The Holiness of Christ
“[Jesus] awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, ‘Peace! Be still!’ And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm… . And [the disciples] were filled with great fear and said to one another, ‘Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?’” (vv. 39–41).- Mark 4:35-41
It is a sad fact indeed that many of the most influential thinkers in recent centuries have been unapologetic atheists. These individuals, who lived at the end of the nineteenth century and into the twentieth century—including men such as Sigmund Freud, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Jean-Paul Sartre—attributed ultimate causation to impersonal forces and not the personal, omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent God revealed in the Bible. Despite their advocacy of atheism, however, one fact persistently confronted them: man is incurably religious. How did they explain this?
Freud theorized that the fear of impersonal forces gave rise to belief in a supreme being. He noted that it is impossible to reason with natural forces such as earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. On the other hand, human beings can reason with other personal beings. We can beg personal deities for benevolence and favor, including protection from the forces we cannot control. Thus, Freud asserted, humanity made natural events personal in order to avoid them. We invented a god of thunder, a god of tornadoes, and so on in order to reduce our fear of being destroyed by them. By worshiping these gods, we came to expect favor from these deities, and thus our fears of nature were assuaged. In time, said Freud, this polytheism evolved into monotheism, which allows us to focus on placating one supreme being instead of several different gods.
Indeed, we fear the awesome power of nature, but men and women fear something— Someone—far more. Consider today’s passage. At one point during His earthly ministry, Jesus and the disciples were in a boat on the Sea of Galilee when they ran into a horrible storm. All of the men feared the storm except Jesus, and His followers could find no reason for His willingness to sleep instead of worrying about the weather (Mark 4:35–38). After the disciples woke our Lord, He silenced the storm. Yet a strange thing happened. We would expect that the disciples would have been afraid no longer, but their fear intensified. They trembled before the One who had saved their lives (vv. 39–41).
There is nothing humanity fears more than the holiness of God. We all know that His purity calls for our destruction, but we who know Jesus understand His great mercy. By the Father’s grace, all those who trust in Christ alone can endure the holiness of God. Moreover, we can rejoice in it as we seek His face (Rom. 5:1–2; 1 Thess. 5:9–10).
When we trust in Jesus, we are His holy people by God’s decree, and, over time, we become holy in our experience as we put sin to death and grow in likeness to Christ. In Jesus, we have a twofold hope: We can stand in the midst of God’s holiness unafraid. But we can also become holy as we obey Him in the Spirit’s power. This latter holiness does not get us into heaven; only on account of Christ’s righteousness can we be declared just before God. Still, we do grow in holiness as we follow Jesus.
Passages for Further Study
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