Not What I Expected

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[Note: This speech (given at the Xiamen International Fellowship--XICF) started with a reading from James 1:2-8.] Click here for another XICF message.

That's Not What I Expected

(by Michael Krigline,, October 14,2012)


     Last week we heard Jesus ask his disciples: “Where is your faith?” in the midst of a violent storm. Today we’ll head back into that storm, seeing that the trials and difficulties that affect us have been around for a long time, and that “faith” is still the solution. As we just read, James (1:6) tells us that that if our faith is not stable, we will all be like that violent storm—“like a wave of the sea driven and tossed by the wind.”

     A few weeks ago Pastor asked me to pray about speaking today, and after considering what to say I told him I felt led to talk about Mark 4, which includes the account of Jesus rebuking the wind and the waves. Well, imagine my shock last week when Pastor started preaching about the parallel passage in Luke 8! I was sitting there praying, “Lord, did I hear wrong? Why didn’t Pastor tell me he was going to talk about the same thing? What do you want me to do now—what should I preach about?” Just then, Pastor was talking about his trip to the hospital, and his own question about where to look in the Bible for help. The Lord told him to keep moving forward with his sermon series, and he added that the Lord told him, “My calendar is never off; never wrong.” So, I told the Lord, OK. I’ll go ahead and talk about Mark 4; there must be some reason why You arranged these two messages to be back to back. And I hope that whoever this is “intended for” gets it, or we may get a sermon using Matthew’s account of this storm next week! (Matthew 8)

     Now, Mark 4 has more to it than the account of Jesus rebuking the wind, and we’ll actually be looking at the “day”, starting in Mark 3. I told you during the summer that

 I like to study the Bible in parallel—that is, with the Gospel accounts side by side, arranged in chronological order by Bible scholars Thomas and Gundry. And if they have got the order correct, we have a very full account of the day in question—in fact, it is one of the most complete pictures we have of a “day in the life of Jesus”, and what a day it was!

      Jesus taught publically to large crowds, was confronted by religious leaders, changed his overall teaching strategy, explained things to his disciples in private, met with relatives (sort of), crossed the sea (rebuking the storm while out there) and then confronted demon-possessed men on the other side of the lake. Wow!

      But I want to focus in on five rather surprising replies that our Lord gave. Had I been among his followers, I’m sure I’d have said something like, “Well, that’s certainly not what I expected”—all five times.


     According to Thomas and Gundry, we pick up the day in Mark 3:20 (CEV), with Jesus already very busy: “…such a large crowd gathered that there was no chance even to eat”. His feud with the religious leaders has finally reached extreme levels, and in verse 22 (CEV) it says, “Some teachers of the Law of Moses came from Jerusalem and said, ‘This man is under the power of Beelzebul, the ruler of demons! He is even forcing out demons with the help of Beelzebul.’”

     This brings us to surprising response number one. I mean, these are the religious leaders of the day; surely you want them on your side. I imagine myself, following Jesus and hearing these scribes complain about Jesus healing on the Sabbath and what not. And now they have pushed their complaints to a new dangerous level. I’d be thinking: “Wow, we’d better back off a bit! What can we do to help these guys see the wonderful things God is doing through Jesus? Come on, Lord; show that famous grace, and patch this relationship between yourself and the religious leaders.” But instead, Jesus reacts with probably His strongest condemnation yet, saying to them (3:29 CEV): “…if you speak against the Holy Spirit, you can never be forgiven. That sin will be held against you forever.”

     Well, that’s certainly not what I expected Him to say! But Jesus is obviously more interested in truth, than in popularity. Which one is more important to you and me?

     Surprise number two comes, almost in Mark’s next breath. (3:32 CEV) “The crowd that was sitting around Jesus told him, ‘Your mother and your brothers and sisters are outside and want to see you.’”

