Summary: How can Jesus sleep on in calm and peaceful repose when chaos, fear, disorder, panic and confusion are all around? Does He not care?
“WHO IS THIS?”
There is an old joke that asks why the chicken crossed the road? The answer is obvious: to get to the other side. I suppose the same could be said of crossing the sea, crossing to the other side of the world, or crossing to a region such as the territory of the Gadarenes (Mark 5:1).
To the Jews of Jesus’ day, the sea represented the realm of chaos: the element from which monsters arose (cf. Daniel 7:2-3). However, the thrones of such beasts are cast down, and brought under the dominion of the Son of man (Daniel 7:11-14).
Sea is also seen, when taken in a negative light, as an element of separation. If we look ahead into the New Testament, we can visualise the Apostle John as an exile in the Isle of Patmos, the sea separating him from his congregation in Asia Minor (Revelation 1:9).
From such a place he could see a new heaven and a new earth – and the first distinctive mark of this new creation was: ‘and there was no more sea’ (Revelation 21:1).
On the positive side, we see the sea parted for our redemption (Psalm 74:13). The Red sea, like the demon (Mark 1:25), was rebuked (Psalm 106:9). The inland sea which separated Galilee from the country of the Gadarenes also had to obey the command of the Lord (Mark 4:39) - by which we may conclude that Jesus is truly God.
Jesus had been preaching and teaching from the deck of a ship (Mark 4:1). After the benediction, and at His command, the disciples (some of whom were fishermen) took Jesus “even as He was” in the ship, and departed for the other side (Mark 4:36). There is also added here another eyewitness detail: “and there were also with Him other little ships.”
A great storm arose (Mark 4:37), and even these hardy fishermen were at their wits end. Such storms are not uncommon on this particular inland sea. Surrounded by hills, and lying low in the land, a storm can whip up at hardly a minute’s notice.
The fishermen were in their element, and within familiar waters, but this was one bad storm. All their skill and human resources left them with nothing but frustration and confusion. Yet our God is not a God of confusion, but of peace (1 Corinthians 14:33).
The ship was “already being swamped” when the disciples woke Jesus (Mark 4:37-38). Fear, disorder and panic had taken hold upon them, whilst Jesus slept on in calm and peaceful repose. “Do you not care?” asked the disciples.
Jesus was physically exhausted: it is not surprising that He had fallen asleep, on a pillow in the stern (Mark 4:38). This, incidentally, proves that Jesus is truly man. Jonah likewise was summoned from sleep in a ship during a storm (Jonah 1:6).
Jesus spoke with the voice and authority of God to still the storm and calm the sea (Mark 4:39). The disciples had a fair idea who Jesus was, but had not sufficient faith to recognise that having their Master in the ship was, for them, enough (Mark 4:40).