In Mark 4, Jesus and the disciples are on a boat in the Sea of Galilee when a violent storm arises. Crippled with fear, the disciples wake their sleeping Savior. Jesus takes this opportunity to teach His followers, show His power, and apply mercy.
Setting the Scene
Jesus was tired. Prior to this passage, He teaches a string of parables to many people. For this reason, our Lord commands the disciples to sail over to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, leaving the crowds behind. As it does today, the Sea of Galilee played a central role in the life of those living in Christ’s time. Although called a sea, it is the largest source of fresh water in that geographic region. It always provides fresh fish.
Despite taking to the sea to gain peace and solitude, Jesus and His disciples are not alone. Mark notes that other boats were present, likely fishing boats. Storms on the Sea of Galilee were common. The sea is surrounded by mountains. Warm air from the Mediterranean Sea mixes with that of the cold mountaintops and then descends onto the warm air covering the Sea of Galilee—a perfect concoction for storms.
Mining the Gems
Mark expresses in the Greek γίνεται λαῖλαψ μεγάλη ἀνέμου, “a great windstorm arose.” Γίνεται, “arose,” is a verb expressed in the present tense. This is noteworthy, as the present form of the verb conveys not only that the events occurred at that time for Jesus and the disciples but also that it was more than just a passing wind. λαῖλαψ μεγάλη, “a great windstorm,” is distinguished from a short rain or passing wind. It is unknown how long the storm would have lasted, but it was the kind of storm with the potential to linger for quite a long time, certainly to swamp the boat, and perhaps to kill Jesus and His disciples. Mark notes, “the boat was already filling.”
Διδάσκαλε, “teacher,” suggests how the disciples viewed Jesus, at least at that moment. Teaching was a central element of our Lord’s ministry. He had just finished teaching parables. It is vital to note, however, that “teacher,” while a title of respect, may indicate that the disciples had yet to conclude that Jesus is Lord Almighty, one with the Father. Perhaps this accounts for their doubt and fear.
Jesus commands the wind and waves, Σιώπα, πεφίμωσο, “Peace! Be still!” Although the translation is not wrong, something closer might be, “Silence; be still.” We can associate the word peace with calm, like what the angels conveyed to the shepherds at the birth of Jesus. Jesus charges the wind and the waves in a manner more suited for scolding a child. This makes sense, given that our Lord is rebuking inclement, even deadly, weather, which is a consequence of a fallen world. Neither storms nor the fear they invoke ever occurred in Eden prior to Adam and Eve’s first sin.
The primary concern is the fear the disciples experience. As fellow sinners, we cannot blame them, but their anxiety in the face of the storm reflects their doubt in Jesus, which has its roots in a false, or at least incomplete, understanding of who He is. During Jesus’ ministry, the disciples grew in their recognition of Jesus’ identity, but realization was slow. Assuming they saw Jesus as man only, their doubt makes sense. How could He sleep in such peril? What could a mere man do to help? Had the disciples known Jesus as He is, they would have been perfectly calm, just like the wind and waves following Jesus’ miraculous action. More precisely, if Christ is Lord Almighty, what else could His creation do but surrender?
The application for sinners today relates to how we process events in our own lives. To the extent that someone sees Jesus as anything less than God Almighty, Creator of the universe, they can only conclude that Christ is either too weak to prevent life’s challenges or callously negligent. Even for the devout Christian, everyday fear springs forth from distrust in God and unwillingness to surrender to Him.
A comforting truth in this account is that Jesus not only calmed the storm but He also allowed it. Even sleeping, Christ was never out of control of His creation. Apply this truth to ourselves: the fact that Jesus holds His almighty leash around the calamities that befall us (disease, injury, job loss, violence, betrayal), affords us peace.
It is also important to connect the storm to sin, even our own. The storm resulted from a broken nature, one that we created, and demonstrates our inability to save ourselves. Jesus’ mastery over the waves points to the redemption He would later earn on the cross. Nature cries out in misery over its brokenness. Sinners are lost and face eternal hell. Jesus suffered and died to undo the cause of the storm and our eternal problem.
Not only do we find comfort in the storm for the sake of Jesus’ lordship over all creation, but we also find our forgiveness. Jesus explains in John 16 that we will have trouble in this world, but He has overcome the world. For the sake of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, we are God’s children, marked with His eternal seal, made righteous and accepted in His sight, surrounded by His amazing love.
Finally, the calmed storm harkens to the world to come. Jesus has made all things new. There will be a new heaven and a new earth. One day, Christ will return, give us new bodies, and escort us to heaven, where there will be nothing but calm and peace.
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