     Again, I picture myself sitting there. His kinfolk had suddenly walked all that way, and showed up just after such an intense encounter; surely Jesus will “honor His mother” and take a well-earned break. Right? Wrong. It doesn’t even look like He goes out to see them. Jesus asked, “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” Then he looked at the people sitting around him and said, “Here are my mother and my brothers. Anyone who obeys God is my brother or sister or mother.” (Mark 3:33-35 CEV)

     Jesus ignored His family? That is certainly not what I expected. But if I’d been paying attention back in Mark 3:21 (earlier that morning), I might have understood better, for it explains: “When Jesus’ family heard what he was doing, they thought he was crazy and went to get him under control.”

     When I started following Jesus (in college), my family thought I’d joined a cult [at first; within a few months they figured it out!]. If your parents are not Believers (and especially if they practice a different religion), don’t be surprised if your family members do not understand or welcome what has happened to you. But take heart from this passage; you are not alone. Jesus understands this pain too. And He also offers you new family relationships with “anyone who obeys God.”

     “And again He began to teach by the sea. And a great multitude was gathered to Him, so that He got into a boat and sat in it on the sea; and the whole multitude was on the land facing the sea.” (Mk 4:1 NKJV)

     By Mark 4:1, Jesus is back outside, sitting in a little boat to teach another massive crowd; and since this boat will be important later, let me digress. This is a photo of a first-century boat found buried in the Sea of Galilee back in 1986. (It’s now in a museum by the lake—we’ve been there, though I got these photos on the Net.)

So, this is the type of boat Jesus and the fishermen would have used that day, and again that evening when He rebuked the wind and waves. As you can see, it isn’t very big: only 8.27 meters long and 2.3 meters wide.


Michael & Andrew (and friends) on the shore of the Sea of Galilee in late 2001. 



      Furthermore, the Lake isn’t huge, but in a small boat it might feel bigger than it looks. Nelson’s Bible Dictionary says it is only 21 by 13 kilometers (13x8 miles), and up to 50 meters deep. But the dictionary admits that cool winds can sweep down suddenly from the adjacent Golan Heights (900 meters/2700 feet), to “unexpectedly stir up violent storms on the warm surface of the lake.” In this cool net-photo, these guys are kite boarding on the Sea of Galilee, and I don’t think you can do this without some serious winds!


     But “surprising response number three” isn’t about the wind or the boat; it was about the new teaching style. To quote the “summary verse” in Mark 4:34: “He did not tell them anything without using stories [parables]. But when he was alone with his disciples, he explained everything to them.”

     Scholars point to that intense encounter in the morning with the scribes to explain the change. According to Thomas and Gundry (p77) “this encounter was so crucial that it became a major turning point in Jesus’ ministry.” So it is no surprise that after the first round of parables, the again-bewildered disciples asked: (Matt 13:10 NKJV) “Why do You speak to them in parables?”

     Wasn’t it obvious? People like stories, right? Stories are easier to remember and retell. People like to be entertained instead of “preached at”. Maybe Jesus would say that He has started to tell stories to make this “big pill” easier to swallow. … Those are the kinds of answers I would have expected Jesus to give. But instead He replies (Mark 4:11-12 NKJV): “To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, so that ‘Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And their sins be forgiven them.’”

     Well, that is certainly not what I expected Him to say!Lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them”? Isn’t that what we want? The parallel passage in Luke (8:10) makes it sound even worse: “to the rest it is given in parables, that ‘Seeing they may not see, and hearing they may not understand.’”

     But if we look at the longer explanation in Matthew 13, it becomes clearer. We find out that Jesus is quoting a prophecy from Isaiah, which goes on to describe the kind of people Jesus had been talking to just a few hours before: (Matt 13:15 NKJV, quoting Isa 6:9-10) “For the hearts of this people have grown dull. Their ears are hard of hearing, and their eyes they have closed, lest they should see with their eyes and hear with their ears, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.”

