I might have mentioned this is in passing before, but it’s relevant to our discussion today. Mark’s Gospel, more so than any of the other three, emphasizes the (superficial) popularity of Jesus. Once word got out about his healings and the confrontations he had with the religious leaders, people came from miles around to see him. This got to the point that his ministry was actually hindered. There were days in which, from sunup to sundown, every moment was taken up with serving people: healing, teaching, preaching, etc.
And after a full day like this, Christ told his disciples that they were going to the other side of the Sea of Galilee for a rest. If I’m telling you something you know already, then I apologize—The Sea of Galilee is famous for violent storms which can swoop in with little or no warning.
I’d also like to remind you that many in this crew were experienced fisherman who'd undoubtedly seen a lot of fearsome storms. But this one apparently was bad enough to have them screaming in terror.
And Jesus was sleeping throughout this. I’d like to submit that you have to be pretty exhausted to sleep through a storm that makes experienced fishermen react like this. And no one likes to be woken up from a sound sleep. He rebuked them, but I have to confess that my reaction would probably have been worse: “I’m sorry, Jesus. I really regret having to interrupt your nap. It’s just that, you know, WE’RE ABOUT TO DIE!!!! So I thought you might want to know.”
Remember how I like “tension” verses? Well, this passage also highlights two mysterious truths in tension for us—Jesus was (and is) fully man and fully God. One minute he lies down in the back of the boat and immediately falls into a deep enough slumber to not even notice a deadly storm. And the next minute, he stands up in the boat and orders the storm to be quiet. Of course, any person (probably not quite right in the head) could talk to a storm and "rebuke" it like this. The difference between this Man and any other man. . . was that the storm listened.
You know the image that’s in my head every time I read this story? I love my dogs dearly, but one of them is a half-Chihuahua mix. Every person who comes to the door, especially strangers (or her arch-nemesis, the mailman) is the source of at least ten minutes of barking that rattles your ears. And when she does that, I tell her “That’s enough.” If she doesn’t listen and keeps barking, I say to her even more firmly—with some authority in my voice—“That’s enough!!!! Be quiet!!!” That’s the image we’re presented of Jesus and this storm. He stands up in the boat and tells it “Hush! Be quiet!” and the storm immediately quiets down like my dog, undoubtedly looking like this:
On a side-note, I promise you that we don't beat our dog.
And what’s the response of the disciples? Relief? Joy? A shout of glee that we’re not going to die? Maybe a little of all that. But Mark tells us that the main emotional response from the disciples in that boat was . . . fear. They'd been terrified of the storm a few moments before. And now they were even more terrified of the Man in front of them. Why? Because they knew that, as dangerous as the storm was, there was someone even more dangerous in the boat with them right now.
So what does this mean to us? I’ve heard lots of sermons that spiritualize the storm and urge you to trust Jesus in the midst of metaphorical “storms” in your life. I guess there’s some validity to that. If you’re going through a “storm” like a job loss or divorce or the loss of a loved one, then it’s good to know that the Lord can calm that storm whenever he pleases.
But I’d also like to note a different aspect of this. Our gentle, wonderful Savior can be scary at times. If you’re on his bad side, you have every reason to be frightened. And if you know him, then this is a good reminder that our relationship with him should be mixed with some godly fear that has some trembling at times. He’s not your best buddy. He’s God Almighty, and all the forces of creation know better than to cross him. Just a thought.
Lord Jesus, I am sooooooo glad that I’m covered by your blood, and you count me as your friend. That’s a good thing.