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God in a Storm (Mark 4:35–5:2)

Updated: Oct 9, 2023

Jesus calms the storm

“Quick launch the boats into the water, boys!” Peter instructs. “It’s getting late, and Jesus wants to cross over to the far shore”. He points to me, and then the fishing nets, “Philip, toss those in the boat and we’ll be off”. I begin trembling, “But Peter,” I exclaim, “does Jesus not know that the other side is Gerasenes—gentile country? God forbid that we should go there!” Just then, Jesus, mingling with the crowds on the Galilean beach, stands on tiptoe and looks in the distance, “We are going to the other side, there is a gentile brother who needs my compassion.” Peter gestures as if to say, “as I said”.

The disciples and the others rush to their boats, pushing them in the water. Jesus takes leave of the crowd and hops right in and throws a broad smile in my direction as he takes his seat. My heart throbs and I feel a sense of panic. His smile does not comfort me. I think to myself, “I should jump out and swim to shore: I don’t want to go!” The famous story of the prophet, Jonah and the great fish come to mind… Agh, I don’t fancy being swallowed up by any such creature of the deep.

Dusk sets, and in the horizon three grey cranes flap northwest into the darkness beyond the blue-pink hue. It is peaceful as the boats sail across the Sea of Galilee, yet I am restless.

Struggling to keep his eyes open, the gentle lapping of water on the boat’s edge finally puts a weary Jesus to sleep. John shuffles over and lays his hand on his shoulder, “Teacher, you are exhausted, why don’t you head down into the stern and rest your head on the cushion for a few hours.” Jesus stands, “I’m taking a rest below deck, I’ll be up when the sun rises.”

It's dark and the stars like doors into heaven twinkle in the firmament. The lanterns of our boats flicker in the still evening as if we were a small floating village out at sea. Peace and calm filled everyone’s heart, but mine.

In the early hours of the morning, while it was still dark, suddenly, and without warning, strong gusts disturb the sails, the wind picks-up quickly, and the sea is angry. “I knew it!”, I blurted out grabbing the side of the fishing vessel, “Even the weather prevents us from going to the far shore.” The boat is tossed about and waves break in filling the craft. “Who among us is the cause of this vicious storm?” I groan.

Peter shouts out instructions to the others. Fear grips us all. James and Bartholomew empty the water with buckets to no avail. Andrew, Peter’s brother attempts to take down the sail, but it is no use.

Finally, Peter calls out, “John, take Philip with you and find Jesus; where is he anyway?” We scurry down below deck on our unsteady feet and discover the master in the stern fast asleep, “Wake-up, wake-up, do you not care that we are sinking?!” He rubs his eyes and follows us, stumbling before reaching the steps. He finds his way to starboard, holding on the rail as sea spray drenches his cloak. He looks at two or three of us, stretches out his other hand and cries out in rebuke to the wind and the raging sea, “Σιώπα, πεφίμωσο”, that is, “Be silent! quell yourself!” The wind hushed and the sea became peaceful. The people on the other boats cheer, but we stand utterly speechless. The world seems to stand still as we look at one another. Jesus speaks up, “where was your faith and why were you so afraid?”

The fear of the storm fled, but now we face a very diffident kind of fear one that completely overwhelms us. “Who is this man that even the wind and the sea obey him?” we whisper to each other, and John begins quoting Psalm 89 quietly:

“You rule the raging of the sea;

when its waves rise, you still them”—Psalm 89:9

James reminds us of Psalm 107:

He made the storm be still,

and the waves of the sea were hushed.

Then they were glad that the waters were quiet,

and he brought them to their desired haven—Psalm 107:21-3

And my mind thinks of Job:

The pillars of heaven tremble

and are astounded at his rebuke.

By his power he stilled the sea…—Job 26:11–14

We ask ourselves, “Could it be that this friend of ours is no mere man? Is Jesus truly God among us?”

We contemplate the meaning of all this, and before we could fathom what we had just experienced we see the first light of dawn. We share an early morning breakfast in silence, too terrified to speak. We had seen Jesus heal, but this—this was different!

Finally, we arrive on shore, a small crowd jump out their boats splashing in knee-deep water. The boats are hauled onto the cool beach. About to embark on the day’s journey, but something catches Jesus’ attention. He leads the way. A disfigured thing approaches the Master from the nearby tombs, hissing and screeching. The sight horrifies us. I turn to Peter, “What in the hell is that? Something isn’t right.” Jesus’ face fills with fury yet he is noticeably compassionate. We know now that Jesus holds the power of the cosmos and so we watch and anticipate his next move. The Messiah steps forward…

“For many of us, the calming of the storm, Mark, was a dramatic turn of faith in Jesus as the Son of God. It was here where we began to understand the unique identity of Jesus Christ as God himself among us. It has been a joy meeting both of you again, remembering our time with our Master. Mark, Peter will tell you the rest of the story. May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.”


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