Have you ever tried to get away from the storms of life, only to find that they have followed you? If so, you can understand what happened in Mark 4:35-41. Jesus needed to get away from the crowds. We are tempted to follow the crowd, but we need to carefully consider public opinion and walk away when popular opinion isn’t faithful to God’s word. We need to walk away from the crowd so we can spend time alone with God.
Jesus’ idea to cross over to the other side marked the first time he went into Gentile territory. The disciples took Jesus abruptly and without notice. They might not have been pleased with his plan to include the Gentiles. If so, their attitude reflects that of the prophet Jonah. Christians must be willing to share the Gospel (and themselves) with people who are not like them.
The Sea of Galilee is in the deepest part of the Northern Jordan rift––700 feet below sea level––surrounded by steep cliffs and mountains except in its southern extremities. Hot air rises and cool air falls, so the cool air in the higher elevations is always wanting to swap places with the warmer air near the water. This often results in high winds––and waves that can top thirty feet.
On a map of Israel the sea looks like a large lake, but from a small fishing boat it would look enormous, especially in a storm. At least four of Jesus’ disciples are fishermen, have surely survived storms on this sea, and have also surely known fishermen who were lost at sea. They are strong, self-reliant men who would handle moderate danger as a matter of course. The danger on this evening is not moderate, but deadly.
In Mark’s Gospel, the sea represents evil forces that oppose God. It’s also a boundary between the Jews and the Gentiles. Even though the sea threatens to undo them, Jesus wants to cross it because the Good News of the Gospel is never for those on just one side of the sea. The Gospel is for everyone.
The storm was upsetting, and so was the fact that Jesus was asleep during the storm. The disciples wanted Jesus awake and alert. They wanted him to take command of the situation-to get them organized. They were scared that Jesus would abandon them in a crisis. The heart of their fear was the lack of faith. They abandoned God and Jesus-two beings who could control nature.
The real heart of the disciples’ fear was their failure to recognize the true challenges of faith. Faith is not simple. It must involve doubt. It needs strength and courage. It places a sword in our hands.
Storms often bring out our true spiritual condition. Too many of us want faith to be nice and simple and easy. Faith requires hard work. It involves coming out of ourselves to trust and care. If we lose faith, we lose hope and our ability to care. Fear wipes out faith. Discipleship is a life of faith. Faith is a deep, bedrock trust in God’s presence in the world, the church and our lives. When the storms of life occur we come to the truth of just how deep our faith is.
Safety is not an absence of trouble. It is the presence of Jesus. He has command over everything, even though it doesn’t appear that way to us. The fact that he slept through the storm reflects his human nature. The fact that he calmed the storm proved that he was fully God at the same time.
God sent the storm to teach the disciples a lesson on faith, and he often sends trials and problems to teach us lessons. Each of us has a measure of faith that has been given to us by God. He wants us to use it to overcome fear. Fear tells us to expect the worst. Faith tells us that God is in control. Life’s problems are a call for us to put our faith into action. They reveal areas of our lives in which we need to act in faith and not fear. Jesus can calm the crashing sea, and he can calm the daily problems we face. He can take the fury out of any situation that we face.
Jesus came so he could reach out to the social outcast; so he could heal those who were hurting in body, mind and spirit. He cared about little things like the embarrassment of a bride and groom who were running out of wine at their wedding. He cared about big things like ten lepers whose illness had banished them from house and home, family and future. Jesus cares for us today. He reaches out to anyone who finds himself being swamped by the storms of life. That includes people who are not like us.
Jesus told the disciples that they would get to their destination. He did not promise still waters the whole time. The same is true for us. We have been given the promise of “the other side” and we will get there. We will encounter problems along the way, but we will get there-and Jesus will be with us. We have lived through the storms of life such as death, divorce, relationship breakups, shattered dreams, job loss or being spiritually adrift. When the storms of life hit us, do we declare Jesus’ promises are null and void, or do we have a faith that will turn the storm into a great calm? When we trust Jesus, he reveals his presence, compassion and control in every storm of life because he cares for us.
Jesus rebuked the disciples for doubting that he could save them. The rebuke caused them to fear him. They realized that he was more powerful than the sea. Only God has power over seas and storms, including the storms of life. This story reveals both Jesus’ power and Jesus as God’s agent or God incarnate. Jesus did not rebuke the disciples for their lack of faith, and he does not rebuke us for a lack of faith. Our slight faith has not turned Jesus away. Jesus should be the model and subject of believing faith for every Christian.
Sometimes we are like the disciples in this story. We are in the midst of the storms of life, so sometimes we feel that Jesus has abandoned us. Nothing could be further from the truth. Jesus is with us in the middle of the storm. When life is difficult, we need to remember that our faith prevails over our fears. The real test involves holding onto Jesus’ presence even when he is still and quiet. Jesus is more concerned with teaching us how to trust through the storm that he is calming outward storms. It’s like the story of the footprints in the sand.
One night a man had a dream. He dreamed he was walking along the beach with the LORD. Across the sky flashed scenes from his life. For each scene he noticed two sets of footprints in the sand: one belonging to him, and the other to the Lord.
When the last scene of his life flashed before him, he looked back at the footprints in the sand. He noticed that many times along the path of his life there was only one set of footprints. He also noticed that it happened at the very lowest and saddest times in his life. This really bothered him and he questioned the Lord about it.
“Lord, you said that once I decided to follow you, you’d walk with me all the way. But I have noticed that during the most troublesome times in my life, there is only one set of footprints. I don’t understand why when I needed you most you would leave me.”
The Lord replied: “”My son, my precious child, I love you and I would never leave you. During your times of trial and suffering, when you see only one set of footprints, it was then that I carried you.”
There are always storms of life on the horizon. We need to have faith, trust and confidence in Christ that he will calm the storm before it arrives. We need to remember the words of the famous hymn, “Will Your Anchor Hold.”
We have an anchor that keeps the soul
steadfast and sure while the billows roll;
fastened to the Rock which cannot move,
grounded firm and deep in the Saviour’s love!
God equips us for service in the storms of life. We are guided through the storms by the Bible. It is our compass. If we spend time studying God’s Word, we will find the hope, encouragement and strength we need to face the storms of life.
- Jeremiah, Dr. David: The Jeremiah Study Bible, NKJV (Brentwood, TN: Worthy Publishing, 2013)
- Exegesis for Mark 4:35-41. Retrieved from www.lectionary.org
- McKenna, D.L. & Ogilvie, L.J.: The Preacher’s Commentary Series, Vol. 25: Mark (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Inc.; 1982)
- Stanley, C.F.: The Charles F. Stanley Life Principles Bible, NKJV (Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles; 2005)
- ESV Study Bible. Part of Wordsearch 10 Bible software package.
- Rev. Dr. Ken Klaus, “God, Don’t You Care?” Retrieved from www.lhm.org
- Pastor David McGee, “The Other Side.” Retrieved from Christianity.firstname.lastname@example.org
- Pastor Dick Woodward, “A Great Storm, A Great Question and a Great Calm.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- Paul Estabrooks, “Freedom from Fear.” Retrieved from Crosswalk@crosswalkmail.com
- David McCasland, “Christ in the Storm.” Retrieved from email@example.com
- Michael Youssef, Ph.D.,” Our Compass through the Storm.” Retrieved from firstname.lastname@example.org
- Jude Siciliano, O.P., “First Impressions, 12th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B).” Retrieved from www.preacherexchange.org
- The Rev. Stephen McKinney-Whitaker, “We of Little Faith.” Retrieved from www.day1.org