      Jesus wants the truth revealed, but He also knows that many will (1) not listen, (2) not respond, and (3) even hinder others from responding. Mark 3 (earlier that same day, remember?) shows “learned” leaders who clearly reject who Jesus is, in spite of overwhelming evidence—miracles performed in their very presence! Is it any wonder that “learned” people today reject Him, when those miracles were performed long ago and far away? If God intends to “hide” the truth from anyone (i.e., hide it in plain sight), it is only from such people.

     I like the footnote in the Spirit-Filled Life Bible (p 1429): “The purpose of parables was to make spiritual truths clearer to hearers, to put truth in a form easily remembered; to avoid offense with hostile people who would not receive the truth; and to declare judgment upon those who were willfully blind.”

     After this “lunch break” with the disciples, Jesus is back out with the crowd, teaching in parables--those memorable stories that must have spread like wildfire around the dining tables of first century Palestine. Mark tells us that he taught until evening, which brings us back to the boat, and the storm, and the next surprising response (number four). (Mark 4:35-38a) “On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, ‘Let us cross over to the other side [of the lake].’ Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow…”

     Well, of course Jesus was asleep. He had had a long day, and believe me, spiritual ministry can be very tiring!

     Can you imagine the disciples, bailing water and scared to death as this little boat starts to sink: “You wake Him up!” “Not me, you wake Him up.” “Not me, Peter’s the leader—let him wake Jesus up!”

     I don’t know how long that went on, but someone finally got the courage. But look at what he accused Jesus of (Mark 4:38b NKJV): “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” What a thing to say? He’s asleep—how did that lead to the conclusion that He “didn’t care”? But we are often irrational in a crisis, aren’t we?

     And what, exactly, did they expect Jesus to do? Not in their wildest dreams did they think that He was going to make the storm cease. No, they just wanted another set of hands bailing water! That’s what I would have expected. And knowing Jesus’ compassion, I would expect Him to wake up and say something like, “Oh, sorry guys, was I asleep? Here, let me take a turn at the oars for a while…”

     But instead, according to Matthew (8:26 NKJV), Jesus rubbed the sleep out of His eyes and said, “Why are you fearful, O you of little faith?” (literally: underdeveloped faith)

     Well, that is certainly not what I would have expected! ‘Why are we fearful?’ We’re drowning, and what does ‘faith’ have to do with it?

     And of course, instead of grabbing an oar, “Jesus arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Peace, be still!’ And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.” (Mark 4:39 NKJV). Did you notice that Jesus’ prayer wasn’t a prayer? Jesus could spend all night in prayer, but at times like this His words are few: “Peace, be still!” “Child, arise!” “I am willing, be cleansed.” “Lazarus, come forth!”


(continued in the other column)

(continued from other column)


     “Peace, be still! Why are you so fearful? Where is your faith?” (Mark 4:39-40; Luke 8:25)

     Did Jesus actually expect them to rebuke the winds? It sure sounds like it. [‘Do I have to do everything? Where is your faith?’]

     Or was it more like [‘Where is your faith? In this little boat? In your skill as fishermen? Don’t you understand yet that the Father would not let the Messiah drown, and therefore you are safe as long as you are with Me?’]

     “Peace, be still! Where is your faith?” That is not what I would have expected. Nor did the disciples, because their jaws dropped, and (according to Mark 4:41 CEV) “now they were more afraid than ever and said to each other, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey Him!’”

     Now, as if that weren’t enough for one day, one more surprise (number five) awaits us on the other side of the Lake. However, I don’t think the demon-possessed people waiting for them were a surprise to Jesus. I think the Holy Spirit told Jesus to go deliver these guys, and that’s why (even after such a long day) Jesus “gave a command to depart to the other side.” (Matt 8:18 NKJV)

