Mark 4:35-41

Sometimes when we find ourselves in the midst of a fierce storm, we feel alone as if God is asleep or unaware of our circumstances.  Have you ever felt that way?  That you need to wake God up?  Certainly the psalmists experienced this desperation.  He actually asks God to wake up! —  “Awake! Why are you sleeping, O Lord? Rouse yourself! Do not reject us forever! (Psalm 44:23)”  In the passage this week this is the exact experience of the disciples.  They are caught in a storm and need to rouse Jesus from sleep to come to their aid.

On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.”    Mark 4:35

It is evening time.  It seems likely that the parables recorded in Mark chapter 4 all took place on the same day with Jesus using a boat as a floating pulpit to teach the entire time.  It has likely been a long day both for the disciples and especially for Jesus.  And now the sun is starting to set but the crowds are still surrounding Jesus.  He says to his disciples “Let us go across to the other side.”  Jesus intends to go to the country of the Gerasenes (c.f. Mark 5:1) a predominately Gentile region.

And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him.  Mark 4:36

The disciples leave the crowd and take Jesus “just as he was” – presumably meaning in the same boat from which he was teaching.  Mark adds a seemingly irrelevant detail which is uncharacteristic of his to-the-point style – “there were other boats with him.”  If any would doubt the events of this night, Mark would tell us that the disciples in the boat with Jesus were not the only eyewitnesses to the miracle that was about to be performed.

There is no record here of the disciples attempting to persuade Jesus to go somewhere else or to do something else.  They are obedient.  They are doing God’s will!  Should be smooth sailing and clear skies ahead right?  Sometimes we are not obedient.  Sometimes God says “Go over there” and we say “No way.”  Remember the story of Jonah?  God sent him to Nineveh.  And where did he go instead?  Tarshish.  He gets on a boat knowing that he is doing so to “escape” God’s will.  He is fast asleep when a great storm overtakes the boat.  A storm that has come on his account.

We can get ourselves in trouble when we go down a road we know we ought not to walk down.  Sometimes the storms we sail into are of our own doing.  But here the disciples are obedient.  They set out exactly as Jesus told them.

And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling.    Mark 4:37

The boat is somewhere on the Sea of the Galilee.  If it was evening when they left, it is likely night time now.   With a storm on the way there were likely no stars or moon with which to see.  The Sea of Galilee is situated several hundred feet below sea level and is surrounded by hills and mountains.  Apparently, the warm air rising from the sea would mix with cooler air of the nearby mountains to produce impressive storms.  Jesus and the disciples find themselves caught in such a  storm.  The storm is so bad that the boat is already filling with water and is perhaps just moments away from sinking.

But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?”  Mark 4:38

Where is Jesus in the midst of the storm?  He is asleep!  Certainly this had been a long day for Jesus if at this point in the storm he is still sleeping.  This is reminiscent of the farmer in his earlier parable who sowed his seeds and then went to bed.  While Jesus is sleeping, the disciples – some of whom were experienced fishermen – were in a panic.  If you are on an airplane and the person next to you who has never flown before, looks nervous, you shouldn’t be alarmed.  But if you see the flight attendant run for her seat with an anxious look on her face – you might want to fasten your seatbelt as well.  The experienced fishermen here seem to have concluded that this will be the day of their death.

They wake Jesus up with a startling question “Don’t you care that we are about to die?!”  Now what exactly they expected Jesus to do is not clear.  Perhaps they wanted help bailing out the boat.  Perhaps they were seeking pastoral care as they faced their deaths.  Interesting isn’t it that after all they had seen Jesus do and all the teaching they had received from him, in the moment of their crisis they suddenly have very bad theology.  They accuse Jesus of not even caring about them.

And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.  Mark 4:39

Jesus gets up and addresses not the disciples but the wind and the sea.  Just as he had earlier rebuked and silenced demons so he rebukes this storm.  He doesn’t pull a Harry Potter pulling out a wand or reciting some spell.  Simply by the power of his word the storm is stilled.  Mark tells us that two things happened.  First the wind ceased.  Could this have been a coincidence?  Could Jesus have noticed that a break in the storm was coming and simply uttered these words at just the right moment?  When my children were younger, they wondered if I had the ability of control traffic lights because when we stopped at certain red lights I would count “3-2-1 Green!”  (Some of time I was right!)  In this case, not only did the wind cease but Mark tells us that “there was a great calm.”  The waves were stilled and there was a great calm.  This is no coincidence.  Jesus really is Lord of the wind and sea; he is Lord of all creation.

He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?”   Mark 4:40

Jesus turns from rebuking the storm to rebuking his disciples.  They are full of fear rather than being full of faith.  It is not that the storm was not cause for fear but that they had Jesus in their boat.

And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”   Mark 4:41

The disciples are now more afraid after the storm has passed than they were in the midst of the storm.  Literally Mark says they “feared with great fear.”  There is no stronger language to describe the terror that had come upon the disciples.  They took Jesus as he was in to the boat and now they are discovering who he is.  They are full fear and wonder asking themselves “who is this?”


#1 Sometimes Jesus leads us right into a storm – for our good.

Like the disciples, Jesus sometimes takes us not around storms but leads us right into the middle of a storm.  Certainly, if Jesus had the power to still the storm, he had the power to know that a storm was coming.  He could have had his disciples delay their departure but instead he led them right into the storm.

#2 Storms reveal our idols.

The storms in our life have a tendency to reveal the true condition of our hearts.   They reveal who or what we are really trusting in.  You want to discover the hidden idols of your heart? The next time you are in crisis, ask yourself “Why am I so upset now?  Who or what am I looking to make this situation better?”

#3 Storms reveal our Savior.

The disciples would not have known the depth the Jesus’ power if he did not have an opportunity to use it.  Often it is in our darkest moments that we witness the depth of His love and power.

#4 Jesus is Lord of all!

The disciples knew he had the spiritual authority to teach, cast out demons, and even heal the sick.  It would seem, however, that they had a category of things that were out of the reach of Jesus.  I know Jesus can heal the sick, but …   We can create the same categories as well, can’t we?  Yeah, I know Jesus is faithful over here, but what about this over there.  What do you tend to believe is outside of Jesus’ reach?

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!’”    –Abraham Kuyper

Discussion Questions

  1. Why might Jesus’ direction to the disciples in verses 35 and 36 have been surprising for the disciples to hear?  Where on “the other side” were they headed (read Mark 5:1)?
  2. Why do you think Mark includes the detail about the other boats being present (v.36)?
  3. Explain the disciples’ experience in verse 37 and 38.  What do you think was going through their minds?  What were they feeling?  At their moment of crisis they accuse Jesus of not even caring.  Why do we sometimes feel the same way in the midst of our crises?
  4. What is the relationship between fear and faith in verse 40?
  5. What do the disciples learn about Jesus from this event?  Why are they seemingly more afraid (c.f. verse 41 “filled with great fear”) after the storm had been calmed than when they were in the midst of the storm?
  6. Who or what do you tend to turn to in the middle of a “storm”?  How do storms reveal the true condition of our hearts?
  7. How do our storms reveal to us our Savior?  Can you think of any examples of how you came to see Jesus in a new light as a result of suffering?
  8. The disciples clearly did not expect Jesus to be able to calm the storm.  Controlling the weather was out of Jesus’ reach in their minds.  What categories do you tend to believe are out of his reach?  How does this passage encourage you?


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