Faith in the storm (Mark 4:35-41)

Some miracles are “biggies”.  Everyone’s heard of them.

Like Jesus healing the blind man with mud made out of spittle.

Or Jesus feeding 5,000 or more people with a boy’s lunch of 5 loaves and 2 fishes.

Or like Jesus walking on water to catch up with his disciples.

The miracle in Mark 4:35-41 is quite a short story.  It’s simple and to the point, tucked into just 7 verses in Mark’s book.

However, the apostles must have thought this event was important because it’s recorded in three of the four gospels in the Bible, Matthew, Mark and Luke. 

The account included some rebukes from Jesus. 

Read about the first one is in Mark 4:35-39 where Jesus rebukes the stormy Sea of Galilee.

On the same day, when evening had come, He said to them, “Let us cross over to the other side.” Now when they had left the multitude, they took Him along in the boat as He was. And other little boats were also with Him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling. But He was in the stern, asleep on a pillow. And they awoke Him and said to Him, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?” Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

Jesus started with a simple suggestion, “Let us cross over to the other side.” 

The sea or lake of Galilee was about 8km wide and it was familiar territory for the disciples. Many of them had been on it before during their days fishing for a living. The trip was straightforward. No threat, done it before, just get on with life. And, in any case, if Jesus said let’s go then we could be assured all would be well. Just cross over to the other side.

Jesus went with them, of course. They took Him along in the boat as He was.  Jesus had taught the multitude from a boat just off the shore of the Sea of Galilee. When the teaching was finished, He didn’t return to shore. He just said to the disciples, “Let us cross over to the other side.”

Now the teaching was over. He was weary. He was craving for a period of rest. And so He told His disciples to cross the lake away from the crowd. There was no hesitation or preparation. They hadn’t sent a messenger ashore. Weary, and probably hungry, they had taken Him even as He was.

When it comes to us going on life’s journey with Jesus we must take Him as He is. Not as we wish Jesus was, not as others may present Jesus, not as you might see Him in the lives of others. Jesus comes as he is.

Going on life’s journey with Jesus we set out with confidence. Jesus is with us! That’s how we live day by day.

But you and I know that life is not all plain sailing, a smooth journey with no bumps, jolts or frightening times, even knowing Jesus is with you. 

So they set out on the familiar lake on a familiar trip. And then a great windstorm arose and the waves beat into the boat, so that it was already filling.

The Sea of Galilee is well known for its sudden, violent storms and the severity of this storm is shown by the reaction of the disciples, some of them experienced fishermen. “we are perishing”, they cried.

But [Jesus] was in the stern, asleep on a pillow.

Now Jesus’ true humanity is shown by His brief sleep on the boat. He became weary and sometimes caught up a bit of sleep wherever He could. 

How well do you sleep? Does worrying about things disturb your sleep?

Think of all the worries that might have kept Jesus awake. He could worry about the religious and political leaders who plotted against Him. He could worry about His family who thought He was crazy. He could worry about the overwhelming crowds with their overwhelming needs. He could worry about the disciples He chose. He could worry about the future, because He knew what His destiny was. With all these things to worry about, Jesus wasn’t worried. He slept in a boat tossed about in the middle of the roaring storm.

My grandfather used to annoy people, especially people who didn’t sleep well, with his saying, “good sleeping is the sign of a clear conscience.”  If he’s right then clearly Jesus had a very clear conscience.

More than that, the Lord’s sleep was not only the sleep of weariness: it was also the rest of faith.

And they awoke Him: The wind didn’t wake Him, the arguing of the disciples didn’t wake Him, and water sloshing over the boat didn’t wake Him. But at the cry of His disciples He instantly awoke. 

Jesus is like the mother who sleeps through all kinds of racket, but at the slightest noise from her little baby, she instantly awakes.

Can you sense something familiar here? When you are in the middle of a storm in life does it feel  to you that just when you need him Jesus is asleep? There  is that feeling, “where is God when you need him?” In the depths of this storm Jesus is asleep.

You see how the disciples coped with this situation; they woke Jesus and got to the point.

Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing? 

Now that’s a good way to pray. “Lord, don’t you care? Lord, can’t you see the trouble I’m in? Lord, Lord, I’m at my wit’s end! I can’t take much more of this!” These are good, honest prayers.

Go ahead, be honest with Jesus when you pray. Tell him as it is. Or at least, tell him as it seems to you. 

Moses told God, don’t send me, I’m no public speaker. Jeremiah Said, I am no prophet - I’m too young. Job declared it would have been better not to be born at all and that he was too insignificant to give thought to. They honestly told God how they felt.

The disciples got straight to their concern.  They woke Jesus and said, “Teacher, do You not care that we are perishing?”

Notice the word “we.” Even when we come to Jesus with our real concerns Jesus is in the situation with us.

It was not a request to Him to do anything; but a protest against His apparent indifference. They knew there were steps they could take but in this storm they knew most of them were hopeless.  

They didn’t try to tell Jesus what to do about the problem. Their appeal to Jesus was simple - along the lines of “HELP!”

Charles Spurgeon wrote of this passage, “There may be both a sleeping Christ and a sleeping church, but neither Christ nor his church can perish. If our Lord be asleep, he is asleep near the helm — he has only to put his hand out and steer the vessel at once. He is asleep, but he only sleeps until we cry more loudly to him. When we get into such trouble that we cannot help ourselves and feel our entire dependence on him, then he will reveal his power.” 

