Summary: Jesus calming the storm is moving the disciples to a decision of who they think Jesus is. They know him as a rabbi and the Messiah but the only one who can calm the sea is God.
Jesus Calms the Storm
Lectionary B Proper 7.
One of my favorite commercials of late has been the “Mayhem” commercials by Allstate. Mayhem is everywhere. It is the teenager texting, the storm blowing a tree on your house, the person in a hurry that doesn’t put out a grill at a tailgate event and blows something up. The point of the commercial is that you cannot escape the mayhem in this world, so you need good insurance to protect you.
The reasons that these commercials are so effective is that they are funny and they cause us to remember them, but they are also true. Life is mayhem, and we have no control over the weather, other people, our health, and we are often negligent. The only wreck I have been in the last few years was when I backed into my car. That is why we have insurance, to protect us from the mayhem.
In the Bible mayhem or chaos is a major theme. In Genesis 1 we are introduced to God who created the heavens and the earth. But it is chaotic. It is just there. The spirit of God is moving across the face of the waters, and then God begins to bring order to the chaos. He created light and separated the waters and forms dry land. Once the waters are pushed back, the land emerges, now life can flourish. So we have vegetation, season (sun, moon, and stars), birds-fish-animal life, and humans. It is very good, and there is no mayhem in the world. But it doesn’t take long for humans to bring mayhem into the good world. Adam and Eve desire to determine their own version of good and evil, Cain kills Able, Lamech brags about the people he has killed, and by Noah’s day, mayhem is everywhere. God performs an act of de-creation and the waters once again cover the earth, and then they reside, and dry land emerges once again, and humanity can flourish, but Ham introduces the mayhem back into the world.
We will discover that the sea becomes a symbol of mayhem in the Bible. It is wild, mysterious, uncontrollable. It is almost demonic and places where sea creatures live (Psalm 89:9-10 Isaiah 27:1; Daniel 7:2-3). In Revelation, heaven is described as a place with no sea (Revelation 21:1) or a place with no chaos or mayhem but peace.
Our text today in Mark 4:35-41. We read the account of when Jesus calms the sea. Jesus has been teaching about who his family is (those who do the will of God, Mark 3:35), and the parable of the soils and its connection to faith.
Jesus tells the disciples that he wants to go to the other side (Gentile territory) so the launch out on their boat. This is likely a Galilean fishing boat that would be 26 feet long (think UPS truck) and it could be sailed and possibly rowed. So we are not talking about a boat from Pirates of the Caribbean. As they are sailing a storm comes up, and this is common on the Sea of Galilee. These storms can become violent. In 1992 there were reports of 10-foot waves crashing into the shores of Tiberias. We also know that fisherman didn’t go out in storms or bad weather.
The storm comes, and they are afraid, and Jesus is sleeping under the stern. This would be like a little compartment probably big enough for one person. (You can find pictures online). They ask him, “Teacher, do you not care that we perish (4:38)?”
Jesus wakes up and calms the storm (4:39). He then turns and asks his disciples, Why are you afraid? Do you still have no faith? (4:40).”
They are terrified and ask one another, Who is this? Even the winds and the waves obey him (4:41)!”
Up to this point, they have recognized that Jesus is a Rabbi or teacher. They know he is the Messiah. But they have not put all the pieces together, and this is the purpose of the miracle. They know who can calm the sea. They are well acquainted with the psalms, and it is God who can calm the sea.
Psalms 46:1-3; 65:7; 89:8-9; 93:3-4; 107:28-29.
Mark is now prompting all his readers to ask who has the power to calm the sea, to push back the mayhem and allow life to flourish. There is only one who can do this. Who is Jesus? He is more than a rabbi. He is more than the Messiah. He is the Son of God.
When we read the text something should stand out to us. Jesus is perfectly fine with letting the storm rage. He is at perfect peace with the mayhem. The disciples' question of do you not care should resonate with all of us. Do you not care about my cancer, the violence, the divorce, the loss of my job, etc. How many times have you prayed for God to calm the storm in your life and the chaos continues?