Mark 4:35-41: Jesus Stills the Storm

Jesus Stills the Storm

No one’s life should be a ship, floundering adrift in faithless fear. Did God not create us for wonder, joy, hope, and love, to marvel at the mystery of existence? In our original sinlessness, divine beauty surrounded us as we grew in God’s wisdom, brightening the world in which we lived.

Not so once we plunged into the chaos of sin. So, Jesus entered our world, and the sick sought Him out, one after another. In His journeys through Judea, He made the ailing well, transformed the troubled, and provided peace to those held in Satan’s sway. Did Jesus’ miracles and the power of His message transform His disciples?

On a hot, humid day, Jesus takes time to teach everyday folks near His hometown, instructing for hours under the blazing sun. After, Jesus seeks to cross a substantial lake, called a “sea,” to rest and recuperate on the other side. After a couple of hours, they should arrive at their destination. Why, if the winds are favorable, they’ll disembark before the twilight turns into night.

Several disciples are now back on their home fishing grounds, surrounded by the trappings of their previous profession. The texture of rigging and rope is no interloper to their touch. So why shouldn’t everything be smooth sailing? Tired, Jesus goes to a spot in the back to slump down, leans His head against a cushion, and falls asleep.

A marvelous order exists in nature, though damned and harsh after sin’s swirl of corruption. Consider the hot air over Galilee, clashing with the cool air scalloping down from the Mediterranean. Smooth waves sour and sullen as cutting winds start to scourge the water. “Hey, James, John, help me tighten the sail. Keep control of the oars and rudder. The wind’s going rogue.”

Too soon, iron-dark clouds scuttle fast across the sky, and surges of lightning throb through those curdled masses. Fierce winds unhook untamed waves from heave and swell as rains drum down and bite into their bones. The skies blacken and crackle with malice as lightning streaks the horizon, capturing a frozen shot of stormy seas.

Confronted by torrents of rain and wind, their meager skills are powerless to protect, all a frantic flailing. The joists creak, and timbers groan, with the ship itself protesting the attack. Fierce waves strike at this fishing vessel, thrashing in a swallowing sea.

A sickening wave of panic sweeps over them. Somehow, Jesus still slumbers. Weathered and worn with fear twitching in every vein and artery, these rain-stabbed men cut squinting glances at Jesus as someone fit to receive their fury. So, they stagger toward Him and lash out their scowling words. “Hey, we’re drowning here, Teacher! How can you sleep through this—we’re all going to die?”

The gaping storm into which they glare embodies the upheaval within them. Each time these springtime disciples encounter a reason to doubt, the roiling serpent in their hearts turns them away from a thousand proofs of the Almighty’s love. Like a sinking ship, their faith is floundering, listing on dangerous waters.

So, they summon no assistance from God’s Son, nor do they call out a prayer to the Creator. No glint of hope harbors inside them, no glow of God’s care and character, but only despair for the future, beclouded by grim prospects and possibilities.

Beaten down, Jesus now is no longer their “Lord” or “Master,” but only an uncaring and unconcerned teacher. Such harsh and accusing words. After this world of perfection turned dark from Adam’s rebellion, a caring God foretold of a coming rescue. Later, compassion surpassing all knowing brought Jesus to fulfill the prophecy, being born in a Bethlehem stable.

Why did Jesus heal the hurting or call forth the dead? Not out of selfishness. In His bountiful care for us, He will soon stand before a Roman governor. Incriminated by His priests and people, forsaken by both government and justice, Jesus will lay down His life for us, we who drown in our sins. For this frightened race, He lived, died, and rose. A bellowing and deceiving sea can’t engulf the truth of how much God cares for us.

Oh, how we turn against God, scorning Him when He stops living up to our expectations. Again, Jesus finds Himself accused of apathy by those He came to redeem. No matter, in between the fearful storm and the instant calm, Jesus stands.

Undaunted in the upheaval, Jesus releases a simplicity of words, which works His peace upon the waters. The onslaught with its doomsday rumblings is no more. With water muzzled and wind rebuked, the outburst subsides, and the ominous clouds depart.