Jesus acted. Then He arose and rebuked the wind: Jesus didn’t say to them, “calm down, guys! She’ll be right!” And he didn’t merely quiet the wind and the sea; He rebuked the wind and the sea. This, together with the disciples’ fear and what Jesus will encounter at His destination, gives the sense that Satan had a significant hand in this storm but much more so that Jesus had power that’s even greater. As the creator who had made the water, the land, the wind, the universe Jesus could not only command it all but to rebuke it for threatening his life and that of his friends. Not to mention, for disturbing his sleep!

When he Rebuked the wind and ordered “Peace, be still!” He used the same terminology as when he rebuked and silenced demons because this was a spiritual battle as much as a weather crisis. Jesus addressed the raging storm as a ‘force’ threatening him and his disciples. The force of the sea was muzzled as Jesus subdued it with his sovereign word of authority.

As well, Mark tells us other little boats were also with Him. When Jesus calmed the stormy Sea of Galilee, He not only rescued Himself and the disciples, but also all the others in the other little boats. Jesus love and power saves his disciples and the restraint he applies to his creation minimises the effects of harm and evil on them all.

There is plenty of pain and evil in the world and the reason it’s not worse than it is is because the Holy Spirit of Jesus is at work.  He convicts people of sin and sometimes at least they change their minds and don’t do the evil they had in mind. 

The one who restrains evil until Jesus returns is his Holy Spirit. We should thank God that this is so and praise him for his loving power. We despair at the evil in the world but should be thanking our loving God who is ensuring that things are not worse than they are.

But that time will come when the restraint will be removed and the evil will be destroyed and Jesus will return.

2 Thessalonians 2:7-8 tells us that the secret power of lawlessness is already at work; but the one who now holds it back will continue to do so till he is taken out of the way. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will overthrow with the breath of his mouth and destroy by the splendour of his coming. 

Having rebuked the storm, Jesus then rebuked his disciples. 

But He said to them, “Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith?” And they feared exceedingly, and said to one another, “Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him!”

Why are you so fearful? How is it that you have no faith? He asked. Jesus wasn’t the least concerned about the storm! Instead, He asked, “Why is it that you have no faith?” The storm could not disturb Jesus, but the unbelief of His disciples disturbed Him.

It was not their fear of the storm that made Jesus say they had no faith. A small boat in a big storm is a scary place, and the fear itself isn’t wrong. When a situation is threatening and out of our control it’s perfectly normal to be frightened. 

Jesus doesn’t rebuke us when we are frightened, distressed or defeated. It’s what his disciples choose to do with the fear that makes all the difference.

Jesus could say they had no faith because they did not believe His word. They each heard Jesus say, “Let us go over to the other side of the lake” (Mark 4:35). Jesus didn’t say, “Let’s do the best we can and maybe we’ll all drown.” He promised a safe arrival, and the disciples could have chosen to trust in that promise. But they didn’t. In this sense they had no faith.

 Jesus could say they had no faith because they accused Jesus of a lack of care towards them. When they woke Him, they said, “Do you not care that we are perishing?” When we think Jesus doesn’t care about us, it shows we have no faith, because we don’t believe the truth about Jesus. It takes faith to trust the sleeping Jesus, to know that He cares and works for us even when it doesn’t seem like it. But this is the kind of trust God wants to build in us.

Jesus could say they had no faith because they forgot the big picture. The disciples should have known that God wouldn’t allow the Messiah to perish in a boat crossing the Sea of Galilee. Could the story of Jesus possibly end with Him drowning in a boat accident on the Sea of Galilee? “Our fears are often intensely silly, and when we get over them, and we look back upon them, we are full of shame that we should have been so foolish. Our Lord kindly censured their unbelief because it was unreasonable.” (Spurgeon)

Another commentator said, “There are many Christians today who seem to think the boat is going down! I am tired of the wailing of some of my friends who take that view. The boat cannot go down. Jesus is on board.” (Morgan)

We could put the emphasis on his words to the disciples: How is it that you have no faith? Of all people, Jesus’ own disciples should have had faith. Could Jesus put the same question to us? “After all I have done in you and for you, how is it that you have no faith?

So now the storm is over. Peace and calm return. How do you feel now?

For the disciples we read, They were filled with great awe. They feared exceedingly: The total calm of the sea should have filled them with peace, but instead, they were just as afraid when He calmed the storm as when they were in the midst of it.

We are confronted with a reality that should move us deeply.

Who can this be, that even the wind and the sea obey Him! The disciples asked a good question: Who can this be? It can only be the LORD, Jehovah. Only he has this power and authority. Psalm 89:8-9 puts it this way, “O LORD God of hosts, who is mighty like You, O LORD? Your faithfulness surrounds You. You rule the raging of the sea; when waves rise, You still them.

In the span of a few moments, in the words of a few verses, we and the disciples see both the complete humanity of Jesus and the fullness of His deity. They saw Jesus for who He is: truly man and truly God.

This passage is so worth reading. Even when we are in the middle of a storm in life and Jesus seems not to care, even to be asleep when we need him we are reminded, comforted and strengthened knowing the abiding care Jesus has for us, His people.

Have faith! Today, this very day, the Lord Jesus is travelling with you through this week, this month, this day. Have faith! You are yet to see what Jesus has in mind to do for you, how he will show his power to you how he will bless you.


1704 Modified: 25-06-2024
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