Digging in Deeper: Mark 4:39-41

“He got up, rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Silence! Be still!’ The wind ceased, and there was a great calm. Then he said to them, ‘Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith?’ And they were terrified and asked one another, ‘Who then is this? Even the wind and the sea obey him!'” (CSB – Read the chapter)

Have you ever had something happen in a relationship with another person that made you completely reevaluate what you thought of the person? Maybe it was a positive reevaluation, maybe it was a negative one, but you couldn’t ever think of the person in the same terms again. After a day of teaching like they had done dozens of times, Jesus and the disciples got in a boat for a little trip. Along the way, something happened that made them completely reevaluate what they thought about Him. Let’s talk about it.

This is one of the more amazing stories in the Gospels and for good reason. This episode (along with the next two) marked a major turning point in the disciples’ understanding of who Jesus was and what exactly that meant. Before this they thought of Him mostly in terms of being a great teacher who could do miracles. There was something different about Him, to be sure, but they figured that was just because He had such an intimate relationship with the Father. After this, they would never think that about Him again.

As we talked about yesterday, this episode started with Jesus and the group (which included more than just the twelve) heading across the Sea of Galilee one evening after a long day of teaching. Suddenly a wild and violent storm blew up on the Sea and it was threatening to sink the small armada heading toward the Gentile territory on the east side of the Sea. Yet while the group of sailors did their best to keep the boats from sinking, Jesus was sound asleep in the little shelter of the high stern. When their desperation and fear grew to the breaking point, they finally woke Jesus up and fussed at Him for sleeping while their lives were on the line.

Mark, through, Peter, tells us that Jesus got up from His nap and went right to work. He didn’t say anything to them. He didn’t jump in to help bail water or man a rigging line. He got up, looked around, and told the wind and the waves to cut it out. And they did.

Now, just ponder that one for a minute. I know you’ve probably heard and read and studied this story before, but just think about this moment. Jesus told the storm to quit and it obeyed. Imagine what that would have been like to be there. Imagine the chaos of a wild thunderstorm in a little boat that was flying up and down on the waves and a second later there was what Mark describes as “a great calm.”

Everyone had been yelling over one another, shouting instructions and for help, and then it suddenly stopped. Dead. It was like it had never happened. That far from the shore you probably wouldn’t have been able to hear any of the normal nighttime sounds. There would have been nothing but the gentle lapping of water on the boat’s hull.

And everyone stared at Jesus as He surveyed the results of His command.

Then He turned to them. I’m not sure what they expected Him to say. I suspect any expectations they might have had flew out the window when the storm stopped. If there were any even lingering expectations, though, I suspect what came out of His mouth next wasn’t on any of their lists.

“Why are you afraid?” He said to them. Another translation puts it like this: “Why are you cowardly?” That’s a legitimate translation of the word, and given the severity of Jesus’ tone here, may be the better translation. Jesus was scolding the disciples for fearing the storm more than God. That becomes clear in His second remark: “Do you still have no faith?”

The question here becomes–and this is one that interpreters have wrestled with for centuries–why exactly was Jesus scolding them? I don’t have the definitive answer for you on that one this morning, but let me offer two thoughts. First, Jesus was scolding them for not believing in Him. He was with them and He was the Lord of the seas. Now, sure, Jesus hadn’t stilled the sea before this time, but He had revealed enough to them that they should have understood more fully who He was. But they didn’t. Thus the scolding.

Second, and this takes things in a slightly different direction, Jesus was scolding them for trusting more in themselves than in Him. They were trying on their own to fight the storm when they had one with them who commanded the storms and they obeyed. They needed to learn to turn to their faith faster and not use it as a last resort.

These two suggestions aren’t identical, I know, but at the root of each is Jesus scolding the disciples for not understanding yet who He was. And that, I think, is what this story is really about. This story is about who Jesus is. It is about establishing the fact that He really was fully God incarnate. But the disciples still didn’t fully grasp that. They didn’t fully grasp it, wouldn’t until after the resurrection, but they did at least know He was a whole lot more powerful than they had even dared to imagine. And it terrified them. Indeed, you don’t fear the storm, you fear the one who can command the storm to stop and it obeys.

But while this story really is about Jesus, I think there is rich spiritual truth here for us. This truth lies right in line with how the disciples reacted to Jesus’ display of power. Jesus is more powerful than the storms. That’s true for physical storms and I don’t think it is at all out of line to apply that to more metaphorical storms as well. Jesus is more powerful than your storms whatever those may happen to be. If you will trust in Him, He will lead you through them. He may not stop them in such dramatic fashion, but when you understand who He is and turn to Him first rather than rely on your own strength to make it through, He will take care of you.

The real question, then, is whether or not you are willing to place that much trust in Him. It’s easy to talk about, but when the storms begin to rage, our first instinct is nonetheless to do everything we can do before crying for help. We should still try to face them down, but He must be our first call, and a call we make with a spirit of ready obedience. When we trust Him, we will experience Him for who He really is. And who He really is, is more than enough to handle whatever is lying ahead of us. Let’s do it.

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