Following Jesus’ daylong ministry in Mark 4, He moves to a different place in the evening. Jesus must have been ministering from the boat for the whole day. He said in Mark 4:35 “Let us go over to the other side.” He went to the Gadarenes and this is Jesus’ first recorded trip to a non-Jewish territory.
Now, when they were in the middle of the water, an unexpected crisis hit them (verse 37-38). Some translations begin the verse with “and,” while some use “but.” A major, great violent windstorm came about and it came suddenly with no warning. It was not forecasted. The waves buffeted and they could potentially be drowned. The Greek word used there is epiballo, to throw upon. It was a heavy wind. In fact, if you go to Galilee, there is still a boat kept in the museum there, which was surfaced intact.
The Quietness in the Crisis
In the midst of this crisis, Jesus was sleeping on a cushion in the stern of the boat (verse 38). On one hand we notice the crisis, (the sentence begins with “but”) and on the other side is the quietness. Many times, people are in the midst of the crisis and start crying out to God, asking, “Are You there? Do you care for me?” Crisis makes one question God. This is the only place where we read Jesus sleeping in the midst of a life-threatening storm! Does it mean that Jesus was unconcerned about the situation? Was it intentional that Jesus was sleeping?
Despite the disciple’s expertise in this water body, they were unable to handle the crisis. Galilee was a huge lake and hence called the Sea of Galilee. The disciples were taken by surprise by the suddenness of the storm. Their normal life was hit with danger and life-threatening crisis that threw them into a panic mode. Let’s bring the passage home closer to us. I am sure we had meticulous plans for 2020. Some of us wanted to travel, some to construct and expand, some to move into higher education and some others who wanted to get into a marriage relationship. All these came to a screeching halt because of the pandemic crisis!
God, where are you?
The disciples sounded desperate and frustrated, “Teacher, don’t you care that we are about to die?” (verse 38). It was not an ordinary, pious prayer. They were close to being thrown out of the boat and in the midst of this crisis, they cry out. We see that Jesus asks them later on, “Why are you cowardly/fearful?” It shows that the disciples’ cry to Jesus was not one with confidence (verse 40). Why are you cowardly afraid? Have you noticed when we are cowardly, our expertise doesn’t seem to help us anymore? No matter how much of confidence was present prior to it, during fearful times confidence seems to be absent.
Jesus rebuked the wind and said to the waves, “Quiet! Be still!” (verse 38). The rebuke of the wind and the wave show exorcism. When you look at this passage and the passage from Mark 1 where Jesus was in the synagogue and He cast out the demon there, both the words are similar. He said, “Be quiet!” (Mark 1:25). In the first century world, demons and evil spirits were believed to be behind natural calamities.
Jesus is Sovereign and He cares
The storm that we see here becomes an occasion for Jesus the Teacher to teach His disciples (verses 40-41). By quietening the wind and waves, Jesus teaches two things:
- that He is sovereign over these natural forces. He is not just a human being born in Bethlehem and growing up as a Nazarene.
- that He is concerned about the wellbeing of His disciples. When everything that they knew was not available to them, He shows that He is concerned about them.
Some of the passages from the Old Testament demonstrate that only God has authority over wind, waves, and oceans.
- Psalm 44:23: Awake yourself! Why do you sleep, O Lord? Wake up! Do not reject us forever!
- Psalm 65:7: You calm the raging seas and their roaring waves.
- Psalm 89:8,9: O Lord, sovereign God! Who is strong like you, O Lord? Your faithfulness surrounds you. You rule over the proud sea. When its waves surge, you calm them.
- Psalm 106:9: He shouted at the Red Sea and it dried up; he led them through the deep water as if it were a desert.
- Psalm107:29: He calmed the storm, and the waves grew silent.
So, if only God could control the wind and the waves according to the Old Testament, Jesus controls them in this incident; therefore, Jesus is God!
Secure in Christ
As per the edict by emperor Nero in AD 64, there was a state-wide persecution. When Mark wrote this Gospel, this particular passage must have made a lot of sense to them because their lives were in danger. They must have cried out in despair and asked, “where are you, Lord?” Jesus’ answer to them was that He is Sovereign! He is bigger than the emperor Nero, or any other crisis. Not only is He Sovereign, He is also concerned about every individual in the crisis.
We are all hit with crisis at some time or the other and think we are alone in it. Situations like this one demonstrates the integrity of the believers. What are we really made up of? The car might look great in the showroom, but the sturdiness of it is known only when it is on road.
Fear appears to be ubiquitous. We start the day very well and then are afraid of people, the weather, health, finance, and all such other things. Fear seems to have a grip over us. But fear and Christianity cannot coexist. Jesus prefers His disciples to have faith over fear. The content of our Christian faith should be that Jesus is sovereign over wind and waves and that He is not indifferent to the suffering of his followers. This is faith. It does not originate in me but rests in the other person. It is objective faith as we saw in the previous post. Fear is the worst enemy and it is worse than the virus. The virus might kill people and is seasonal. But fear kills lot of people and all the time.
Abatement of the wind and the waves need not be the ultimate goal of our prayer. But Jesus being present in the boat should be the ultimate goal of prayer. Security is not in the absence of wind and the waves, but in the presence of Jesus in the boat. Let us also replace fear with faith in Jesus who is in our boat.
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