     We don’t really have time to go through this, but in summary two demon-possessed men immediately met them when the boat arrived (one of them particularly violent and memorable). The descriptions show they were quite a mess: crying out night and day among the tombs, gashing themselves, naked, able to break chains, and so exceedingly violent that no one could pass by that road. (Matt 8, Mark 5, Luke 8). The unclean spirits recognized Jesus and begged not to be disembodied, and Jesus (rather amazingly) grants their request to transfer to a nearby heard of pigs (they are now in Gentile territory—just in case you missed that), and after another prayerless prayer [“Go!”], “then the unclean spirits went out and entered the swine (there were about two thousand); and the herd ran violently down the steep place into the sea, and drowned in the sea.” (Mark 5:13 NKJV)

     Now, I’m one of the disciples. None of this really amazes me, because I’ve seen Jesus do this before, and I’ve just seen him still a storm, for goodness sake! But what happens next is surprising. We don’t know what happened to one of the guys, but Mark (5:18-19a NKJV) tells us: “And when [Jesus] got into the boat, he who had been demon-possessed begged Him that he might be with Him. However, Jesus did not permit him…”

     That is not what I expected. Jesus welcomes everybody. And this man…the whole town is afraid of him. Let the poor man come with us, Lord!

      But Jesus “said to him, ‘Go home to your friends, and tell them what great things the Lord has done for you, and how He has had compassion on you.’ And he departed and began to proclaim in Decapolis all that Jesus had done for him; and all marveled.”

     I’ll never forget the comments of one of my professors at this point. “The Decapolis” refers to 10 Gentile cities on the road to Damascus. Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, and when he got there, there was already a thriving church. Why? Could it be, that this “liberated” man planted the seeds that God used to birth the church in the Decapolis, which God then used to disciple Paul, who God then used to write so much of the New Testament, which God still uses to spread this Gospel among the Gentiles—Gentiles like us?

     “No, you can’t come and be with Me.” That is not what I expected. But Jesus apparently had something greater in mind.


Surprising responses.

     1. “That sin will be held against you forever.”

     2. “Your mother and brothers are outside…” “Who is my mother…?”

     3. “I teach in parables…so that ‘…hearing they may hear and not understand; lest they should turn, and their sins be forgiven them.”

     4. “Where is your faith?”

     5. ‘No, you cannot follow Me.’

     That is not what I expected, but Jesus always seems to have something greater in mind.


     What a day, huh? I hope you’ve never had a day like that. Opposition, storms, demons… But did you notice that Jesus faced many of the same pressures His followers face today? Just like today, families were opposed to those who chose to follow Jesus. Religious leaders were strongly against Jesus and His disciples. Today, the cry is for “religious tolerance”, but Jesus is the one who said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” (John 14:6; you can’t get much more intolerant than that.) Our African and Latin American brethren can even testify that the demonic activity Jesus faced is still around. (I saw this kind of thing first hand in Africa and in Haiti, and it defies description, but most western Christians don’t even know this still happens.) And if all of this wasn’t enough—family pressure, religious animosity, demonic activity—God seems to expect the impossible of those who walked with Jesus. “Where is your faith?” “Don’t you remember the miracles I did in Egypt?” “Leave your nets, sell all you have, pick up your cross, and follow Me.”

     No, things have not changed, all that much. We shouldn’t expect it to be popular to follow Jesus. If we read His Word honestly, we should often be amazed when He doesn’t do what we expected. Following Jesus calls for faith. Without this firm confidence in the truth of what Jesus said and did, we are just like the waves of that violent sea, driven and tossed about by the shifting winds of popular opinion and cultural norms.


     In closing, this busy day shows us not only that Jesus often doesn’t do what we would expect, but also that Jesus had a way of turning things upside down. When His family rejected Him, He told the disciples about the new family they had in each other. When the religious leaders chose to be blind about the authority behind His miracles, the Messiah started teaching the common people through parables—memorable stories that endure to this day. When the man delivered from demons asked to “come along”, Jesus commissioned him instead to expand the Kingdom of God into non-Jewish territory. And when a storm threatened the lives of His followers, Jesus simply rebuked it, bringing glory to Himself as these drenched, bewildered, fearful men cried out: “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!” (Mark 4:41 NKJV) Indeed, nothing—absolutely nothing—is beyond the power and authority of Him who rebuked the waves, taught the masses, healed the sick, and died to take away our shame.


