– Geoff Milton
In Mark 4:35 -41 we see Jesus and his disciples experiencing a terrifying storm on Lake Galilee. I can relate to this event because of my own storm experience when I was about 16 years old sailing a small dinghy across Pittwater in Sydney when a fierce storm struck and waves started breaking into the boat. My father was with me and he was not a strong swimmer. The rudder clamp gave way so I could barely steer. By the grace of God we survived.
Jesus calming the storm in Mk. 4 teaches us some important lessons:
1. Despite our fears, Jesus cares for us.
We don’t have to be caught in a literal storm to understand the truths of Mark 4. We all go through storms in our life that threaten to overwhelm us. Currently the covid-19 pandemic is having huge health and economic impacts. But our storm could be different: another illness or the death of a spouse or losing a job or a breakdown in relationships or deep loneliness.
Why do these things happen? The Bible’s answer is because we live in a world ruptured by sin (Gen. 3). Since that time, as Romans 8 says, we wait for the creation to be “liberated from its bondage to decay” when Christ returns and establishes the new creation.
In Mk. 4:37 the waves broke over the boat so that it was nearly swamped. Jesus was asleep in the boat (v38) and his disciples feared for their lives and woke him up saying “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”
We may feel like that (God doesn’t care) if we lose our spouse, our health or our income. But to have that attitude is to let our fear overwhelm our faith in Jesus to care for us and rescue us, ultimately even through death.
In Mark’s Gospel we see Jesus’ care for his disciples and others again and again. He heals numerous people such as the paralysed man let down through the roof in Mark 2. He set people free from the clutches of evil spirits (Mk. 1:23). We see him forgiving people’s sins and sharing meals with outcasts. At the end of Mark he shows his ultimate care for all his people by willingly dying as our ransom payment in order to set us free from sin and judgement (Mk. 10:45).
Jesus does care for us, no matter how fearful we may be. In Luke 13:34, overlooking Jerusalem he says “Jerusalem … how often I have longed to gather your children together like a hen gathers her chicks under her wings but you were not willing”. Tim Keller points out that this is a wonderful picture of protection and care. For the mother hen protect her chicks from sun and storm and predators with her wings. If necessary she will die so that her chicks won’t die – just as Jesus has done for us.
2. Jesus not only cares for us, he is powerful to protect and save us.
In our own storms and distress in life we want not only someone who cares, but someone who is powerful enough to protect and rescue us. What we see in Jesus calming the storm is someone who is all-powerful to rescue us. In v38 we see Jesus’ amazing action in response to his disciples. He rebuked the wind and said to the waves “Be still!” and then (v 39) the wind died down and it was completely calm! What an extraordinary miracle! He commanded a storm and it obeyed! He said to them “Why are you so afraid? Do you still have no faith in me?” (v40). Who has the power to calm a storm with a word except God alone who created the world with his word (Gen. 1). The conclusion is clearly that Jesus is the all powerful God of the universe. The light began to dawn for the disciples and hopefully for us to in v 41. They were terrified and said “who is this even the wind and waves obey him?” Throughout the New Testament the disciples’ faith in Jesus as Son of God continued to grow through difficult testing – just as steel is hardened by heat treatment. That’s our journey too – growing in faith in Jesus’ loving care and power, through our difficulties until one day we will be with him in the perfect new creation where there are no chaotic storms, evil, pandemics or death.
Meanwhile Mk 4 does not tell us that Jesus will instantly rescue us whenever we cry out to him. Those who trust in Jesus will not be rescued from storms but through storms. In the inevitable difficulties of life we can only find ultimate security, safety and serenity in trusting in Jesus. Through his death and resurrection he has defeated everything that cuts us off from his love. Romans 8:35 tells us “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall trouble or hardship or persecution or famine or nakedness or danger or the sword? No! In in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us”.