The fathomless sea of dread, into which the disciples feared they might plunge and die, is no more. A stillness now broods on the silent sea, though the emptiness becomes an uncanny quiet. The outer peace Jesus spoke did not translate into an inner solitude. No, these disciples sensed an unsettling harmonic of silence, vacant with an eerie resonance. All is a graveyard hush, silent as a stone-cold tomb.

Stunned, they cry, “Who is this? The wind and the waves obey him!” The Lord’s authority over depth and sea signals His power over life and death, rendering Him with a cosmic ability beyond all human dreams. A trepidation grips them, which becomes a riddle about the rule of God, casting a net of confusion over them. Now, frustration floods through the cracks of their mind, overwhelming them as each seam gives way.

Freed from imminent danger, instead of rejoicing, they fall into bewilderment, succumbing to a newfound fear. Rather than an infinite kingdom of wonder, a quiet terror clutches them as they peer into a cold, dark place, dead black. Nothing here resonates with love, faith, courage, or hope.

From sin-drenched souls, they ponder what Jesus did. Stained by the many sins they bear, they interpret such power from the depravities inside them, suffering from their own faithless, destructive thinking. So, another fear engulfs their storm-disturbed minds as they realize they, too, are helpless before Jesus.

To those water-soaked disciples, Jesus speaks, “Are you still without faith?” How tragic, for they are not alone. Like them, so many continue to accuse Christ Jesus of not caring. Yet, each day, His preserving hand surrounds them, averting tragedies, preventing injuries from harming and encroaching. In a fallen world, disasters will come. Still, their destruction often fails to materialize as they diminish and decrease with no recognizable reason.

Like frightened disciples, we often close our eyes to the greatness and beauty of an ongoing providence as God colors our lives with His care. Though when disaster comes, we turn our faces from our self-revolving moorings and scowl at God, “Don’t you care?” Tell me, what proof can we ask which our God did not provide? The evidence is in nature—and our salvation. Yes, God, indeed, does care!

With a word, Jesus calms the turmoil surging inside us. Neither you nor I am sure of what tomorrow brings, but we recognize Jesus is always with us. “Never will I leave you or forsake you,” He tells us (Hebrews 13:5). So, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31).

With God by your side, He will give you peace amid life’s chaos. Without God beside us, angry currents will sweep us up, with swirling waves to drown our souls. Yes, our help rests in the Lord, the Maker of heaven and earth (Psalm 124:1, 4-5, 8).

On the sea and in life, storms appear. Regardless of the powers we possess, we still cannot strip ourselves of all hardship, threat, and tragedy. So, our lack of control and weakness of faith leads us to fear. On this day, does Jesus find you afraid or anxious? Perhaps, your worries cast you derelict, on a forsaken sea, alone—but, oh, times like these intrude, where we spend every waking moment trying to keep those fears at bay.

Though you may hide those terrors in your heart, God still perceives and cares. Ever-present, He is ready to listen, always. So, turn those problems over to Him, who can control both wind and wave. Turn them over to the almighty Creator and Caregiver. In the past, He brought you through one problem after another. Let Him do so today. The psalms invite you to “cast your cares on the Lord,” who also promises to “sustain you” (Psalm 55:22).

Though we can’t control whirlwinds and windstorms swooping down upon us, our Lord can and did. Most important, He calmed the worst, most vicious one—the downpour of death. Like before, He soothed the death-bringing storm by using words, with a simple phrase, “It is finished.” After which, a sudden peace arose between God and man. So, as we journey in death’s shadow, all will be well, for Jesus subdued the eternal storm.

Today, He continues to send us His divine peace. In the baptism He instituted, those Spirit-infused waters birth us into His family. In His absolving words, He frees us from our ocean of sins. Through preached words, Jesus calls us to repent, to bring us into His forgiveness. In words spoken mere hours before His cross, respoken before we commune with Him, Jesus feeds us with Himself. The common unifier is His words, what Christ gives His Church to respeak and say.

Like those disciples on the windswept sea, we are but the receivers of Jesus’ work. Only He blesses us before our birth, delivers us from our fallen ways, and navigates us to the harbor of salvation. Still, to this day, God sends His Son to make all things well.

The storm breaks, not by empty sounds or hollow words, but words hidden with heft and power. Yes, Jesus does the speaking, but we receive the benefit. In Christ, you are a new creature, and, in Him, all eternity and heaven’s peace are yours. Amen.