     And this brings us to a song.


     I’ve written dozens of songs, but there is only one that “popped out” in one piece. This one. I normally meditate, and fiddle with rhymes, and wrestle with theological implications for days, but this one just happened—but it “happened” in rather strange circumstances.

     The story takes place in September, 1986, between Hong Kong and Xiamen. Few people are still around who remember the overnight cruise ships that used to bring us up the coast from Hong Kong. Here’s a picture of two of them, taken from the LuJiang Hotel; that’s Gulangyu in the background. (Click here for more old pictures of Xiamen.)

     The voyage was normally quite pleasant, but on this particular fall day, we left Hong Kong in the tail of a typhoon. I had rarely seen such strong winds, and even this massive ship was rocking back and forth at extreme angles. I remember being in the dining hall, with plates and pans crashing to the floor in the kitchen. It sounded like Beijing Opera [crash, bang, crash…], but the only show was the fury of the sea. Many of my classmates (like other passengers) were very seasick for hours. This went on into the evening, and I was getting agitated at the Lord for allowing so many to suffer for so long.

     The next thing I remember, that still small voice inside me was unmistakably saying: “Michael, go outside and rebuke the winds.” In great faith, I replied: “Right. You’ve got to be kidding.” Now, I had no doubt that HE could rebuke the wind, but doing it through me was another matter entirely. I wrestled and struggled, but the impression would not go away.

     Finally, I said, “All right, I’ll go” and I headed outside. I remember the wind being so strong that I had to hold onto the rail with both hands, as we continued bobbing back and forth. With all the faith I could muster, I told the wind to “Be still!” And nothing happened. (When I tell this story to my Chinese students, they always laugh. I know I certainly felt foolish!) I said: “OK, Lord. What was that all about? Why did You ask me to do such a crazy thing?”

     This gentle reply pieced my heart: “Son, you will go through many storms in your life. I will not always rebuke the winds, but I will always give you the strength to stand.” Something that I can only describe as “the joy of the Lord” flooded my soul, and—still clutching the rail for dear life—I started to sing into the wind. When the song was over, I said, “Lord, that was nice; can I go write it down?” I did, and this is the song He gave me that night.




(by Michael Krigline, 9/6/86; on a very rocky ship in the tail of a typhoon between Hong Kong and Xiamen)


You, who rebuked the wind, and the waves were gone

You, who walked upon the raging sea

You who spoke to thousands from a boat in Galilee

Bring Your calm, and teach Your words to me.


You who healed the lame so he could rise and walk

You who touched the blind so he could see

You who made the deaf man to hear Your loving voice

I want to hear and see and follow Thee.


You who put Your priceless truth in pots of clay

You who died to take away my shame

You who rose from death that I might evermore be free

I thank you and I Praise Your Holy Name.



I’ll follow if You rebuke the waves, I’ll follow through the storm

I only ask that You be at the helm.

Take the wheel, I give it Lord, I’ll go where e’re You lead.

Just make my life acceptable to Thee.


This song was recorded in 2002. Write to me if you want a free mp3 copy. Contact info is on our home page.


The whole Bible is available on line at


Scriptures quoted above are from:

--NKJV: The Holy Bible, The New King James Version. 1982 (Jas 1:2–8). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

--CEV: The Holy Bible, The Contemporary English Version. 1995 (Mk 3:20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

--Also referred to: Thomas and Gundry (Robert L & Stanley N), A Harmony of the Gospels, Moody Press (The Moody Bible Institute of Chicago), 1978 (4th printing, 1981)



© 2012 Michael Krigline. As far as I am concerned, people are allowed to print or copy this article, or link to it, for personal or classroom use.

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Scriptures quoted are primarily from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.) 1982. Also on line at


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