I have to make a confession right out of the gate...my engagement with the chapter began to fade once Sproul began to relay the plot of Of Mice and Men. I understood the point of all of it...it just didn't strike me like I think it was designed to do. Maybe it was the length of the illustration...I don't know. That was one drawback of the chapter. [My desire is to stay humble in giving even slight criticism.]
So, after reading chapter four of this book, I realized that I not only have something in common with R.C. Sproul. I have something in common with Billy Graham, as well. I, too, have been playing golf, watching a sporting event, and getting my haircut when I have had the same experience. I get asked, "What do you do?" The answer is that I am a pastor. I have received apologies on the golf course for behavior displayed prior to that revelation. I have also heard what seems to be the obligatory "Didn't the Lord give us a great day?" in the bleachers. Of course, the strangest response was when I told the woman cutting my hair that I am a pastor...all she could say was, "Awwwww!" The written word fails here...imagine she just saw a newborn baby cooing and smiling because he has gas...that was the "Awwwww" I heard.
After these initial reactions, silence and focus on the task at hand ruled the day. The words of Sproul were definitely proved true. "People have an appreciation for moral excellence, as long as it is removed a safe distance from them. The Jews honored the prophets, from a distance. The world honors Christ, from a distance" (p. 59). I do not claim moral excellence for myself, but the title "pastor" is associated with it. I assume that the silence comes because our conversation could turn to the holy, and when the holy comes into contact with the unholy (especially through the vehicle of the ears), there can be a violent reaction.
I love the story from Mark 4 of Jesus calming the storm, and I am glad that Sproul focused on the greater fright caused by a display of Jesus' power. The Holy God is the only One who can control the uncontrollable sea (Ps. 77:16; Ps. 89:8-9; Job 38:8, 10-11; Amos 4:13). "It is one thing to fall victim to the flood or to fall prey to cancer; it is another thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (p. 53). I am actually preaching through the gospel of Mark on Sunday mornings at this time, and I decided to look back on my notes for this text. Seven months ago, I preached this text under two main points. They were (1) Jesus calms a storm, (2) Jesus causes a storm. As I was studying for that Sunday, I ran across this from Sinclair Ferguson: "The message is not that Jesus calms the storm in people's hearts but that Jesus causes a storm in people's hearts." Wow!
One last thought about man's reaction to holiness. Thinking about the calming of the storm in connection with this, it is interesting that the nature of the sea submits to the Holy One in Mark 4, yet the nature of man slaughters the Holy One in Mark 15. This is yet more evidence of our desperately wicked hearts and our need of redemption.