This Post is based upon Mark 4:35-41- so please give it a read first
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I wrote my second book, Psalm 23 Unwrapped- hope in difficult times, because I have had a lifetime of difficult times, and I am sure you have as well. Christ doesn’t promise that we will not experience difficult times, but does promise that, if we walk in faith, he will redeem the difficult times, and that is what my book is all about.
Jesus’ role as teacher is important in this Gospel. Chapter 4 opens with a series of parables like the Sower, the Lamp and the Bushel Basket, the Growing Seed, and the Mustard Seed.
Speaking to the disciples, Jesus explains the purpose of the parables, saying, “To you is given the mystery of the Kingdom of God, but to those who are outside, all things are done in parables, that ‘seeing they may see, and not perceive; and hearing they may hear, and not understand; lest perhaps they should turn again, and their sins should be forgiven them'” (4:11-12).
This seems strange when we look at the story of the storm at sea. The disciples are insiders, but they still don’t “get it”–not even close. In Matthew and Luke, the disciples won’t “get it” until well after the resurrection. In this Gospel, the original ending (16:8) closes with the women at the tomb being seized with terror and amazement–end of story–the disciples never do “get it.” Even the longer ending (16:20) presents the disciples as unbelieving until the very last verse!
Mark 4:35 – 8:26 recounts a series of miracles:
Jesus stills the storm.
Heals the Gerasene demoniac.
Restores a girl to life.
Heals a woman with a haemorrhage.
Feeds the five thousand..
Heals the sick in Gennesaret.
Phew- shall I go on- There is a heap more! No, I won’t, for the sake of space- but you get the drift…..
Mark 4:35 – 8:21 includes three boat stories, all of which present the disciples in an unfavourable light. The other two stories are:
Jesus’ walking on water to the disciples’ boat in a windstorm–and their fear and hardness of heart (6:45-52).
The disciples worrying about having only one loaf of bread, despite having recently witnessed the feedings of the five thousand and the four thousand (unbelievable unbelief!) (8:14-21).
MARK 4:35-36. LET’S GO TO THE OTHER SIDE
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let’s go over to the other side. The other side is the Gentile side – the no-go area!
It is easy to be seduced by popularity and difficult to walk away from a favourable crowd. Jesus, however, could walk away from the crowd to pray or to carry on his work elsewhere.
We love crowds, especially those that fill our pews and coffers. We are tempted to follow wherever the crowd would lead. But we need to evaluate popular opinion carefully and walk away from crowds so that we might spend time alone with God in prayer. To be super charged through prayer- we will be able to get through the difficult times safely.
MARK 4:37-39. TEACHER, DON’T YOU CARE THAT WE ARE DYING?
“A big windstorm (Greek: lailaps megale) arose, and the waves beat into the boat, so much that the boat was already filled. He himself was in the stern, asleep on the cushion, and they woke him up, and told him, “Teacher (Greek: didaskale), don’t you care that we are dying?” He awoke, and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” The wind ceased, and there was a great calm”.
A big (megale)–we will see this word again in verses 37 and 41) windstorm (lailaps) arose” (v. 37). The Greek word lailaps refers to a violent storm–a whirlwind or tempest. Mark takes it a step further by telling us that it was a megale -big or great storm.
The Sea of Galilee is in the deepest part of the Northern Jordan rift–700 feet below sea level–surrounded by steep cliffs and mountains except in its southern extremities. Hot air rises and cool air falls, so the cool air in the higher elevations is always wanting to swap places with the warmer air near the water. This often results in high winds–and waves that can top thirty feet high!
On a map of Israel the sea looks like a large lake, but in reality, from a small fishing boat it would look enormous, especially in a storm. At least four of Jesus’ disciples are fishermen, have surely survived storms on this sea, and have also surely known fishermen who were lost at sea. They are strong, self-reliant men who would handle moderate danger as a matter of course. The danger on this evening is not moderate, but deadly.
Have you read Sebastian Junger’s book, The Perfect Storm? Or have you watched the movie? I saw the movie and I think it helped me to appreciate the danger of a small boat during a storm. There comes a point when physics takes over. If a boat heads into a wave that is higher than the boat is long, it will get pitchpoled end to end to its doom. Or if a wave that is higher than the boat is wide hits from the side, it will capsize. Jesus’ disciples wouldn’t have understood the physics, but they would be all too familiar with the danger.
“He himself was in the stern, asleep on a cushion” (v. 38a). Sleeping through danger can be a sign of great faith. The Psalmist says, “In peace I will both lay myself down and sleep, for you, Yahweh alone, make me live in safety” (Psalm 4:8). However, sleep can also represent passivity in a moment that cries out for an active response. The disciples interpret Jesus’ sleep as evidence that he does not care enough to save them (and himself) from impending death.
The disciples cried- “don’t you care that we are dying?” (v. 38b). The disciples panic and want Jesus, their leader, to share their concern–to show a sense of urgency that might lead to a remedy. “Help us! Do something!”
A great leader can often help people to solve great problems, but Jesus’ casual attitude seems to ensure that he will be no help in this urgent crisis. How can he help if he will not even rouse from his slumber?
Like those early disciples, we pray panicked prayers to a God who appears to have abandoned us. “God, don’t you care that we are dying?” I certainly have prayed this during the COVID 19 pandemic which took millions of lives worldwide.
But the Father knows our needs and loves us enough even to send his own son to save us. When life is difficult, we need to ensure that our faith prevails over our fears.
“He awoke and rebuked (epetimesen) the wind” (v. 39). Earlier, Jesus rebuked (epetimesen) a demon, ordering it to be silent and to come out of the afflicted man. This storm represents a demonic force.
“Peace! Be still” (v. 39). Jesus’ calm voice and brief commands reflect his authority over the elements.
“Then the wind ceased, and there was a great calm” (v. 39). I bet the disciples sent up a Big Cheer!
Jesus’ words, “Peace! Be still!” have a God-like quality to them, in that the Hebrew Scriptures portray God as exercising power over the waters of the earth.
When we are faced with difficult times, especially when they are unexpected we can go into shock. And when we go into Shock we want to freeze, flee away, or stand and fight. But if we try to send up a LORD HELP ME prayer- may-be God by his Holy Spirit will give you the unction to command- PEACE BE STILL!
Even if the difficult times is still there, we can have an inner peace and calm that will help us to see what is really happening and to get through the storm.
My prayer is for you – PEACE BE STILL- in Jesus’ name!
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I hope this post was helpful. If it was, I would love to hear from you. Feel free to contact me and share any thoughts you have- contact me. ✉️ Email inquiries: firstname.lastname@example.org
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