercession for us and not care? My friend, if you think that, you are calling Christ a hypocrite.
Think what He has done for many of you personally. Once you were God’s enemy, now you are His friend. When you called on Him in a time of need, He stepped into your life and saved you. Is He going to cast away His child now? Remember the blood of the covenant by which you have been sealed, and know of a surety that He cannot let His people perish.
Whether you are a believer or not a believer, I say to you this, that you cannot look into the face of a crucified Jesus and believe that He does not care! It is impossible to accuse Him of being indifferent and heedless when you think about the Cross. Look at the crown of thorns, the nail pierced hands and feet, and the blood that flowed, then can you really say that He doesn’t care?
Let me say to you, in the third place, that Jesus showed, as a matter of fact, a very real care for His disciples in the midst of apparent indifference. Though He was asleep, He had not left them. He was still on board ship, tossed about just as they were tossed about. Certainly what happened to them would happen to Him. And as Jesus slept on board that ship, He preached a sermon without saying a word. As the ship was tossed by the storm, and seemed to be on the verge of disaster, the Lord Jesus Christ lay sound asleep. You have only to look at His weary, tired body, to know that as He lay on that ship He preached, and this was His text: “Let not your heart be troubled, ye believe in God, believe also in Me.”
In that storm He was testing those men. He was revealing them to themselves. That storm blew until they came to see that, although they thought they knew Him well, in fact, they were unbelievers. I wonder, sometimes, my friend, if the storm in your heart in which Christ has never intervened, the storm in your circumstances which has caused you to cry, “Master, don’t you care that I perish”—I wonder if in it Jesus is preaching the greatest sermon you shall ever hear in all of your life—I wonder if He is showing yourself to you.
But, above all, the Lord Jesus made that storm an opportunity to display His power. I wonder if there is a more amazing picture in the book anywhere than to see this weary, exhausted Christ rising to His feet in the stern of that ship to face that raging sea and saying, “Be still.” And in a moment the winds and the waves have obeyed His voice and there is utter calm.
Have you noticed the thrilling sequence in that story? Listen to these words as I have picked them out of those verses: “There arose a great storm,” and “He arose and there was a great calm.”
Yes, Jesus cared—as He slept He showed it. And this God who seems to be so silent to you, my beloved friend, this God cares. He is saying to you, “It is I, be not afraid.” He is proving you, testing you, showing you yourself, and you will never be the same again.
In due time, my friend, you will know that Jesus does care. What words are these: “He arose, and there was a great calm!” One day, for all those that are in the ship in which Jesus rests and sleeps, for all of us one day there is going to be smooth sailing and blue skies. It may be that the battle will go against us for many a day yet. It may be that our slender strength will become utter weakness. It may be that we shall almost be brought into the very depths of despair, but I know that Jesus says, “Lo, I come quickly and my reward is with me.” Five minutes after that happens it will be worth a lifetime of hell on Earth.
But some of you may be skeptical and unbelieving, My friend, before I stop I have just one word for you: I ask you to look at that ship again. See those men, terrified, with their question, “Master, don’t you care that we are perishing?” Look at the sleeping Christ, who is apparently indifferent.
You stand on the shore and think you are safe. You survey the scene and you say, “There’s your Christianity for you! What good does it do?” As you stand on the peaceful shore of your own creation and watch the ship about to go down, you say to yourself, “Who would be a Christian, anyway?”
My friends, I want to say to you that you had better get on board that ship. What happened to them happened to Jesus; their faith was linked up to the faith of Christ. No trouble and no disaster can ever prove fatal and final if I am on the ship in which Jesus is. I would rather know that I am in the storm with Christ than to hide in some shelter of my own making, which will crash one day when God’s judgment comes.
God is having the last word with this world of ours, and it will not be long before the clouds part and Jesus comes to take His own out of the storm, out of the ship which you thought was sinking, out of the agony of suffering and the travail of terror.
Get on board that ship, my friends, or else you will find yourself in a storm from which there is no escape, a judgment which is eternal.
I ask you to behold a few disciples, a sleeping Christ, a risen Lord, and a great calm. May that be your portion for His name’s sake.