A Promise of the Lord
Law is spoken to convict someone of his sin. Gospel is spoken to forgive or comfort someone who already is convicted of his sin. In Mark, we are hanging out with our Lord Jesus and His disciples. Which words do they speak to each other— Law or Gospel?
The disciples speak to Jesus, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are dying?” They speak Law. They accuse Jesus of not caring. They are quick to point out His “sin.” We might think that is quite bold or brash of the disciples, since Jesus has no sin, yet we do the same thing. Our Lord doesn’t seem to respond to our situation, and it appears that He doesn’t care or that He is asleep on the job, so we get upset because He is not doing anything (at least not the way we think He should). We think it is the Lord’s fault, so we blame Him. Blaming God started back in the garden with Adam when he said, “The woman YOU gave me...”
Jesus responds, but first He speaks to the wind and the sea. “Peace! Be still!” The Law is spoken, and the wind and sea respond by doing the will of the Lord. The Law, which is given to the wind and sea, comes as gift to the disciples. The wind ceased, and the sea w as calm. What is given as Law to one comes as gift to another.
After Adam and Eve had sinned, the Law that God spoke to Satan—that the offspring of the woman will crush his head—comes as Gospel to Adam and Eve—the offspring of the woman will save them. Again, the offspring, Jesus, received the full weight of the Law on the cross where he suffered the wrath of the Father for our sins, yet that which is given as Law to Jesus comes to us as gift—the free gift of forgiveness.
Next, Jesus responds to the accusation of the disciples, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” Those are not words of comfort but words of Law, which are spoken to convict the disciples of their sin. Jesus makes clear that the fault lies not with Him but with the disciples who do not have faith, and thus they are afraid.
Faith is trust in the Lord, in His promise. The temptation is always to doubt His promise. In the garden Satan tempted Eve to doubt the word of the Lord, “Did God really say...?” When the disciples feel the wind and see the waves, they doubt the word of Jesus and have no faith but are afraid.
What word of the Lord do they have in which they do not trust? Jesus said to the disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side.” When the Lord says you are going to the other side, you are going to the other side! With the promise of the Lord, they have no need to fear. Even if the wind and the waves take them to their death, it is not their concern; it is the Lord’s concern. He said they were going to the other side, and He is the one who will get them there, even if He has to raise them from the dead to make good His promise.
The Lord has given you a promise—your sins have been forgiven. It is not a promise He has to make good for He already made good on that promise when He died on the cross and rose again. He delivers that gift of forgiveness to you in Holy Baptism, Holy Absolution, Holy Communion, and the preaching of the Gospel. There He speaks to you His Gospel promise to comfort you. “I baptize you...” “I forgive you all your sins...” “Take and eat, take and drink, My body given for you, My blood shed for you...for the forgiveness of sins.” Doubt says, “A few words, a little water, some bread and wine—doesn’t look like forgiveness to me.” Faith, on the other hand, trusts the promise of the Lord and in thanksgiving responds with an astounding, “AMEN. It shall be so. Gift received!”