Evangelist of Sidney Church of Christ
“Leaving the crowd behind, they took him along, just as he was, in the boat. There were also other boats with him. A furious squall came up, and the waves broke over the boat, so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was in the stern, sleeping on a cushion. The disciples woke him and said to him, “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?” He got up, rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” Then the wind died down and it was completely calm. He said to his disciples, “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith?” They were terrified and asked each other, “Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!” (Mark 4:36-41 NIV)
Now we are in a place where we can see what Jesus’ disciples are made of. So far, Mark has done little to draw our attention to them. They have followed Jesus around and listened to him. He designated twelve of them to have a particular share in his ministry (Mark 3:14-15), but they won’t really try out their new authority until later (Mark 6:7-13). We know little about the rest of them, but clearly an even greater number of female and male disciples composed his entourage (Mark 4:10; 15:40-41). He has been explaining his teachings to this group privately (Mark 4:11, 34). Yet at this point in the narrative we don’t know what they think about him.
The lake-crossing scenes in Mark serve as opportunities for Jesus’ followers to reveal what they know or don’t know (ref. Mark 6:45-52; 8:13-21). In those episodes we also see what their faith looks like or whether they have it at all. Although Jesus performs an entirely astonishing act, demonstrating his power in the face of forces utterly beyond humanity’s control, all it inspires in his followers is confusion and terror.
Jesus gives no explanation for his desire to travel across the Sea of Galilee in the evening instead of waiting until morning, which would make for a safer voyage. There is no interruption between the description of his teaching from a boat (beginning in Mark 4:1 and a need anticipated in Mark 3:9) and his subsequent decision to sail and/or row eastward right away. All told, it looks like urgency or some kind of unshakeable determination on his part, for he goes “just as he was,” without any preparations.
Are you ever annoyed when it looks like God is sleeping and ignoring the situation that has “swamped” you and threatens to drown you? Why do you think the disciples wake Jesus up?
Did they want Him to calm the storm or to take cover? (With their surprise at His calming of the storm, we can infer that they did not expect him to do so. Their “we” could include Jesus as well!)
Why are the disciples still “terrified” even after Jesus calms the storm? (This fear was not produced by the storm, but by the calm. [Morgan 105-106] The sudden storm and sudden stillness caused brain overload. They were in fearful awe of the One who possessed authority to rebuke both the waves and themselves.) What did the disciples ask each other in verse 41? (“Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!”) Tell us of a time God blew away your concept of Him by a display of His power.
In verse 40 after their brush with death, Jesus does not comfort, but rather scolds His disciples. Why is He so hard on them? Is there evidence in the passage that Jesus meant to enter this storm as a test of the disciples’ faith? Hint, if needed: verse 37. (Jesus suggested the boat trip Himself, and promptly went to sleep. The application to our lives is that even when Jesus LEADS us “through the valley of the shadow of death”, we should fear no evil, for HE IS WITH US. We too can rest in faith during the storm. Our boat isn’t going down, because Jesus is on board.)
How would they have responded if they had had faith? (They would not have awakened Him and asked if He cared. They would have trusted His very presence to keep them safe.) In what areas of your life are you tempted to respond with fear rather than faith? As we go to prayer, consider how you will react when you are next tempted with those fears. Let’s ask Jesus to give us His rest of faith, and let’s worship Him who commands all manner of winds and waves.