Jesus Calms the Storm
Topic: Biblical Verse: Mark 4:35–4:41
Fourth Sunday after Pentecost
June 20, 2021
“Jesus Calms the Storm”
Vicar Daniel Hoang
In the name of Jesus, Amen!
Last week we learned from the Gospel of Mark about the parable of the Seed Growing (Mark 4:26–29) and the parable of the Mustard Seed (Mark 4:30–34). This week we continue with the fourth chapter of the Gospel of Mark, our lesson is about the event of Jesus and the disciples crossing the Sea of Galilee.
The Gospel of Mark tells us that on that same day when evening came after Jesus has finished teaching in parables to the crowd, He told the disciples to go over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Leaving the crowd, the disciples came along with Jesus in the boat. As they were crossing over to the other side of the sea, there came a fierce gale of wind forming a storm causing the waves breaking over the boat, filling it with so much water; and the boat was about to be overwhelmed.
I invite you to view the Sea of Galilee and the surrounding mountains as shown on the screen.
The Sea of Galilee is small in comparison to the five Great Lakes of North America. But it is susceptible to storms because it is situated in a low basin surrounded by mountains. As the winds crossing over the surrounding mountains, they rush down and accelerate onto the surface of the lake creating waves high enough to sink fishing boats.
I invite you to view a short video clip on the storm over the Sea of Galilee in modern days.
And if we can picture what fishing boats were like at the time of Jesus, we can have a better perspective of the danger that Jesus and the disciples were facing. I invite you to have a look at the fishing boat as shown on the screen, or what left of an actual fishing boat, discovered in a town on the western shore of the Sea of Galilee. As you can see, fishing boats at the time were not big. A first century open fishing boat with low sides, such as the one on screen, would be susceptible to capsizing and swamping if high waves were constantly breaking over the boat.
The author of the Gospel of Mark tells us that Jesus was asleep in the back of the boat when the frighten disciples woke him up, saying:
“Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
We note that Matthew and Luke also mentioned that Jesus was asleep. But what we do not know is whether Jesus was asleep because He was physically tired and exhausted from a long day’s teaching, or simply because of the undisturbed serenity of His divine nature. In any case, the sharp contrast between Jesus in His peaceful sleep versus the panicking disciples is not difficult to assess. Jesus then got up and rebuked the wind and said to the sea:
“Hush, be still!”
Jesus commanded the wind and the sea to be silent as they were personified as living beings. The wind died down and the sea was perfectly calm. Did the water and the wind repent and obey the command? We should note that these are elements and matters of nature that God has created; with God’s mighty power, Jesus just shaped them in the orderly forms when He gave the command. We recall Genesis 1:9 in the creation account when God spoke to shape the waters on earth into order:
Then God said, “Let the waters below the heavens be gathered into one
place, and let the dry land appear”; and it was so.
Jesus commanded and God’s creation conformed. Jesus also rebuked his disciples, saying:
“Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”
The rebuke was sharp; it showed Jesus’ frustration because the disciples were with Jesus for a good while now, they saw the miracles He performed and heard His teachings about God and His kingdom, but they still yet to have faith and understanding. What we can learn from this storm event is the teaching about trusting God, about having faith in God. The faith that Jesus has displayed as He was asleep in the back of the boat undisturbed by the storm.
The striking details of the story are indicative that the author of Mark has drawn from the best of the gospel testimony tradition, which is the firsthand eyewitness, from one of the apostles who was on the fishing boat at the time. For sure, the story of Jesus’ calming the storm in the Gospel of Mark is not a resonance of the story of Jonah for it is not just a narrative of miracle over the nature as in the case of Jonah. The significance of this Markan narrative is the assertion, or a pronouncement, about the divinity and authority of the person Jesus in the background setting of the story, which is the fragile human nature of the disciples and their lacking faith in God.
The disciples were given the kingdom, nonetheless, they still yet to have faith. We learned from today Gospel lesson that the disciples believed that the storm would overwhelm the boat instead of believing that God would protect them. We learned that when crisis comes over us, lacking faith would make us to become more fearful of the crisis and less trusting in God. The opposite is the mark of the true disciple.
As we journey through this world, storms of the struggles and hardships of life may come to us without warning. We pray that God shields us from all these storms so we can live in peace and in quietness. When the storms come, their goal is to upset our peace and quietness. The storms come and test our faith and our perseverance. When they come, instead of blaming, whining, and complaining, in fear and humble we call on God to shield us, knowing that the storms do not have control over us for Jesus is with us and we are in God’s hand. God has authority over the storms as He has authority over us, over our circumstances, and over our destiny.
The lesson we learned from this text thus far was about true discipleship, which is how we should respond when storms come into our life. But to be clear, unlike its parallel in Matthew and Luke, the author of the Gospel of Mark did not mean to use it only to teach about discipleship.
Mark is a good storyteller, as we note how he concluded the story we have today. The author has a distinctive literary style when he arranges the climax of the story, sometimes he puts it at the end of the story. The conclusion reveals the purpose, the real reason Mark tells the story, and what he really wants to convey to the reader. In our narrative, Mark concluded the story with the disciples’ rhetorical question. This question underlines the story of Jesus calming of the storm:
“Who then is this that both the wind and the sea obey him?”
In this question is Mark’s advancement of the Gospel, it is Mark’s assertion about the divinity of the Messiah. In the ending of the story, Mark described the disciples as ones who were in great fear, this time, not in fear of the storm, but in great fear for they have seen the power of God.
For sure, seeing Jesus’ subduing the nature has caused the disciples to wonder about the person of Jesus and His divinity. They pondered where Jesus’ power and authority over the nature came from. The question is surely rhetorical, a question that demands the readers to search for a correct answer, and in so doing it would reveal another layer of meaning, which is the real reason and purpose of the story. The question meant to be Christological. Mark challenges the curiosity of the world. He wants to make known to the readers and to the world using what the disciples have spoken to tell the significance of the divinity of Jesus as the Messiah and the Son of God:
“Who then is this that both the wind and the sea obey him?”
And the unspoken answer to that question is:
“He is the Messiah, the Son of God, the Savior of the world.”
Let us praise our Lord and Savior Jesus, the Son of God, the Messiah, who is with us to calm the storms in our life. Amen.