Mark 4: 35 – 41 Jesus calms the storm
That day when evening came, he said to his disciples, ‘Let us go over to the other side.’ 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!’
* * *
Suppose time travel was possible. Suppose I could have been present, with all my 21st century knowledge and scepticism. How would I have felt?
There is no doubt that sudden violent squalls occur on Lake Galilee. Mark’s gospel doesn’t say who was sailing the boat, but why would it not have been Peter, James and John? They were, after all, his closest disciples. They were experienced sailors, fishermen. They would have been familiar with the lake since infancy.
These tough, competent men were afraid. They thought they were going to drown.
It must have been an exceptional storm.
Imagine. It’s dark. The waves are high; they are breaking over the boat. And Jesus is asleep.
I have a little faith. I can cope with facing the storm if Jesus is awake, if I can feel he’s taking care of me. But he’s asleep. “Wake up, Teacher! Wake up! We’re going to drown!”
Jesus gets up. That’s not easy in a small boat in a storm. And all he does is say to the wind and the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” The wind dies down and it’s completely calm.
With my 21st century head on, I would have thought that the wind dying down could be coincidence. The waves, though, are another story. Once the wind stops blowing, it takes time for waves to abate. I would have looked around for some form of breakwater, whether manmade or natural.
But, you know what? That’s exactly what those experienced sailors would have been thinking – only earlier. While the storm tossed them, and the waves got bigger and bigger, they would have been steering for the nearest possible sheltered water. And what they said when the wind and the waves just stopped wasn’t, “Thank goodness we’ve reached shelter,” it was, ‘Who is this? Even the wind and the waves obey him!’
I really can’t avoid the conclusion that either this happened pretty much as described in the gospel – or it didn’t happen at all.
The disciples were terrified. How do I feel?
Challenged, is the best description of my feelings, I think. Have I really accepted Jesus as the Son of the Creator of the universe?
The answer, I find, is that yes, I have really accepted Jesus as God’s Son. However, for me, the supernatural signs are not the clincher. By sending Jesus, God has shown me that he is a God of love. He accepts me, just as I am, and helps me to live a better life. He wants the very best for me. He has shown me that love underpins everything that is necessary for human beings to live together harmoniously and joyfully. I want to do his will because he has shown me that it leads to a fulfilment that is uniquely satisfying.
I think there is one further thing I can draw from today’s study passage. The disciples were terrified, and they were terrified because they suddenly realised the astonishing authority of Jesus. They realised that he had a power that was beyond anything they could imagine; and they were in a boat with him, in the dark, and, basically, completely at his mercy.
We are, in one sense, in exactly the same position. Jesus has complete authority. Just like the terrified disciples, we are completely at Jesus’ mercy. But we see his authority with the perspective of the crucifixion and, above all, the resurrection. God so much wants us to be whole and fulfilled that Jesus was prepared to become like a slave, and suffer betrayal, unjust trial, torture, and death – and then God raised him from dead.
We know God loves us; he’s proved it.
Thank you that Jesus is with us in all the storms of life. Thank you for his life, death and resurrection.
In Jesus’ name, Amen